HC Deb 24 January 1945 vol 407 cc798-800
22. Captain Sir William Brass

asked the Secretary of State for Air whether his attention has been drawn to the unsatisfactory position at present existing in the A.T.C., where lecture attendances have fallen to a low level owing to it becoming common knowledge that such cadets as flight-sergeants with three years' service who have passed post proficiency tests are being directed to the Army, while young men who have not volunteered for the A.T.C. are being accepted for aircrew duties; and whether he will make a statement guaranteeing a certain percentage intake from the A.T.C. into the R.A.F. in the future.

Sir A. Sinclair

I am keenly aware of the disappointment caused to cadets as the result of the curtailment of the aircrew intake for the Royal Air Force. The reasons for this curtailment were fully explained in the statement made in this House in answer to my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Acton (Captain Longhurst) and my hon. Friend the Member for Maidstone (Mr. Bossom) on 15th November last, of which I am sending my hon. Friend a copy. To make the A.T.C. the sole avenue of entry into the Royal Air Force would be to deprive the Service of some excellent young men who, for various reasons such as working hours or the situation of their homes, are unable to join a unit of the A.T.C. The substantial advantage enjoyed by cadets of the A.T.C. when selections are made for entry into the Royal Air Force is shown by the fact that 80 per cent. of the air-crew entrants last month were A.T.C. cadets.

Sir W. Brass

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that I did not suggest in my Question that the only intake into the R.A.F. should be the A.T.C.? Is he aware that what happens is that a boy is asked to volunteer for the A.T.C.; he is then given a number, and later on, when he comes to be called up, he has a notice from the R.A.F., which says he is dismissed from the R.A.F.?

Sir A. Sinclair

I need hardly tell the hon. and gallant Member that I very much regret that these keen young men who are so anxious to join the Royal Air Force should, at this stage of the war, have to be transferred to another Service, but the requirements of the war demand that men and women should serve where their services are most required. But, as I said, membership of the Air Training Corps does, in fact, confer great advantages on these young men who want to go into the Royal Air Force and who compete for the few vacancies we are able to offer.

Colonel Greenwell

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that although the Fleet Air Arm require this type of youth, these young men are not allowed, on dismissal from the R.A.F., to join the Fleet Air Arm? They are taken straight into the Army.

Sir A. Sinclair

This Question relates to the Air Training Corps. All I can say about the last question is that in the Air Training Corps young men are just as much encouraged to join the Fleet Air Arm, as to join the Royal Air Force.

Sir W. Brass

Will the right hon. Gentleman make a statement that a percentage of these boys will be taken into the Royal Air Force so as to give them encouragement? Will he say that some of them, at least, will go into the Royal Air Force?

Sir A. Sinclair

I say that cadets in the Air Training Corps have not merely a hope of getting into the Royal Air Force, they have a certainty of a far better chance of getting some of the few vacancies available than anybody else. In fact, last month 80 per cent. of the aircrew entries were from the Air Training Corps. In my submission to the House it would be a great mistake to lay down a flat percentage. We want to get the best men, the men who have the greatest aptitude for flying and fighting in the air. It may be that in some cases we should have a higher percentage of boys from outside and in some cases a lower. What we want to get is the best material we can for the Royal Air Force and the Fleet Air Arm.

Several hon. Members


Mr. Speaker

This is becoming a Debate. I call the next Question.