HC Deb 22 August 1945 vol 413 cc594-8
18. Mr. Driberg

asked the Under-Secretary for Air if he is aware that concern has been caused by the holding back from demobilisation in their normal release groups of men in certain trades; and if he will make a statement on future policy.

19. Mr. Lipson

asked the Under-Secretary of State for Air if, in view of the dissatisfaction among R.A.F. personnel that release is to be by trades rather than by age and service, he will reconsider the matter with a view to bringing the release policy of the R.A.F. into line with that obtaining in the other two Services.

The Under-Secretary of State for Air (Mr. Strachey)

The White Paper on the Re-allocation of Man-power stated clearly that it might be necessary to deal separately with branches, and even with trades, within the Services, Not only the R.A.F., but also the Royal Navy, have found it unavoidable to do this to some extent. A perfectly even rate of release as between trades would have serious effects on the efficiency of the Royal Air Force—and for that matter on the efficiency of the process of release itself. Nevertheless, every endeavour will be made to even out the rate of release as between trades. There is a real prospect that intensive re-training and training will enable us greatly to diminish the unevenness in the rate of release as between trades by the end of the year.

Mr. Driberg

Could my hon. Friend give an example of how the holding back of, for instance, accountants contributes to the greater efficiency of the release scheme; and will he make clear to the men concerned at their stations the real reasons for the delay?

Mr. Strachey

The accountancy question is, of course, the most serious one, and that is precisely the branch in which the holding back of these men is so important to the efficiency of the process of release itself. On the second point, we take very active steps to explain it to the men and we shall increase those steps.

Mr. Lipson

Is my hon. Friend aware that the accountancy department must be over-staffed, in view of the fact that many of the men are doing only one hour's work a day, and can he say how long it will be before this temporary arrangement ceases and these men are released as they expect to be released according to age and service?

Mr. Strachey

Perhaps the hon. Member will give me an example of any slackness or under working in the accountancy branch. My information is very much the opposite. As for the time I think it can be largely overcome at any rate before the end of the year.

Lieut.-Commander Gurney Braith-waite

Is the Minister aware that this is not only a matter of male personnel and that Members are receiving a number of letters from W.A.A.Fs. who regard themselves as unnecessarily held?

Mr. Strachey

Yes, Sir. I am aware that some W.A.A.Fs. are involved.

25. Captain Baird

asked the Under-Secretary of State for Air, if he has any thing to add to the statement made in the House on 18th April, 1945, regarding aircraft production transferred personnel.

39. Mr. Wilkins

asked the Under-Secretary of State for Air why the undertaking in Section (1) of paragraph 3 of Instructions to Airmen released from Service under the Armed Forces (Conditions of Service Act), 1939, that the period of release will count as service towards current engagement, and given to nearly 6,000 men released to industry in circumstances of urgency, is not being adhered to.

Mr. Strachey

I cannot agree that any actual undertaking is not being adhered to. However, this is a matter of real difficulty which has been much debated in the past. It is now under the close attention of my Noble Friend.

26. Mr. Thomas Reid

asked the Under-Secretary of Sate for Air if steps have been taken to define the priorities of re lease groups in the R.A.F., in the East, for demobilisation fixed for 30th September next.

Mr. Strachey

Yes, Sir. The priorities of groups for release do not vary between the R.A.F. in the East and elsewhere, but are common to the Royal Air Force as a whole. For the great majority of trades, all groups up to and including Group 20 will be released by 30th September.

27. Lieut.-Commander dark Hutchison

asked the Under-Secretary of State for Air why, in view of the provisions of paragraph 21 of Cmd. 6548, priority release is not being granted to married members of the W.A.A.F. serving in the accounts section at Inverness.

Mr. Strachey

There has been delay in the release of the married members of the W.A.A.F. whose release group is 36 and above, serving in the Accounting trades. There is an acute shortage of accountants able to handle the pressure of work thrown on to this branch of the Service by the process of release as a whole. The release scheme itself would be in danger of breakdown if the accounting staffs were further depleted. Therefore, the stipulation in paragraph 4 (a) of the White Paper that "Military requirements must override all other considerations" has had to be invoked in this case. This is a most unwelcome necessity and urgent measures are being taken, chiefly training and retraining, in order to make it possible to release the remaining married women in this trade.

Flight-Lieutenant Beswick

Is it not a fact that people in the accounts section consider that it is one of the easiest jobs, and that it wants remustering, but that it does not appear to be going on at anything like the strength possible?

Mr. Strachey

Remustering is going on to a considerable degree. In fact, there have been complaints that it has been going on too fast. It is undoubtedly the most important thing to bring relief.

31. Mr. McEntee

asked the Under-Secretary of State for Air whether, in view of the defeat of Japan, he can now remove the restrictions in regard to demobilisation which are imposed on pay clerks in the R.A.F. and grant them the same conditions for demobilisation as are granted to the general body of the men.

Mr. Strachey

The difficulty is that the process of releasing everybody else puts a heavy added strain on to the pay clerks. The defeat of Japan, in so far as it makes possible a speed up of the release scheme, will therefore increase the immediate pressure on the pay clerks. But this will be a temporary phase. We shall use every effort to train new men for the job and by the end of the year there should be a real improvement in the position.

37. Mr. Thurtle

asked the Under-Secretary of State for Air whether it is the intention of his Department to see that the right to be released from service of those members of the W.A.A.F. who volunteered for service abroad is not prejudiced by the fact that they did so volunteer, bearing in mind that it was no fault of theirs that they were not sent overseas until long after they had volunteered.

Mr. Strachey

Yes, Sir. Every effort will be made to bring home W.A.A.Fs. serving overseas in time for release with their age and service groups.

38. Sir Robert Young

asked the Under-Secretary of State for Air whether he is aware that men in the R.A.F. who are cooks, and certain other grades, now serving with S.E.A.A.F., are complaining that they are to be retained in service after their age and service number has been reached; that this decision has been published in orders without any explanation why such an arrangement is necessary; and if he will state the reason.

Mr. Strachey

The main reason for the slower release of cooks is that the number of cooks in the earlier release groups is well above the average—since this trade has many of the older men in it. And the Service cannot get on without a minimum number of cooks. But active steps are being taken to train and re-train men as cooks, and there is a good prospect of the release position for this trade being brought into line with other trades in the not too distant future.

Sir R. Young

Can the hon. Gentleman say how quickly he intends to speed up the release of these cooks?

Mr. Strachey

I cannot give the hon. Member the exact dates. The number of men affected is very small and the difficulties will be overcome, I think, in the next few months.

Mr. Maxton

Will the hon. Gentleman see that the necessary raw material is provided?

43. Wing-Commander Roland Robinson

asked the Under-Secretary of State for Air whether he is aware of the grievance of those men who, although in groups due for early release, are being compulsorily remustered to trades in which release facilities are less favourable; and whether he will take steps to arrange that such a remustering shall only be on a voluntary basis.

Mr. Strachey

At the end of the war with Germany, a number of airmen, not due for release under the age and service scheme, became redundant in their trades. To have allowed these airmen to leave the Service out of their turn would have undermined the release scheme. Instead, some of them are being remustered and re-trained for trades in which there are deficiencies. It is only by doing this that other men in these trades who are due for release can get out at ones. Therefore, some remustering must continue until the rate of release from all R.A.F. trades becomes substantially the same—we hope to achieve this in the next few months.

Wing-Commander Robinson

If I call the Under-Secretary's attention to a case of compulsory remustering when the airman was due to be released within two or three months, will he take steps to rectify the matter right away?

Mr. Strachey

Certainly I will look into any individual case.