§ MR. PHILIP NOEL—BAKER'S STATEMENT
§ Order for Committee read.
§ 3.44 p.m.
§ The Secretary of State for Air (Mr. Philip Noel-Baker)
I beg to move, "That Mr. Speaker do now leave the Chair."
The operations of the second world war ended just 19 months ago. Peace, alas, did not then begin. The price of total war, with modern weapons, is not paid as easily as that. We are still paying the price, and payments will continue for some time to come. We are still in the period of transition from war to peace. We cannot know what armed forces the country may require in a few years' time from now. That is especially true of the Royal Air Force.
We are confronted by two unknowns—what new weapons the scientists and technicians develop, and what the political structure of the world is going to be. Unless mankind can learn in time how atomic energy can be controlled, the nature of wars, if they continue, will be completely changed. Atomic energy is less costly in proportion to its destructive power than any other weapon, but there may be other means of warfare, both more effective and less costly still. Leaving such revolutionary changes on one side, there may be other developments, only less important, in aerial war. Aircraft which can travel faster than the speed of sound, pilotless aircraft of high performance, guided rockets against which aircraft may be the sole protection, and homing missiles by which aircraft can attack each other by day or night—these are all round the corner, and, if technique develops in the next 10 years as in the last 10, they will surely come. But, in the meantime, other technicians are at work.
40 The councils and commissions of the United Nations have begun to study how they can carry out the mandate which the Assembly has already laid upon them the create a system of collective defence against aggression, and reduce and limit the national armaments which members of the United Nations may maintain, to set up an instrument of international control, and to ensure that no disloyal government will secretly evade the general obligations to which all agree. That must also affect the general future of the Royal Air Force and, if it succeeds, as succeed it must, I believe the Royal Air Force will play a vital part. But it is no good, in this transition year, trying to guess about the changes which may come. We must seek now to try to learn the lessons—the true lessons—of the last great struggle. As the chief of the air staff, Lord Tedder, said in Cambridge the other day,We must think in terms of modern war:and he added that we must remember that the last war isnot modern, it is already out of date.I am not sure that it is fully realised what a dominant factor air warfare has become. We understood the fight for air power in 1940 because it was over Britain, and because we saw it. It was the Battle of Britain. But, the struggle was gradually forced back from our shores over the enemy's shipping, and over their ports, railways and factories, until, as a German general expressed it in 1944.A decisive battle is being fought out over Germany's vital living space.As that happened the struggle became more important but to us it was an "unseen "war, and to many of us, if not" Out of sight, out of mind," it was out of sight, and not understood. It was not unseen to our enemies. They found themselves strangled for lack of supplies, first in the Western Desert, then in Tunisia, by Allied air power and sea power combined, with air power the dominant factor. They found themselves strangled for lack of supplies in Burma, by air power, sea power and land power combined, again with air power the dominant factor. It was not unseen to them when they found their whole organisation for repelling invasion in France reduced to chaos before a single Allied landing craft had touched the shore, nor when they found much of their 41 Luftwaffe and their tanks immobilised through lack of petrol. They learned in the hard school of war what air power really means.
In time, the history of the war will be written. In the meantime, some figures and facts speak for themselves. Some days before D-Day, the railway traffic in Northern France, on which the enemy relied for the concentration, reinforcement and supply of his anti-invasion forces, and for the maintenance and supply of his "V" weapon attack on this country, had been reduced by 87 per cent. Even the traffic from outside France was down by 70 per cent. Not long after D-Day, Speer, perhaps the ablest of the Nazis, reported to Hitler that the air attacks on the oil industry had resulted in the loss of almost 90 per cent. of the German oil production, and he warned him of an impending "unbridgeable gap" between supplies and production which must lead to tragic results. He was right. By the early spring of 1945, the Allied air offensive had completely disrupted the whole German economy, and Speer reported to Hitler thatthe final collapse of the German economy can be counted on with certainty within from four to eight weeks. After this collapse even military continuation of the war will become impossible.In remembering, as I think most people do, the vital part played by air power in direct co-operation in our Combined Operations in the Desert, Burma, in Normandy and over the Atlantic, do not let us forget the no less vital part it played in what I would call the "unseen" war. The idea that air power can be a decisive factor in defence or offence must no longer be regarded as a mere theory—to the Germans it has proved to be a hard fact. As I have said, changes in technique there will certainly be; the last war is already out of date. But though its weapons will change, I believe that air power is now with us as the dominant factor so long as power determines the fate of nations.
If hon. Members look at Vote A of the Estimates, they will see that the maximum number of officers and airmen to be maintained at any day from now until 31st March, 1948, is 370,000. The number a year ago was 760,000. The actual strength of the R.A.F. itself is now 330,00o men and women; will come down to 315,000 by March, 1948. The 42 money Estimate for 1946–47 was £255 million. That included £80 million on terminal charges; it excluded the sums expended on certain services and supplies, particularly aircraft, which were not carried last year on the Vote of the Air Ministry. So that apart from these terminal charges, last year's figure was £175 million. This year, the comparable figure is £127 million. For this money the R.A.F. in various of its Commands is now rendering productive peacetime service to the nation, and to the world, of which I think the House should be aware. Since the fighting ended, shipping, as everybody knows, has been in short supply, railways in many countries have been dislocated or destroyed, waterways have been blocked, and road transport has been very scarce. In these conditions air transport was very important: for demobilisation, many men having been brought home; for displaced persons, 600,000 returned to their homes in a few weeks after the fighting ended; for economic and political reconstruction, for knitting together the broken bonds between the nations.
Today Transport Command is still running two passenger services a week to Warsaw, two to Belgrade and Budapest, three freight services to Vienna, three passenger services to Bucharest and one to Sofia. It runs five services a week, in both directions, through Egypt and Karachi to Singapore; and two other services in both directions to Cairo, and seven freight services to Delhi. Indeed, it would be hard to overestimate what Transport Command has done in the last 12 months. It has carried nearly 300,000 passengers, many of them on routes where civil lines have not yet begun to work. The R.A.F. has also been able to give assistance to British civil aviation in various ways. In addition to flying training, they have provided equipment for navigation—airfield lighting systems, and aerial lighthouses and beacons; they have supplied the latest type of landing aid, known as G.C.A., and are training civil crews to operate it. They are helping to provide the short range aid to navigation known as Gee for civil aircraft flying over this country, and over Europe, too. In the Middle East and in the Mediterranean, 40 per cent. of all the briefing done by R.A.F. personnel is for civil aircraft belonging both to British and foreign lines.
43 That has imposed a heavy burden on the R.A.F., of which some of them were well aware. They are rendering great service to our own and other nations by their sacrifice and work. In addition, progress is being made with a system of fully automatic landing; long range aids to navigation are being developed, new and better compasses and dead reckoning computators are being tried; a device that warns the pilot of high ground or dangerous cloud is being perfected. In this work and in other developments, priority is given to those which will help civil as well as military navigation. Without the R.A.F. Air Traffic Control Organisation, no aircraft could fly on the Empire trunk routes, and everywhere the R.A.F. is helping to organise and carry out air rescue work. All these commitments for civil aviation, have been, I re-emphasise the fact, a heavy burden for the Service. We have already reached a stage when they can no longer be met in full, and I am now discussing with my right hon. Friend the Minister of Civil Aviation how a major relief for the Air Force may soon be brought about.
Some hon. Members may know of the aerial survey work carried out by photographic reconnaissance aircraft for the Ministry of Town and Country Planning in this country and for the Colonial Office overseas. An immense programme is being carried through—380,000 square miles in the last 12 months alone. Two-thirds of this country have already been surveyed. An expert of the Ministry of Town and Country Planning told me that with aerial photographs he was able to make a survey of blitzed and blighted areas and of waste and derelict land in a certain area in five days; he had taken six weeks to do a similar area on foot. These surveying experts are now in very short supply. The survey for a motorway from Birmingham to Bristol, for a hydro-electric scheme on the Volta River on the Southern Gold Coast, the mapping of West Africa, the Middle East and India, including an immense area of East Africa for the ground-nuts scheme—these are the kinds of work that are going on. Last month the R.A.F. were flying food to beleaguered villages in England, this month to a Dutch island, and to livestock on our snowbound hills. They flew rice and salt—hundreds of tons of it—to famine stricken areas in the Karen hills in 44 Central Burma, and in Bengal. They make long observation flights for the Meteorological Office. They located the recent ice floes in the North Sea, and so helped the Admiralty to warn ships at sea.
There is another and much more important way in which the R.A.F. have helped in the political and economic reconstruction of the world. It is by their police work, carried out in common with the other Services, in various countries overseas. We are coming through the transition years, whatever our troubles, with far less actual bloodshed than many good judges of the matter had foretold. In many places that, in my profound conviction, has been due in part to the British Forces and to the patient constructive work which they have done. I like to remember that 5,000 men of the R.A.F. were with the British Forces in Indonesia. In nine months from September, 1945, they flew out from the heart of Java 60,000 of the R.A.F.W.I.—the Allied prisoners of war and internees—70 per cent. of all who were brought out in that period of time. They flew in to the internees 30,000 tons of stores, comforts and necessities. Throughout that time, they had the closest contact both with the Indonesians and with the Dutch. I think they share the credit for the great political achievement of avoiding war. They share the honour done to all British forces by Dr. Sjahrir, when he said theyhad come to aid us and bring us relief.and when he told them:We have learned to appreciate and to admire you.I hope the House will remember these things—this productive service—when they consider the sums for which we ask.
I think hon. Members already know the main facts about demobilisation. The number of men and women released since V.E. Day will be, by the end of this month, one million. That is nine out of 10 of the skilled and experienced personnel who made the Air Force and fought the war. As the members of the Force have always understood, not all trades and branches in the Service can be released at an equal rate. We still adhere to the Government's aim that all men who enlisted before January, 1944, will be out by the end of 1947. If we can get trained replacement volunteers we shall do better than that, but in some 45 trades and branches—wireless mechanics, for example, and meteorological assistants, electricians and dental officers—releases are behind the general level and, even so, there is a grave shortage of the men we need. By a great effort, and by accepting these shortages, we have ensured that only 2 or 3 per cent., a very small proportion of the Force, are in retarded groups. The House will understand that these shortages do not make things at all easy for men who have to run the R.A.F.
There are few more skilled professions than aviation. No aircrew are fit to fly a modern aircraft, no groundcrew are fit to let it off the ground, until they have a training and experience that must take them years. What happens, therefore, to an Air Force when nine out of every 10 have been released? Obviously, its total size is much contracted, and so, in fact, it is. How do those who have to run it keep even the present contracted Force efficient? They are, indeed, faced with a difficult problem. The Force is so unbalanced, the shortage of top-grade skilled mechanics is so great, that it is very difficult to give the squadrons the flying hours per month which the aircrews ought to have. The proportion of trained men to untrained men is so small that a large part of the total force must be engaged upon training. By the nature and complexity of its operational work, the great majority of the peace time Air Force must consist of long-term volunteers.
The number of men of Regular engagement on 1st January this year was only 63,000 together with 7,000 women volunteers. Of these 70,000, 20,000 were untrained men and women who had come in straight from civil life. The task of training, is, therefore, very heavy, and it will remain so for many months to come. We calculate that at the end of the next financial year, in March, 1948, the number of men engaged in training, or in being trained, will still be over 100,000, over one-third of the total force. The House will understand that the most urgent present need is for trained and experienced men. We want more volunteers—ex-Regulars and ex-wartime personnel—who are ready to come back and to make the Service their career. Perhaps our single greatest need is for instructors to train the new recuits. We hope to secure them 46 by the extended service scheme, by the bounty scheme for ground airmen, where the shortage is most severe, and in other ways. Some have been secured, but many more are needed, and I hope that the call I make today will not go unheard. I add that the age limit for bounty re-engagement is not inflexible. Experienced technical N.C.O.s up to 50 years of age will be welcomed back.
There are two fundamental questions which arise from what I have said about the manpower and the training problems, which, I am sure, are in the minds of every hon. Member in the House. What are we doing to make the Service an attractive and worthwhile career? How are we using the manpower we receive? On the first question, we are seeking, as best we can, to carry out the Government's policy of giving members of the Service a better standard of accommodation, better general conditions, and better opportunities of every kind. We are facing, as everybody is facing, a shortage of labour and materials; but this year we plan to keep in step with the national housing programme for civilians. We are improving the hutted camps we must retain. We are building barrack blocks and messes and airmen's clubs. The barrack blocks are on a new model, certainly better than anything of the kind which there has been before. They give single cubicles for most of the men, and rooms for four men together for the rest. They are so designed that they will make the minimum demands upon the materials and labour required for civilian housing. Some of them will be up this year.
The clubs not only will have the restaurants, games, billiards rooms, the reading rooms and so on of existing clubs; they will have visitors' rooms, where relatives and friends can be received and entertained. They will, I hope, do much to offset the comfortless conditions which, on many stations, airmen will have to face for some time to come. The House will certainly be aware that the shortage of married quarters is a serious hardship for the Air Force. We are making most serious efforts to overcome it. All the prewar married quarters in this country—6,200 of them—have been, or are being, reconditioned, if that was needed, and all will be occupied soon. Eight hundred and fifty new quarters for airmen were in our programme for the current year and excellent 47 progress has been made. We propose to start on a further 1,000 in the coming year. The married quarters will be furnished comfortably well. I have seen the furniture which is very good. Overseas we aim at the same standard, but progress, I am afraid, is bound to be slow, for the most part, for some time to come.
It is therefore important, especially in view of the obstacles in many theatres, that we have been able to reduce the maximum length of the overseas tour to two and a half years. I want to emphasise that it is not our intention, nor is it always the case today, that that two and a half years should be a period of separation for the Servicemen from their families. There are important improvements for the accommodation of both single and married personnel overseas, on which a start will be made in the coming year. Of course, not all these new amenities can be provided at once, but it is our policy to provide them, and a good start has been made. It will probably be years rather than months before the plans for new accommodation at home and overseas can be fully translated into bricks or stone and mortar. Meanwhile, it would be less than fair to the Service to claim that we can offer them all that we would wish to offer them today.
As for the other general conditions of the Service, pay, allowances, leave, and so on, they have been reviewed in the light of postwar needs, and we have taken special steps by circulars, in spoken English and in other ways, to ensure that all ranks know what they really are. Next to conditions of life and service, I believe that education is of most importance at the present time. Much of the work of all, or most, members of the Air Force is, by its very nature, educational. The engineering apprentice school at Halton has, in itself alone, proved a veritable gold-mine of technical knowledge, experience and skill. Whittle, the inventor of the Jet, was an apprentice. He was sent to Cranwell by the R.A.F. as a cadet, and from Cranwell, as an Air Force officer, to Cambridge where he took a brilliant first in the Mechanical Science Tripos. His subsequent experiments and researches, with all they mean not only to the Service, but to civil aviation and industry, were encouraged by the R.A.F.
We are now re-organising the educational service. Before the war the officers 48 were civilians. Now they are full members of the Air Force with service emoluments and rank. We intend that one-third of them should be long-term officers, making Air Force education their life career, while two-thirds of them should engage for a term of five years, beginning, perhaps, at 25, and counting their Air Force service as an interlude in their civilian work of teaching. We believe that that arrangement might be of great advantage to all concerned, and, not least, to the ranks of civil teachers. We hope that the posts now vacant will soon be filled.
§ Mr. Kenneth Lindsay (Combined English Universities)
Can the Minister say whether the vacancies, which, I believe, were rather heavy two months ago, are being filled now?
§ Mr. Noel-Baker
I was about to say in my next sentence that while we have filled some vacancies, we are still 800 short. General duties officers and N.C.Os. are carrying on; but more general education, including citizenship and current affairs, which we all think to be of prime importance, cannot be effectively conducted until these 800 key men can be found. I hope that the hon. Member for Combined English Universities (Mr. K. Lindsay) will do all he can to encourage those who are teachers to accept the new vacancies which are now available.
§ Mr. Lindsay
I am sorry to interrupt again. There are at the moment 25,000 men waiting to go into emergency training colleges when there is no room. Has any effort been made to try to get these men in the meanwhile?
§ Mr. Noel-Baker
Efforts have been made. We have advertised very widely, but I will look into the point which the hon. Member has raised.
My next topic is promotion. The Air Force has always offered airmen a good chance of high promotion. Before the end of the war, over 4,000 former Halton apprentices had reached commissioned rank, and some of them held very senior posts. They had a magnificent wartime record. In the future, the avenues of promotion for all airmen will be far wider. Many more officers will be selected from the ranks. All short service commissioned officers in the general duties branch will be taken from the ranks of aircrew and a substantial portion of permanent commissions 49 will be offered to officers on this short service list. Aircrew enlistment is therefore, a most important means of entry to a permanent career as an officer in the R.A.F. As a proof of what is happening, I would add that since appointment to Regular commissions was resumed, well over 4,000 have been offered to men who entered the Force as airmen before the war.
May I say one more word about what we are doing to make the Service attractive and satisfactory to those who join? We are asking young men to join and to give to the Air Force the best and most formative years of their lives. We cannot now for-see the future, but we know that many, if not indeed all, of them will have years of potentially useful work before them when they leave the Air Force and return to civil life. All the Services and the Ministry of Labour are working together to this end, because we want to give men all the help we can to ensure that their knowledge, their energy and their skill shall not be wasted when they leave the Force.
Industry and commerce will, I am confident, find it to their interest to give what help they can. The Departments, as I have said, are now engaged on a special inquiry to see what the Government can do to resettle Regulars when the term of their engagement ends. Airmen, are, of course, well fitted to work in civil lines. The three British Corporations, and the Ministry of Civil Aviation, are giving us all the help they can.
§ Mr. Noel-Baker
Yes, certainly. The A.E.U. have long since recognised the special skill of the prewar apprentices at Halton. They have now made a new agreement to accept as trained craftsmen some of the wartime airmen who are now working as civilians in our units. The Ministry of Labour, with both sides of industry, have made a valuable agreement for the benefit of wartime Servicemen from the skilled technical trades. I hope that the House will see that we have begun in earnest to tackle the problems of finding jobs for those who leave the Service when their term is done and we believe that the whole community will help. We cherish the confident conviction that the Air Force will be recognised as a great reservoir of expert skill and knowledge in modern technical craftsmanship of many kinds.
50 I come now, I hope more shortly, to the second vital question of what our Air Force is doing with the men they get. Is there any real attempt to make economies of manpower, and to ensure that the right man is trained in the right way to do the right jobs, and that there are not more of them than are genuinely needed? The R.A.F., like Cæsar's Gaul, consists of three main parts. There are the flying people who train the aircrews and the aircrews who fly the aircraft in peace or war. There are the technicians who service and maintain the aircraft and run the signals system by which aircrews fly. There are the rest who administer the whole, who house and clothe and feed them, post them, pay them and transport them, and carry their equipment from place to place.
The first, the flying people, are a highly skilled profession in which undue parsimony would mean heavy loss of life. The second is a vast engineering, scientific and industrial enterprise. The third is a kind of super Harrods. Hon. Members may ask whether to the second and third branches the methods of modern business and industrial technique should not now be applied and whether, by their application, great economies of manpower might not be obtained. I think they could, but I add this warning. The R.A.F. is not an industry or a business. It is a defence machine. It must be efficient, not only in peacetime but in war. It must work not only in large home stations but in small stations overseas. Big central units may be cheaper but small dispersed units may be required for war. Subject to that limitation, I believe that a great deal has been, and can still be done. I believe that the R.A.F. was never wasteful, by others' standards, in the men they used, but in prewar conditions the scientific use of manpower was not a problem to which they were obliged to give their minds to the same extent as now.
The need came and the first experiment was made under the extreme pressure of U-boat war. In 1942, Coastal Command was given duties which, on its then existing system and with its then resources, it was literally unable to fulfil. The servicing and maintenance manpower were insufficient to give the flying hours required, so, in 502 Squadron, a scientific plan of flying and a scientific allocation of maintenance resources, were drawn up. The 51 result was astonishing. The squadron s monthly output was 81 per cent. above the average previously achieved. The system was applied to all the squadrons and all the types of aircraft in the Command, and in 1943 the average increase in flying hours per man was 61 per cent. That was a triumph for the new idea of planned flying and planned servicing—P.F. and P.S. as they are now called—a system which the R.A.F. accepted from a civilian, a "boffin," Doctor Cecil Gordon, of the University of Aberdeen. Dr. Gordon used, I am assured, to work in Aberdeen on the ambiguous task of breeding flies. The House will no doubt like to know that he is now a Member of the Board of Trade.
Transport Command have made a further experiment. Since 1945 they have adopted the system of P.F. and P.S. but they added to it some new ideas of their own. Those new ideas so far have had a great success. The intensity of transport flying has risen from a previous maximum of 100 hours per aircraft in a month to a present average figure of 163. On the York aircraft in the Command, for over bo,000 hours flying in the year, the man-hours for servicing and maintenance fell from over 20,000 to under 12,000, a cut of very nearly half. We are now considering how far these new methods can be applied in other Commands; but we are going further. Besides the normal machinery of review we have appointed a new manpower economy committee, which began its work about two months ago. It is a very strong committee, which includes, besides distinguished service officers, civilian representatives of the Ministry of Labour and of outside industry. They are Mr. Durrant, the head of the maintenance services of the London Passenger Transport Board, and Mr. Bussey, a representative of the T.U.C. We look forward with hope and confidence to recommendations which will benefit perhaps the whole Service, and certainly the second two branches of which I have spoken, as the result of their report.
I must say something, however brief, about the large sum of money for which the Government ask in Vote 7 for aircraft and technical supplies, which mean so much to the fighting power of the R.A.F. It is a basic principle of Air Force policy, established by Lord Trenchard long ago 52 that every year the quality of the performance of our aircraft shall improve. Here we are faced with a dilemma. We must think in terms of modern war, and the last war is not modern. In our re-equipment programme we must therefore bear in mind that current research and development may well render obsolete tomorrow equipment which is new today. We therefore have to keep a balance between rigid conservatism and vague crystal-gazing.
We are therefore confining our provision of new types to the bare immediate essentials—fighter defence, maritime reconnaissance and strike, transport, and training. In the coming year in our fighter squadrons, the Meteor III will be replaced by the Meteor IV, a more powerful version but similar in almost all other respects, to the jet-propulsion aircraft in which Group-Captain Donaldson made the world's speed record not long ago. Behind these Meteors and the other new machines there is a stupendous effort of scientific research carried on by the Ministry of Supply. These new high speed machines make it necessary for us also to have not only new training aircraft but to reorganise our training methods, and that has been done.
The Secretary of State for Air is responsible for the Meteorological Office. I think the House will desire that I shall say a word about it. After all, meteorology is of great importance to many people, besides those who fly—navies, merchant navies, railways, waterways, road haulage, the film industry, farmers and many more. If we could only predict the weather with reasonable certainty a week ahead farmers might be able to make formidable gains. Some very harsh things have been said about the meteorological office lately. I daresay that hon. Members will have some harsh things to say about them today, and not less harsh because in their thousands of predictions in the last eight weeks these luckless men have been almost invariably right.
However that may be, everybody agrees that meteorology still leaves much to be desired. We propose to spend on it in the coming year £450,000 more. More than £300,000 of that is for the new weather ships in the Atlantic of which I spoke in the Memorandum. The meteorological service, who are civilians, will have better pay. They will have more benefits, which were outlined in the White 53 Paper on the Government's Scientific Civil Service. There will be more money for equipment and more money for research. We are strengthening the central administration. I believe that in later years we must do still more. Meteorology is the Cinderella of the sciences. The study of the causation of the weather has hardly yet begun. It is, by its nature, international. To every people the weather comes from other countries. This year, alas, it has come from Russia. I believe both our national and our international machinery must in times to come be much improved.
I have tried to give the House an outline of some of the problems with which the Air Force are faced today. My hon. Friend the Under-Secretary, whose knowledge of the Force is so extensive, who has carried so great a burden and rendered such admirable service to the Force, Parliament and the nation in the last 12 months, will gladly talk in greater detail of any matters on which the House may wish to hear him. For my part I would like to end by saying that I was at Cambridge nearly 40 years ago, in the same college and in the same year with Busk, who was a pioneer on aircraft engines, and with Irving, who was the first man to fall in flames. I first knew some of the men who made the present Air Force just 30 years ago when, on the Western Front, the average life of the pilot was 14 days. For six years after 1939, the service in Norway, in France, and in Britain, North Africa, and Greece, and right through to final victory showed that they still possessed the same spirit of selfless devotion which did so much to save us then. Already, by 1941, when we were still alone, the German war historians recorded that, by their brains and courage, our Air Force had already won for us the initiative in the warfare in the air. The nation owes a debt which it cannot repay to these men who built the Air Force. The same men are trying to build it up again, as a bulwark against aggression for the nation and mankind. They ask, and they deserve, the help which Parliament can give them both now and in the coming years.
§ 4.31 p.m.
§ Air-Commodore Harvey (Macclesfield)
We are all grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for giving us such a clear picture of what the Royal Air Force is 54 doing. I only dissent from him on one point, namely, that he has not told us what the squadrons themselves are capable of doing in operations, and I hope the Under-Secretary later on will tell us rather more about it. It may be difficult to divulge actual details, but we would like to know what squadrons are capable of being put into the air on an operational basis and how many there are. We agree with the right hon. Gentleman on the work done by the Royal Air Force since the end of the war. None of us underestimates its contribution towards the peace and economy of this country; in fact it has had a most difficult task, as the right hon. Gentleman rightly said, in trying to maintain its aeroplanes with demobilisation taking place, and I think a magnificent piece of work has been done in keeping the aeroplanes flying, particularly in Transport Command, which has flown tremendous numbers of men backwards and forwards from the Far East with very little loss of life, certainly in the last 12 months.
I would like to go back to the period of 1930 when the Air Force received something like £15 million or £16 million only for its annual budget. As the Minister rightly said, Lord Trenchard in those days had a small but very efficient Air Force, and it repaid us in the last war, because we were able to expand on that, and in 1940 we had an Air Force which, though it was not large, was second to none in the world. I hope that the Minister will always insist on quality instead of quantity. We are now spending some £215 million, almost exactly the same as in 1939. It is a lot of money, but we on this side of the House all appreciate that we cannot have a good Air Force without paying for it, and to my mind it is a cheap insurance, although we hope that it will never have to be used, to have a really efficient Air Force. It is costly, but it is worth while, but as Members of this House we have to ensure that the money is well spent. On that I shall have one or two criticisms to make later on.
During the war we all realised that the Air Force was our front line of defence, and I implore right hon. and hon. Members never to forget that. It is our front line of defence, and in my view in the next ten or 15 years we must have a really strong Air Force. Maybe it will become international in some form later 55 on, but if there are any squabbles between the three Services—I am glad to see the Minister of Defence is here—regarding the allocation of funds, I hope he will see that the Air Force gets its proper share, and will never relax at all, even under pressure from the other two Services. It may be said that I am biased in this direction, but I think it is good doctrine. The Air Force should be the last to be cut.
I am going to confine my remarks to the actual figures in the Estimates, and I am glad to see that the Admiralty, the War Office and the Air Force are to have separate accounts, so that where there are dealings between the three Services they will actually be shown in the figures. On Vote I, dealing with pay, I was personally very glad when I heard that the officers and airmen were to have increases of pay 12 months ago, but as I understand it the individuals do not now consider themselves any better off. At the present rates of taxation, with their allowances being taxed, some of them in fact are worse off, and when the right hon. Gentleman refers to recruiting, I think that fact has some bearing on the poor results which have been obtained so far.
For example, a flight lieutenant who is working at the Air Ministry in London gets a London allowance of £63 17s. 6d. to help him meet the extra cost of living in London. That allowance is now taxed, which I think is most unfair. It is an allowance given for the specific purpose of meeting extra costs in London, and it should not be subject to Income Tax. The same goes for a corporal or other rank who gets £18 5s. 0d., and I hope some adjustment will be made so that these men are not worse off. Similarly, in Grade A of the trades; a flight sergeant gets £5 8s. 6d. a week. He is a very skilled man, he has a great responsibility in passing out the repairs and overhauls, and seeing that aircraft are airworthy before they take off, and I do not think that sum is enough. He gets the same pay as a staff sergeant in the Army who, although he may be a very fine N.C.O., carries nothing like the same responsibility as the flight sergeant, and I do hope this matter will be reconsidered from time to time.
A thing which struck me in the figures was that only £500 had been allotted to languages. It is a most insignificant sum to allot to a Service like the Royal Air 56 Force for teaching officers and men foreign languages, and I should have thought that this year it ought to have been several thousands. Our Air Force meets the air forces of other countries, and we want them to be able to converse and get to know each other better. There is a very strong case for giving more tuition. After all, the average civilian has not got the same opportunity of studying foreign languages, but in the Services there is every opportunity and reason why officers and men should be taught whatever language it may be—French or, in many cases, Russian. I noticed last week at the reception to the Russian delegation that there was only one right hon. Gentleman who could speak Russian, and if that goes for the Services I think we ought to spend more money.
The right hon. Gentleman did not refer to the R.A.F.V.R., and I hope that the Under-Secretary will give us some more information on that subject when he speaks later on. When does recruiting commence? At what speed does he expect it to take place? The volunteer reserve did a great job during the war, but I always felt they did not get the treatment they deserved. There was no individuality about it, they were trained en bloc and sent out to squadrons when the time arrived. I should like to see the volunteer reserve given more individual treatment. The Auxiliary Air Force is one of the best investments the Government have ever made, because it has been cheap and has been proved to be efficient. In 1940 we had 19 or 20 auxiliary squadrons which, it has often been said by people who were not in the Air Force, were the mainstay of the force which saved the country. Now we are still to have 20 squadrons, but I should have thought that this was a wonderful opportunity to have 40 instead of 20. An officer or airman in the Auxiliary Air Force has no claim on the Government for a pension, he puts in a tremendous lot of time in flying and studying, and before the war in 1939 he actually did more flying in many cases than a Regular officer.
None of us wants to see conscription continued any longer than is necessary, and this is a chance for the Government to say, "Let us expand our volunteer forces where we know men will join." There is only one squadron south of London, 615 Squadron, which I had the 57 honour to form in 1937, and I am quite sure that three squadrons could be formed in the south of London. I ask the Government to give this matter their full consideration, and see whether it is possible to have 40 auxiliary squadrons instead of 20. I hope the Under-Secretary will also tell us something about the air defence units. This is a new arm which is being introduced into the Auxiliary Air Force, and I would like to know how recruiting is going, if it has already started, and I would also like to know something about the R.A.F. Regiment.
I pass now to the A.T.C., which we understand is to have a ceiling of 75,000 personnel. I would ask the Minister to pay particular attention to this Corps, because the Air Force was wise enough, before the war, to be the first Service to go in for a youth organisation, and it paid tremendous dividends when the war came along. The other Services were a little jealous of the A.T.C., because they came along afterwards, and never got the same results; though they did very well they did not get the numbers. They must be encouraged, and I want to see more attention paid to the welfare of these young men. I do not know whether they are yet all equipped with greatcoats; I know they were not at the beginning of the winter. I hope they are today. I would like to suggest that the officers of the A.T.C. should do a period of service of two or three weeks per annum with a regular or auxiliary squadron, to give them knowledge which they can pass on to the cadets.
Now I come to the cost of running the Air Ministry. According to the figures, this is £3,433,000, a decrease of only £104,000 on the previous year. I should have thought there was room for great economy in the Air Ministry itself. I know that the Establishments Committee, who are always very keen to cut down the strength of the units, leave the Air Ministry to the last, but I hope they will pay some attention to their own establishments in Whitehall and at Adastral House. For example, the Permanent Under-Secretary's staff consists of 4,407 people, costing £1,684,950. That is a lot of money and a great number of people to administer an Air Force totalling some 370,000. The total staff of the Air Ministry is 11,383. Something must be done about it, because the country cannot afford to have these swollen staffs at 58 the top. I think they would be all the more efficient for a good weeding out at the Air Ministry. I see in the Estimates that there are 70 photographers, chief photographers, supervisory photographers and other photographers, costing £19,910 per annum. I do not know how these photographers are employed. They probably take a lot of pictures, but if they do we certainly do not see much in the Press these days. While on that subject, I hope the Air Force will get a little more publicity. In peace time our Services are liable to be forgotten by a great many of our people because their work is not brought home to them. Before the war we had Empire Air Days and such things, and perhaps they could be introduced again even if on a smaller scale.
The right hon. Gentleman referred to the meteorological service and thought that there might be a few comments on it. I have one or two to make myself. The salaries and wages at the outstations are £865,000, and we have had very little for our money in the past 12 months. They have been consistently wrong; on the hottest day of last summer they said it was going to pour with rain. In recent weeks they said" official thaw "and" official frost "and so on until the average member of the public eventually came to place no reliance on the service at all. I see in the receipts that the Air Ministry have actually been paid £10,000 for services rendered by the meteorological service. There are some mutts in the world, but I did not know there were as many as that. I hope we shall see an improved meteorological service, because as the right hon. Gentleman said it is a national service, and is not run just en behalf of the Air Ministry. It is wanted for shipping, for agriculture, for civil flying, in fact it serves the whole nation, and we want to see its staff well paid. Scientific officers should be brought in and they will want something to aim for, because my view is that in the past the men have been insufficiently paid, and that is the reason why we have not got the right men for the job.
The cost of the works staff is some £2 million, and that to me seems a lot of money. Whatever may be said about it, accommodation in the Air Force generally speaking is not good. On some airfields which were built in the first world war the buildings have never been brought up to date. We had a few stations before the 59 war which were not, generally speaking, as comfortable as they might be, though a good many people thought that the Royal Air Force was better housed than the other two Services. I think they would have been disillusioned if they had seen some of those stations, and I hope something may be done to improve the accommodation for both officers and men.
The right hon. Gentleman referred to the number of married quarters to be built, but he did not say how many had been completed. We would like to know in how many cases the airmen's married quarters have been completed at aerodromes in this country. So far as buildings and airfields are concerned, we are spending £28 million, which is a great sum of money, and I was rather shocked by this figure. We built a great many aerodromes during the war and took over others provided for civilian use, and, in view of this figure of £28 million I would like to be told how many aerodromes the R.A.F. is retaining, how many will go on a care and maintenance basis and how many have been, or are being, returned to the normal use of agriculture. I think the House is entitled to this information.
The right hon. Gentleman referred to the educational staff, and I was rather shocked when he said there were 800 officers short—
§ Air-Commodore Harvey
I appreciate that, but it does state that only 86 are employed, and I hope that everything will be done to bring in additional educational officers. I know that there are many men who are sceptical about joining because of the raw deal they had before the war. The right hon. Gentleman said that the cost of this educational service was £70,000, which seems a very small sum for a service which requires very high standards of technical knowledge. I should have thought that it would be necessary to spend more than that on technical and vocational training. I hope this matter will be examined in rather more detail.
I now turn to the item dealing with movements. This shows an increase of £2,734,000, and, as the personnel has been cut from 760,000 to 370,000, I do 60 not really see how this increase is arrived at, and perhaps the Under-Secretary, at a later stage, will explain why there should be such a large increase in dealing with movements. Then, the right hon. Gentleman referred to the cost of clothing as being £5,271,000. That is a very high figure. I have no doubt that the figures were drawn up at a time when we had not reached the present economic crisis, and I am the first to agree that the R.A.F. uniform, and particularly that of the W.A.A.F.s needs smartening up, but, if the bulk of this money is to be spent on alteration and redesigning of the uniform, I suggest that it should wait another 12 months, because civilians are in desperate need of clothes, and I think that the requirements of a large Service, as a whole, should wait until we have got over the present crisis.
On the aircraft side, I see the Minister's difficulties, because he is faced with the dilemma of new types coming along which may very soon be out of date if accepted in great numbers, but what I would like to know is what is being done about types of aircraft other than fighters. The right hon. Gentleman referred to Meteors, and there is no doubt that, if in nothing else, we can beat the world in flying. We have seen that Group-Captain Donaldson's record has not been beaten, which is a great testimony to our fighters and pilots, but we would like to be told what types of machine the other squadrons will have. I have been out of the Service nearly 20 months, and I really know very little about it. We are told very little about this Service, and I think people want to know a little more about our fighting Services generally. What I want to ask now is whether the squadrons get sufficient flying time. The right hon. Gentleman has said that, owing to demobilisation, it has been difficult to get the machines into the air, but this is a very dangerous situation if our pilots are not getting a sufficient amount of flying to enable them to keep on the top line. I hope that everything will be done to see that our pilots get enough flying experience, because I think that, otherwise, the position would become really dangerous.
I now want to touch on the Colonies and Dominions, who participate in our air services to a considerable extent by sending officers and men to the Empire 61 Training Schools and so on. Do the Dominions contribute towards the cost? I always feel that the Dominions should pay considerably more than they do for the benefit they get from our fighting Services. At the moment, we are a very poor nation, and I submit that we ought to get a bigger contribution from our Colonies, and particularly from the Dominions, who should pay more for sending their people over here for training. In this connection, I think it would be a good thing to have auxiliary squadrons formed in such places as Hong Kong, Ceylon and Singapore, which would be front line squadrons in those places. In the past, we have had to keep regular squadrons there, and it would be much cheaper to have these auxiliaries, which would also give the local man the chance of defending his own territory, which he has never had in the past. I am sure some squadrons could be formed in Hong Kong. Some attempt was made in Singapore to form a half-Regular, half-auxiliary squadron, but it did not go far enough, and I ask the Minister to explore that possibility.
Finally, I would like to congratulate the Minister on taking over such a fine Service, which has a tremendous tradition behind it. I believe that, given the right lead, that tradition will be maintained to such an extent that it will always be a Service which the public will honour with pride.
§ 4.53 p.m.
§ Group-Captain Wilcock (Derby)
I would like to add my congratulations to the Minister on his very lucid and informative speech, which told us exactly what has been going on in the last 12 months in the Royal Air Force. The first criticism which I would like to make is in regard to the Meteorological Service mentioned in Vote 3. One does not want to be too unkind, but the staff is, surely, very large—over 600 people in London itself. That may be right and proper, but, of these, there are 55 scientific officers, and, on the out-stations, 66 scientific officers, but, as only 50 of these are receiving provincial rates, it may be presumed that the other 16 are in London, while there are also four at the universities. I would like to inquire whether these indivduals arc actually doing scientific work.
It is still thought that the best thing to do before a flight is to ring up one's destination on the telephone and ask the 62 Meteorological Service for information, and so I am wondering what precisely this large staff are doing, whether they are rightly placed and whether the scientific side should not be left to the universities, where we already support a certain number of scientists. This question is very important from the R.A.F. point of view. It is a matter of safety in the air, and, therefore, I think it necessitates and justifies a very sound investigation. It seems to be well recognised that the meteorological facilities in Africa are appalling. Their business is to help both military and civil planes, and I would be grateful if the Under-Secretary could say whose responsibility it is to maintain the Meteorological Services on the Continent of Africa and also those down the Persian Gulf.
I should now like to consider this huge sum of money—£6 million—to be spent on movement. Of this sum, I see that only £150,000 is being expended on air transport. In other words, all this money is being used, with the exception of an insignificant amount, on sea and rail transport. I would have thought that if there was one sphere in which the R.A.F. should operate it is through the air, and that a tremendous amount of experience could be gained and practical knowledge acquired by conveying passengers and freights through the air and not by sea and rail. The right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State did mention that our railways are overcrowded, and that our shipping is in short supply. From the point of view of the training of the R.A.F., I should think that there was nothing more valuable than that they should take these people and this freight by air, because that is exactly what they will have to do in war.
I would ask the Under-Secretary whether, if he can conveniently do so, if not now, perhaps at some other time, he can say how much of this freight and these passengers are represented by married families. In this respect, I think it is rather a luxury business to send the families of married men out East and Middle East. I know it is said that we must make our Service people at home when they are on foreign soil but, surely, it would be a much better policy to shorten the tour of duty rather than spend money in this way in trying to get a very small proportion of our Service families overseas. In any case, it can never be more than 63 5 per cent. of the married men who can have their families overseas and it can never be a fair and just arrangement.
On the question of supplies, I would be grateful for some information concerning this very large amount of money—£43 million—on new aircraft. My criticism is that, so far as transport planes being produced in this country as opposed to American aircraft are concerned, we are rather unfortunate at the moment, because we do not seem to have produced a really successful type of large passenger aircraft, and the R.A.F. requires a good transport type of aircraft for its transport work. I would like to know what proportion of this £43 million is going towards a new transport aircraft, and whether there is close liaison with the Ministry of Civil Aviation. Obviously, we do not want to employ all the productive capacity of our aircraft industry towards a war potential, but we must know exactly where we stand, so far as the aircraft industry is concerned, and what proportion of the industry is building military transport aircraft, as opposed to civil transport aircraft. The Minister has told us that the fighter squadrons are being re-equipped, but I do not think the bomber squadrons were mentioned by the right hon. Gentleman, and, here again, we ought to know, in view of the development of the atomic bomb, what are the types with which the new bomber squadrons will be equipped? Is the Minister or the Under-Secretary able to mention that fact, or is it a thing that I am not allowed to ask at the moment?
I do not know whether I shall be in Order in mentioning the Fleet Air Arm, but I am anxious to know the extent of the liaison between the Royal Air Force, the Fleet Air Arm and civil aviation in the matter of supply of aircraft. Presumably, the Minister of Supply is responsible for the production of aircraft for the Fleet Air Arm and if this service is to continue in being then I hope, as far as aircraft are concerned, there is no overlapping. There is, of course, no black magic in operating over the sea, and I hope that the Minister of Defence who is present, may one of these days consider whether the Royal Air Force should not take over all those duties now being carried out by the Fleet Air Arm. If this were done, it would certainly lead to economy, and, possibly, to greater efficiency in the future. 64 I am, of course, not suggesting that the Fleet Air Arm is not efficient, but we all know that the battleship is obsolescent, and that the large carriers are much too vulnerable to put to sea so much of the Fleet Air Arm's functions is now redundant.
I note that £28 million are to be used on works and lands. The figure of £650,000 is earmarked for married quarters, which is excellent, because present quarters certainly are out of date. But I do not like the figure of £700,000, earmarked for recruits' depots. I cannot understand why on earth we are spending that amount for that purpose. One would have thought that, after the war which had just completed, we then should have had sufficient reasonable accommodation available without the necessity of spending more money on depots through which the recruits pass very quickly to other units. During the war, literally millions of men were accommodated in depots throughout the country, and, in certain instances, not too badly. I hope that the Under-Secretary will find it convenient to say a word on that.
I should like to add my plea to that of the hon. Member opposite to the Minister of Supply and to the Minister of Defence, that the Royal Air Force should not again be allowed to sink to the ridiculously low level at which it stood between the wars. I feel sure that we now have people of sympathy and understanding dealing with these matters, and that that will not happen again. There is no doubt that, in 1939 and 1940, the Royal Air Force saved this country, and there is also no doubt that the auxiliary Air Forces and the Volunteer Reserve helped to a large extent. I suggest that the Air Force should be regarded as two dependent parts. The overseas element should be a mobile, hard hitting force, stripped of everything which would make it immobile, all its trimmings and trappings, and that the overseas service should be of very short duration. We should bring all ranks back home within 18 months to two years. It should not be difficult to do that in a flying service. The Home element should have comfortable quarters for both the married and the single men. We should have a strong auxiliary Air Force and Volunteer Reserve and, even though the manpower position is difficult, I believe that we should then be able to keep the Air Force numerically to its 1939 standard.
§ 5.5 p.m.
§ Sir Peter Macdonald (Isle of Wight)
In examining these Estimates, anyone in this House who was also present before the war would wish to compare them with the prewar Estimates. In making such a comparison, the striking thing is that whereas, before the war, the Royal Air Force and the Air Estimates were looked upon as the junior partners in the defences of this country, today they are looked upon as the first-line defences. That position has been achieved owing to the part which the Royal Air Force played in the war, when it had to be admitted, very reluctantly at first, but very willingly later, by the other two Services, that, in order to win battles, they must have air support and air cover. It is interesting to note that Lord Montgomery quite recently laid it down as a first principle of war in the future that you must win your air battles first.
The Royal Air Force has made a great advance. That is why we find in these Estimates today, comparing them with the prewar Estimates, that the amount by which they- exceed the Navy Estimates, for instance, which always used to be the largest, is the same amount as the Air Estimates were about 10 or 12 years ago. I find it difficult to dissect these Estimates, in order to try to get a clear picture, because of the practice of reverting to the prewar method of inter-departmental adjustment. Until I have had more time, and the Estimates Committee have had more time, as they must have, to dissect these Estimates, and to break them down still further, it is difficult to know how much inter-departmental adjustment has taken place.
I note that the Ministry of Supply are still responsible for research and development in the Royal Air Force, and also for some other services. I wonder whether that ought to be so. For instance, are the staffs of the Ministry of Supply the most capable people for carrying out research and development for the Royal Air Force? I hold the view that the customer is the best judge of what he requires. Before the war, the Royal Air Force officers decided what type of aircraft they wanted, and they contacted the producer direct. They kept close contact with him, and they got what they required. Lord Dowding said that we would never have got the Spitfire nor the Hurricane had not the Air Force operational officers, who 66 knew what the requirements were, been able to go to the private builders—Vickers and other firms—direct. It was they who produced the Spitfire and the Hurricane which won the Battle of Britain. I maintain that that system should still be operated. I have not the same faith in the Ministry of Supply as some may have. For instance, the Ministry of Supply have not the best type of designers, or the best technicians. We shall find that such people will not be civil servants for long, because, if they are good designers or technicians, the aircraft manufacturing firms will snatch them up at the earliest possible moment.
§ Wing-Commander Millington (Chelmsford)
Is it not a fact that the multiple design is carried out inside the commercial firms, but at the instigation of the Ministry of Supply? In fact, it is not necessary to have all the technical brains in the Ministry of Supply in order to get the best progress in the aircraft industry.
§ Sir P. Macdonald
What happens today is that, although the Air Ministry know exactly what they require, they cannot go direct to Vickers, or whatever firm it may be, and get into direct touch with their designers and technicians. They have to pass their requirements to the Ministry of Supply. But who is there at the Ministry of Supply who *knows anything about aircraft?
§ Wing-Commander Shackleton (Preston)
Is not the hon. Gentleman aware that Air Force officers are at present serving in the Ministry, that operational requirements pass to the Ministry of Supply, and that that Department is geared very closely with the Air Ministry?
§ Sir P. Macdonald
I do not see why the Ministry of Supply should come into the picture at all, or why the Air Ministry should not be capable of doing the job themselves. At any rate, that system proved itself most useful before the war. I am told that, today, there are many delays and great dissatisfaction among the officers responsible for the development of aircraft, owing to the fact that they have to go through the Ministry of Supply. Before they can get what they want, they have to deal with people who do not know their job. I think that a great deal more breaking down of these Estimates must be done in order to dis- 67 cover who is responsible for what, what the Ministry of Supply are really responsible for, and what amounts for aircraft production are included in their own Estimates.
My next point concerns the staff of the Air Ministry itself. It has already been referred to by the hon. and gallant Member for Macclesfield (Air-Commodore Harvey). To my mind, the fact that 11,383 people are being maintained at a cost of £3,433,000 in the Air Ministry itself, two years after the war has finished, and after the personnel of the Air Force has been cut down by about 50 per cent., is fantastic. I cannot understand what they are all doing, especially as everybody who was in the Air Force knows that, during the war, if there was anything to be done, the last place to which one went was the Air Ministry. It is obvious that there are far too many people at the Ministry, and that they are carrying out the old Civil Service rule that two men must carry out what one man could do. I think that the Air Ministry staff could be cut by at least 50 per cent. On that point, I would warn the Government that it is obvious that, in the present financial state of the country, there must be a very serious cutting down of the Services within the next 12 months. I do not want that to be done in a panic.
I would suggest to the Air Ministry that the best thing for them to do is to prepare their establishments and their Estimates in such a way that there will be an alternative establishment for every one which exists today. This would give them time to prepare for the cuts when they come. There is no doubt that, when the time comes for cutting down expenditure, there will be a clamour for cuts in the Services. That demand is already coming from the party opposite today, and will come from the country tomorrow. If, as appears obvious, there should be a general financial crisis within the next 12 months, it is as well that we should face it today and not wait until it comes. When the crisis came in 1931 and the Services, like everything else, were cut down, the cuts went in the wrong direction in many cases, and first things did not come first. I want to see that position avoided. When personnel have to be cut I want to see first things come first. I do not want to see the technical side of the Service suffer because of the expense of the civilian staff. 68 With an enormous Air Force staff it is obvious that a great many people are not pulling their weight.
Tribute has been paid to Transport Command for the job they have done in this war; I would like to add my tribute because I have had an opportunity of seeing some of the work of that branch of the Air Force, and there is no doubt that they have done a magnificent job. Although the sum of £2 million for movements looks a large sum, it has been incurred since demobilisation and it is, no doubt, due to the fact that demobilisation was on such a large scale. Thousands of people have had to be brought home from the Far East and from all over the world, and, considering the task this Command undertook, I think they have done a magnificent job with very little loss of life.
I would like to continue on the same note as my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Macclesfield. What the future Air Force requires is not quantity but quality. It needs the maximum of efficiency with the minimum of personnel and red tape. That is a policy which was followed before the war with great effect by those who built up the Royal Air Force. At that time they had to do it. It was not a matter of choice with them because they were treated as the Cinderella of the Services, and if there was any paring down of Estimates, it was always the Air Force which suffered. Today the Air Force has established itself as a front line Service, and the same principle of "quality and not quantity" should apply. With a small skilled technical Air Force, we should have the most modem and up to date equipment. We should have a strong Auxiliary Air Force, and I would like to endorse what my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Macclesfield said in that connection. We have re-established 20 auxiliary squadrons; I do not see why we should not have 40 squadrons.
I do not see why each Colony should not provide a squadron, as occurred during the war. In the Air Force during the war we had a squadron representing practically every Crown Colony; we had a Malay squadron, a West Indian squadron, and so forth. I would like to see these squadrons kept in being, and not only in name; they probably are still called the West Indian squadron, the 69 Malay squadron and so forth, but that is not enough. There is no reason why they should not be based and recruited in those Colonies, nor is there any reason why they should not contribute towards the defence of those Colonies. I hope that suggestion will be followed up.
I would also like to endorse my hon. and gallant Friend's suggestion with regard to the Air Training Corps. It is a magnificent force of young men who are all keen on the Air Force, and many of them have suffered very great disappointment by the treatment they have had in the latter part of the war. Some spent a great deal of time studying and training for the Air Force, and then at the end they were told that they would have to be called up into some other Service because there was no room for them in the Air Force. It is only right that if these young men have trained and spent their time educating themselves for the Royal Air Force, they should not be taken out and recruited into the Army or Navy. I would like that assurance from the Under-Secretary. I think the sum allowed for the Air Training Corps is not enough, and a good deal more attention should be paid to that excellent recruiting ground for the R.A.F. What we want is quality, not quantity. We want a strong and efficient Air Force capable of carrying out the great traditions established before and during the war. I am convinced that if we concentrate on those principles we shall get the Service we require.
§ 5.22 p.m.
§ Wing - Commander Shackleton (Preston)
I would like to say how pleased we are to see both the Ministers responsible for the Air Force in this country and in this House—although one of them is out of the House for the moment. We were particularly glad that the Under-Secretary of State should come back after his bout of 'flu, though he need not have gone to Kenya to get 'flu. It is an excellent thing that our Ministers should travel, but I hope the Minister of Defence will see that the Under-Secretary of State is not called upon again to carry the burden alone, as he did for so long. It is essential, so far as possible, that our Service Ministers should travel abroad, but only on Service matters.
It is clear that the Air Estimates will have a rather easier passage than the Army Estimates. I think that is a fact 70 which, to some extent, proves our confidence in the greater efficiency of the administration of the Air Force; but, nevertheless, I would urge the responsible Ministers to read the report of the Debate which took place on the Army Estimates because there are a number of points there which, perhaps, to a lesser degree, are of relevance to the administration of the Air Force. That applies particularly in the field of manpower. I was very glad to hear the Secretary of State say that the Air Force has not abandoned the system of planned flying and maintenance.
During the war I had the opportunity to see a certain amount of the working of this system of planned flying and maintenance. I remember the resistance which was shown by squadron commanders to such a system. It was argued that it was a bad thing that pilots should no longer fly the same aircraft. It was also argued that there would not be the same interest in the maintenance and that the squadron commander would not have the same control. All that was true up to a point. Nevertheless, planned flying and maintenance did permit a greater output of sorties against the enemy, and I was rather alarmed by suggestions which were made in the Air Estimates Debate last year that we should abandon that system. I understand that we are carrying it on, and that it is being developed to an extent to which it was never developed during the war especially in the field of time study; that, in fact, the planned maintenance side will now be organised on the basis of various manpower studies which were beginning to be carried out just before the end of the war.
I hope the Minister of Defence will also bear in mind that the Services are very appropriate organisations in which to carry out experiments in the utilisation of manpower, because already the members, of those Services are subjected to a certain amount of discipline and regimentation which would not be acceptable in industry. I suggest that not only should this be done from the point of view of the Services, but that it will be of very great value to the country as a whole if it is handled properly and if proper reports are made available. I hope, therefore, that the Department in the Air Ministry which, is responsible for administrative and operational research—the Deputy Director of Science who, I believe, is on the staff 71 of the Chief of Air Staff, and the whole of his Department—is kept going in a strong way, because through the activities of operational and administrative research we can hope for the maximum efficiency in the operational and other uses of the Royal Air Force. I hope that the planned flying and maintenance side will be kept going and developed throughout the Air Force.
I would like to refer to a number of points which have been suggested to me by friends of mine in the Air Force, and which I would ask the Minister to bear in mind. First, there are any number of complaints made by serving members of the Royal Air Force and, indeed, of other Services, of the appalling difficulties they have in getting housing as they are moved from one place to another, particularly in London. They cannot get on the register of the local housing authority because in many cases they do not possess the residential qualification which is often rightly imposed. I admit I see no easy solution to the problem, but it would be useful if the Air Ministry would show a greater awareness of the problem. It is very hard for an airman or an officer to be posted to London and to find the appalling difficulties which exist in securing accommodation. Possibly a register might be compiled of names of members of the Air Force who are actually serving in London, so that when they go their dwellings can be passed on to their successors, as far as possible.
There is also the usual amount of complaint about rates of pay in the Air Force. Although the newpayforms and the demobforms, which are an admirable and unique invention of the Air Ministry, go a long way to spreading the necessary information, it is obvious that the newpayform concerning new rates of pay has not been put across properly. I suggest some more popular versions, which are more digestible and more easily read, and which might be posted on station notice boards, should be produced. It is important to make serving members of the Air Force realise that in comparison with their comrades in "civvy street," they are relatively better off than their predecessors were in the prewar Air Force, and that this will be the case particularly when tax rates come down, as we all hope they will do. There is also a great deal of dissatisfaction among officers about the present 72 system of promotion. I do not wish to weary the House with details of it, but I would ask the Minister to look into this question of how far the promotion of officers should be based on age or length of service because it is a very sore point at the moment.
I would like to support what the hon. and gallant Member for Macclesfield (Air-Commodore Harvey) said about the need for greater expenditure on training in foreign languages. I have a particular interest in this matter because the reason I originally joined the Air Force in the Intelligence Branch was that I happened to speak Eskimo. I am not offering my services to the Secretary of State as an Eskimo instructor, but I am suggesting that if he believes that the Air Forces are to be of value to U.N.O in the future, as he said so eloquently at the beginning, it is time we began to train them to their responsibilities; unless, of course, the Government, having purchased Basic English, feel they have a vested interest in the English language only. In any case, I suggest that it is not possible to carry on operations of war in Basic English. I also support what the hon. and gallant Member for Macclesfield said about auxiliary squadrons is the Colonies. He made this very interesting suggestion last year. I do not know whether any action has been taken on it, but I suggest that it would be an admirable thing to develop auxiliary squadrons in our Crown Colonies. I should also like to urge the Minister to say something about how air defence units are being developed at the moment.
Here I will refer to the subject of inter-Service co-operation—particularly as the Minister of Defence is here. During the war I served in Coastal Command, and saw the good and the bad sides of it. I will try to avoid stirring up mud by criticising it from the Air Force point of view, and merely pointing out the errors of our naval colleagues. I do not doubt that they, in their turn, could produce as many complaints against us. I would say this, however, that there were certain aspects of Air-Sea co-operation which were unsatisfactory throughout the war, and there were problems which were never solved. For instance, I remember that we used to discuss, argue and debate for hours on end what was the best 73 method suited for Aldas lamp communication between aircraft and ships. It was never solved, and a satisfactory procedure was never evolved.
A number of different procedures which were duly put in pilots' order books, depending on the stations from which they were operating, were sometimes diametrically opposed. Although Air-Sea co-operation at the higher level may appear to be satisfactory, it is at the lower level that the operational work has to be carried out. I hope we shall strive to bring the Air Force and the Navy into closer relationship at that level. For instance, would it not be possible for naval officers to be stationed on Coastal Command stations? That was never done during the war; we never saw a naval officer on a Coastal Command station, except on rare visits. Yet, that would have been of very great value had it been done. The Secretary of State should pay some attention to this problem.
We have had many tributes paid to the Air Force, both today and in last year's Estimates. However, I particularly regret—and I make no apology for making this special plea—that, in my opinion, no real tribute has been paid to the men who flew in Coastal Command. During the war it was often very difficult to do so, because they worked under the operational control of the senior and more silent Service, which cast a cloak of secrecy over the operations of Coastal Command. I should like to draw attention to certain figures which are not generally realised in the country, or in this House. For instance of the 690 German U—boats which were destroyed by force of arms, 390 fell victim to aircraft: a total of 56 per cent.—over half—destroyed by aircraft action. Of that total, 7 per cent. were accounted for by carrier-borne aircraft, and 49 per cent. by shore-based aircraft. The British were responsible for the destruction of most of the German U-boats, for a total of 524; and no fewer than 248—very nearly half—were accounted for by shore-based aircraft of the R.A.F. A certain number of those were destroyed by Bomber Command, and by mining and bombing activities; but the bulk of that destruction was done at sea by Coastal Command aircraft.
The real nature of that achievement can be best realised when hon. Members 74 take into account the fact that a duel between an aircraft and a U-boat was an extremely equal affair. In the end, the U-boats were defeated. But aircraft had to fly in to attack, unable to fly very fast, requiring to throttle back in order to keep down to the correct depth charge dropping speed, having to pass over the U-boat at a height of 50 feet, subject to gun fire from up to 10 light flak machine guns or 20 mm. or 40 mm., sometimes armed with no more than a single front gun, and in many cases equipped without any front gun at all. I think it is a tremendous tribute to their determination that in the face of this wall of flak they continued to make these attacks at the height of the Battle of the Atlantic. At one time something like 50 per cent. of our aircraft were being hit, and a large number went into the sea. The particular reason I raised this is because, during the height of the Battle of the Bay of Biscay, when our practically unarmed Whitleys were flying up and down, attacked by J.U.88's, having to attack U-boats of heavy flak armament, a certain sergeant pilot, stationed where I was at the time, had a letter from his fiancée, saying how pleased she was to know that he was in Coastal Command, and nonoperational. I think it is right that we should pay a special tribute to the men of Coastal Command.
I am particularly glad that, in the memorandum which the Secretary of State has presented, the front line aircraft of the air services are described as "Fighter, Bomber, Maritime, Transport, etc." I am glad the word "Maritime" is at last coming in—I know it has been in use before—instead of being just the expression "Coastal Command". The time is coming when the maritime organisation in the Air Force must be world wide. I have not heard any mention of the present status of the maritime Air Force, and whether they are still under the operational control of the Admiralty or not. It is quite clear that operational control must, in appropriate circumstances, be exercised by the officer responsible for the main conduct of operations. However, there will be times when the Air Force themselves must have operational control, and must control the Navy. I do not say that for the sake of "Empire building," but I know of some of the difficulties which existed during the war. I hope the Air Force will see that 75 the maritime services are properly organised, and that the reproach which was hurled at us in the early part of the war, that the Air Force did not give the service the Navy required, is disposed of for ever.
In conclusion, I should like to refer to the far-distant future of the Air Force. I know it is impossible for us in this House to discuss properly what the future Royal Air Force will be. It is, in fact, practically impossible, since we are given no facts or figures about the present organisation of the Air Force. I hope the Air Force will be permitted to develop in accordance with the development of new weapons, which may involve not only the use of aeroplanes. In other words, I hope the R.A.F. will be responsible for, or have a large hand in the responsibility for, the development of guided missiles, and similar weapons; and that in this development, and in the administration of the Air Force, we will succeed in maintaining that spirit of service which was a reality in the Air Force in the past. We hear so much of the difficulties, hardships and grumbles of people in the Air Force. Nevertheless, there was, is—although it may not be obvious—and must be in the future, a strong spirit of service, because it is essential that if, as the Secretary of State himself suggested the Air Force is to play its part in the United Nations organisation, the R.A.F. as a whole should realise their responsibility, as individuals, to mankind.
§ 5.39 p.m.
§ Mr. Gerald Williams (Tonbridge)
Mr. Deputy-Speaker, I thank you for calling me this afternoon, more especially because I am not one of those hon. Members who have spoken with authority or special knowledge on Air Force matters before. In fact, I have no qualifications, and am no expert on technicalities. But I often think that those who are not too near the hub of the wheel can speak in general terms and make a useful contribution, and may possibly avoid being biased, because they are not too close to the actual scene. Today; of paramount importance in the minds of all hon. Members is the need for economy. I want to make some suggestions for economising. We must not, however, jeopardise the defence of this country through undue parsimony. We must concentrate on the things that count, and on producing the machines and 76 weapons which are really worthwhile. If we use our present depleted resources in those channels we will be making a great contribution to the defence of this country in the future, and will also be saving our purse at the present time.
We want the fighting men, and the real instruments of attack—the killing instruments. We must ruthlessly prune out all the parasites that unfortunately creep even into the Services—the officials, the red tape, and the forms which we see in all three Services. If we can cut them down, and cut down the staff which is administering them, and use the money thus saved for putting men into the air, we will be on the right lines. The war of the future may be fought with atom bombs and pilotless planes. We must not ignore these two objects of horror, but we must consider how we are to counteract them. If the atom bomb is used we must have something to carry it. I do not know precisely what the atom bomb weighs, but be it large or, as I suspect, rather smaller than some bombs that have already been used, we must have the planes to drop the bomb wherever it is wanted.
§ Mr. Williams
On the other hand, the atom bomb may never be used. I am one of those who think it will not be used. The reason for that is fear of reprisals. In the last war gas was not used, nor was bacteriological warfare. The only reason for that was the fear by either side that if they introduced that particular weapon reprisals would at once come from the other side. A real striking force of bombers kept in this country by the threat they contribute, would be the greatest insurance against the use of the atom bomb. The Germans might well have used gas during the last desperate stages of the war just over, but they did not do so because they knew we could return it tenfold by reason of our superior Air Force.
Flying bombs and rockets may be used in addition to the atom bomb. At the moment, however, these are not so easily used as the more old-fashioned weapons. They need to have sites prepared, big installations and bases. That can be useful, if it is known exactly what is to be attacked; but advanced bases cannot be hurriedly erected in an improvised fashion. That was shown as we advanced 77 on the Continent during the war. Wherever we went we captured new bases, and gradually the rockets and flying bombs failed to appear over our heads in London. These weapons are ideal if the object of attack is known in advance; but they are useless for an unexpected target. They are also useless as defence weapons, if one does not know where the attack is coming from. If, however, they are used we cannot at present defend ourselves against them with ordinary fighters.
The only means of defence against those weapons is attack by ourselves. Attack is still the best means of defence. For that reason we must keep an adequate striking force in this country. Bombers can be moved all over the world. They can be used and kept wherever we want them, and they can quickly be moved to any scene of danger. We must not make the mistake now of preparing for the last war; but we must comb the history of the last war for all the lessons which we should have learned from it; and if we do that we shall know that the bomber in the last war proved our best means of defence by attacking enemy bases, by blowing up their fleets of landing barges, and by smashing their communications. In that way the Hun was in fact stopped from getting to the shores of this country. In this island we are dependent on our lines of communication. Our frontier may lie as far away as Egypt or the North-West Frontier of India. It is essential to have mobility and flexibility at the same time, and therefore I want to impress on the Minister that the money will be well spent if it is spent on keeping up an adequate and efficient and a strong striking force in this country.
Money will best be spent in that way, rather than frittered away in bulky administration. Bombers can be directed anywhere. They can even he diverted during their flights, and sent away to any part where danger threatens. They are an admirable weapon against small troubles in distant parts of the Empire. For small troubles fighter bombers can get quickly on the scene and act far quicker than an army—and it is very often small troubles that lead to a great conflagration. A few hundred men in bombers are worth a whole expeditionary force; and the fact that we have them, will, like a large force of police, be a deterrent against trouble breaking out in any part of the Empire. In the White Paper on Defence 78 it says that seven years of intense war effort should not be thrown away by an ill considered jettisoning of defence responsibilities. But if our striking force is depleted we shall be risking throwing away those seven years of effort. We started that war with some 18 squadrons.
I should like to ask the Under-Secretary of State how many squadrons we have now. He may not find it convenient to tell us, but is it a greater or a lesser number than we had at the beginning of the last war? I think hon. Members' minds would be greatly relieved to hear a statement on that subject. It may be argued that big, four-engined bombers require a great number of men. But there are plenty of men in the Ministry and at the groups and Commands. What we want are men in the air. As the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Woodford (Mr. Churchill) so rightly said, it is "teeth" we want, rather than a fat and bloated "tail." It is up to us in the future to see that we press the technicians and the scientists for speed and mobility, for they are what are going to count in the air in the future. We must ask them to produce their new inventions in the finest form, and when we have them we must use them in a strong striking force. In that way we shall combine efficiency with an economical defence; and if we do that I believe it will enable us to cut down in many other directions.
§ 5.50 p.m.
§ Wing-Commander Millington (Chelmsford)
I rise with pleasure to follow the hon. Gentleman the Member for Ton-bridge (Mr. G. Williams), and to thank him for the admirable lecture on air strategy to which we have just been listening. Surely, though, there is a point in this little lecture that we have heard before from Conservative spokesmen over a large number of years. On this occasion, it is atom bombs that are not going to be used. On previous occasions, it was men in armour on horses who were not going to use pikes with points at the tips.
§ Mr. G. Williams
I mentioned that atom bombs may be used, in which case an adequate striking force was necessary.
§ Wing-Commander Millington
That is a little bit of logic I find it rather difficult to follow. There was only one speaker from the other side of the House 79 —and I am glad to see such a large number on the other side now in their places; the biggest number since ten minutes after the Debate started—whom I followed with much sympathy, the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Macclesfield (Air-Commodore Harvey) who was promoted to opening the batting on these Estimates. One of the points he made which, I think, calls for some further comment, was his criticism of the fact that only £500 is allowed in the Estimates for teaching airmen foreign languages. Perhaps, when the Under-Secretary of State winds up, he will refer to the abysmal experiment conducted after the end of the war in an attempt to try to teach Royal Air Force other ranks in six months the Russian language up to conference interpreting standard; a little experiment about which I had same correspondence with the Under-Secretary of State; an experiment which, I am glad to say, was abandoned. It is vitally necessary, if we are going to develop the Royal Air Force, or any of the Armed Forces, so that they can make a contribution to international affairs under the United Nations organisation, that they should take every step now to fit the men as citizens, and as ambassadors of this country, in the new task of working side by side with airmen and soldiers of other nationalities. I do ask the Under-Secretary to learn the lesson of that experiment and to see, if they do intend teaching foreign languages, that the job is done efficiently.
I want to deal with one of the domestic aspects of the Royal Air Force which is revealed in Vote A and in the Explanatory Memorandum to the Estimates. We see from the Vote that the ratio of officers to men in the ensuing year is to be approximately one officer to 11 men. We further see that there have been some directives sent out from the Air Ministry recently to encourage far closer co-operation and understanding, and, indeed, leadership between officers and men. One of the great lacks in that leadership during the war, was the fact that air crews which had a much higher percentage of officers to other ranks than other branches of the Service, were given no disciplinary or welfare authority. I hope that it is the intention of the Secretary of State, now that he has established this proportion of officers to men, to give some disciplinary 80 and welfare authority to all officers, and particularly, to those who are young and newly commissioned.
There have been some directions sent out recently to encourage a happier relationship between officers and men. In particular, I would refer to directions that on all stations special periods are to be laid down in which officers can hear suggestions on the running of the stations from any man of any rank; and that there should be further periods when officers may receive in private interview men who have any kind of personal or domestic distress upon which they want the advice or assistance of their officers; and, further, that commanding officers are to set up station committees, with themselves as chairmen, and consisting of all ranks, that will discuss the efficiency and smooth running of the units. There is, in this new recommendation, this new instruction, just one arrangement which seems to me to be lacking. If the Air Ministry would also send out a directive to station commanders laying down some machinery for collective representation of grievances on each station, it would go a long way towards making easier the life of men who feel that their complaints have got beyond the ordinary stage of grumbling; it would give them hope that their collective cases are going to be heard.
I was very glad to note from the Secretary of State that he is not depending solely for his advice, on the question of efficiency and economy, upon Service personnel. It is an amazing thing in the Services to what an extent officers will advise economy in anybody's Command but their own. I suppose it is perfectly natural. But I welcome the fact that he has called three qualified civilians into his Manpower Economy Committee, who will give objective and expert advice which may differ from the advice that he will receive from his senior officers. We are faced in the next year with an Air Force of 370,000 men. In my submission, this number might well be cut, if the Government would accept the fact that we really do not anticipate a war inside the next 12 months. This number could be cut without any loss of potential war efficiency if the Secretary of State would take the advice proffered by the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Macclesfield and do far more than he has done in the encouragement of the Air Training Corps, 81 the Auxiliary Air Force, and the Volunteer Reserve. We see that there is only £800,000 to be spent on those non-Regular Services during the next 12 months. That is not nearly enough, because our strength lies more in our reserve than in the front line; and our reserves can be built up at less cost with part time manpower.
There are, I think, other directions in which we can get economy with efficiency, by integrating air training and air control between those sections which still use the medium of the air no matter for what purpose. We have under Government direction three different brands of flying: Royal Air Force flying, naval flying—not under the R.N.A.S. as the hon. and gallant Member for Derby (Group - Captain Wilcock) would have it—and civilian flying. I would ask the Secretary of State whether there has been any research to see whether the basic training up to operational training unit standard given by all three of these services might not be done on common establishments, without the waste of manpower and space of having this training done under three separate authorities in three separate places. Similarly, I hope there is some kind of integration between the Air Force, and the Fleet Air Arm, and civil aviation on the question of control of aerodromes; and that there is some unified control of air traffic cutting out the anomaly of having all three users of the air using one aerodrome in common but having control officers for each service standing by to control their own aircraft exclusively.
One of the great pities about the 18 months since the war finished is the way in which the Air Training Corps has been progressively discouraged. It is not only a pity from the point of view of the Service future of these young men, about which I hold views somewhat different from those of the Minister of Defence, but we are advancing into an air age and it is very important that every possible step should be taken to make young men and young women air-minded. One of the best instruments for that purpose is the Air Training Corps. It is a good investment for the Defence Ministry and the Secretary of State for Air to encourage the A.T.C., even if it is the Ministry of Civil Aviation which gets most of the benefit of the air-mindedness which is created.
We have heard hints from one or two hon. Members who have spoken on these 82 Estimates about the future of the Air Force. It is very difficult for any Minister to try to make a prophecy on the future of the Air Force. This gives rise to one personal point, the danger in which the Royal Air Force might involve itself by committing itself, through promises, to young recruits; opening up vistas of a certain kind of career which might in fact be closed to them in the very near future. I cannot share the view of the hon. Member for Tonbridge that the atomic bomb may not be used in any next war. It is vitally important that all our Defence Services now should work on the assumption that it will be used and must be used, and keep their minds sufficiently free of prejudice to take advantage of any new measures in scientific military advancement which can combat, or use to our advantage, if necessary, the latest weapons of war.
As an ex-Bomber Command pilot, I was glad to hear the encomium on the work of Bomber Command. I did think that we did a very good job of work, but I cannot agree that the future of the Air Force and the future of the defence of this country rest with any great firmness upon the future of Bomber Command. We may well see within a measurable period of time that the aeroplane as such fought its last war last time, and that it may have a usefulness for police or for fighter defence purposes but may never be used again for assault purposes. I would like to know from the Secretary of State what precisely are his plans for Bomber Command. I hope he will maintain a mobility of mind and not put too much of the research minds at the disposal of the Government behind the development of the heavy bomber.
We might see the Air Force with a very different future from that which is in the minds of so many who have spoken. I cannot see why we cannot have an almost complete integration between Transport Command of the Royal Air Force and the civil aviation services, for example. Their function is identical, namely, to carry men and goods from one part of the earth to another. To keep two separate establishments and commands means that we are wasting manpower and establishments at a time when we cannot afford to do so, and we do not gain anything from a military point of view because it is a not difficult matter for the Royal Air 83 Force to take over the civil aviation services should there be a war or an emergency when the military interest needs close control over all air services.
The hon. Member for the Isle of Wight (Sir P. Macdonald) opened his remarks with a few sentences which stirred a chord in my heart. He asked in effect: Which is the senior Service? I am glad that the Minister of Defence has not left. It is an iniquity that the Royal Navy has grabbed for itself without anybody's permission the right to the title of the senior Service. Unlike some members of the Air Force, I do not claim that title of necessity for the Air Force. The senior Service—the Service upon which the final winning of any war depends—is the infantry, the soldiers of which go and occupy ultimately the territory of the people against whom one is fighting, but the Service which makes the biggest contribution to the final occupation of enemy territory will not in any circumstances in any future war be the Royal Navy—
§ The Minister of Defence (Mr. A. V. Alexander)
The Navy was called the senior Service long before the Royal Air Force was formed. Now we must all work together.
§ Wing-Commander Millington
I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for anticipating the development of my argument. One of the dangers which one finds in Service life is that when an officer reaches a sufficiently high rank to direct the strategy of the Service in which he is serving he tends to pin his faith to the weapon which he commanded in the field albeit it was 25 years previously. We have seen in this last war obstruction to progress by certain senior officers in the Admiralty and the War Office, who still have a battleship and, in the War Office, even a charger outlook, and have obstructed the progress which was necessary for the proper deployment and development of our military Services. My fear—I hope the Secretary of State for Air is listening—is that we will have air marshals advising him in his high office who will pin their faith to the admirable weapons which brought us victory in the last war but which are already obsolescent and in danger of becoming out of date.
The development of my argument on the point which was raised by the Minister 84 of Defence is purely this: Is there not too much of the "empire building" between the Services? The first step has been taken by this Government by the creation of the office which the right hon. Gentleman holds—the Ministry of Defence—the purpose of which is the integration of the three Services—
§ Wing-Commander Millington
The important thing is to create some kind of Service organisation sufficiently mobile, without prejudices and without men at the top who have prejudices, so that there will be no resistance to the advance of science and the creation and proper utilisation of new weapons. As the hon. and gallant Member for Preston (Wing-Commander Shackleton) suggested, it may well be that a first step should be the integration of some units of the Air Force with some naval units which have in the past worked partly in collaboration but in some cases with obstruction. I listened with some interest when he gave details of the difficulty in getting agreement during the war. I might add to that example that however much was done in the matter of the Aldis lamps method of signalling between aircraft and ships, it never seemed to prevent the ships firing at the aeroplanes.
I want to take up a point raised by the hon. and gallant Member for Macclesfield about the position which is to be taken up by our Dominions and Colonies in relation to Imperial commitments as far as the Armed Forces in general and the Air Force in particular are concerned. I served for some time during the war as an officer in a Rhodesian squadron which made a big contribution to the group in which we were serving. There is a peacetime contribution which can be made by our Dominions and Colonies if only we can be certain that the work of the Imperial units will be integrated and so long as we are certain that they will all pursue the same methods of training and fit into the one scheme of defence. We ought to say that the work they did during the war was of the highest possible standard and that they fitted in most ably and competently, but I hope we will not go back to the day when we have to have a period of a year or so elapsing before we can get them back working in community with us.
85 There has been some talk about the meteorological service of the Royal Air Force. It should be said that the first function of the Royal Air Force meteorological service is to help those who are to go from one place to another in aeroplanes. Its primary function is not to forecast to farmers when it will be possible for them to sow their spring wheat. I am delighted to see that research is envisaged in these Estimates, particularly the establishment of report ships in the Atlantic which will tighten up and improve the service given by our meteorological staff. As an airman I cannot let the opportunity pass without rebutting some of the remarks that have been made this afternoon. During the whole of the war—and those who have flown since the war will agree—in its primary function of assisting those who go above the world in aeroplanes, the Royal Air Force Meteorological Service has indeed been magnificent. It is a good thing that we have been promised that fresh money is to be expended to make it an even better service.
My final word is about the future of the Air Force. How best can it make a contribution not to the fighting of wars but to the promotion of the peace of the world? In the Command in which I served during the war we had a big contribution to play in the actual prosecution of the military war—there are differences of opinion as to what extent we helped forward the war effort—but side by side with those functions the men of Bomber Command of the Royal Air Force had certain other purely peace loving jobs to do about which there should be some mention in this House. The first job they had to do before the end of the war in Europe, which thrilled the heart of every airman who took part in it, was the dropping of food on Holland when she was beleaguered and within a week of dying of starvation. There was not a man in the aircrews of Bomber Command of the Royal Air Force who was not glad to have an opportunity to play a part in the war which was not destructive.
Similarly the R.A.F. at this moment is doing excellent work. Indeed, one officer and his crew lost their lives recently carrying out the work in these desperate adverse weather conditions—flood over one part of the country and frost over the other—of helping civilians, who were be- 86 leaguered and helping farmers who could not get supplies of food to their cattle. This is a type of work which the airmen are glad to do, and I hope that the Secretary of State for Air will make representations to his colleagues in the Cabinet, asking them to use the services of the Air Force as a civilian supply service if necessary. We have the men who can do it, and they are delighted at the opportunity to do something positive and constructive.
Finally, because it is in the hearts It men more to do works of peace than works of war, I will ask the Secretary of State—whom I know to have a long record and reputation as an internationalist—to see whether the Air Force in this country, which is, of all Services the one most suited to be an international police force might not soon be called upon to make first contribution to an international police force. I feel that we have seen the last of conventional war. Should there be another war between nations, it will be a rocket-propelled atom war, completely mechanised and scientific. I think that the Air Force as we saw it during the last war, as a conventional weapon, is on the way out, but I think it is the branch of the Armed Forces which is most suited to the work of an international police force. I think that the future of the Air Force will be as glorious as its past, especially if it be used exclusively in the pursuit of peace.
§ 6.17 p.m.
§ Mr. Hollis (Devizes)
There has been a certain amount of talk this afternoon, as there has been a certain amount of talk during the past week, about our general defence policy. Whatever differences may have emerged out of those discussions, there is at any rate a good deal of common ground. On the one hand there is general agreement that we have certain commitments that we must fulfil, and while there may be differences of opinion in detail about what those commitments may be, there is general agreement on principle. On the other hand, there is agreement that our financial, economic, and manpower situation is extremely serious and that, therefore, we must combine with the efficiency of our defence as rigid an economy as possible, and wherever we can save money or manpower without sacrificing efficiency, it is obviously our duty to do so.
87 It is on those two principles that I would direct the attention of the House back for a few minutes to Vote 3 in particular, and make a few observations on that. I could not approve the approach of the hon. and gallant Member for Chelmsford (Wing-Commander Milling. ton) when he talked about not anticipating a war within a year or any other period of time. That seems to me a dangerous method of approach which he would have been the first to condemn if it had happened to come from a Conservative mouth. However we have to face the facts as they are. As other hon. Members have pointed out, it is a rather remarkable and alarming fact about these Estimates that, in spite of a substantial general reduction of the Royal Air Force and of its cost, there is such a trivial reduction—only £113,500—in the amount that we are to vote for the Air Ministry. In discussing this question we have to bear in mind that the Economic White Paper, upon the fulfilment of whose targets our chances of survival depend, lays down that defence is only to cost 11 per cent. of the national income during the year 1947, which means that in one way or another some £500 million have to be saved on defence. Therefore if any expenditure is indulged in on any non-essential, it means that some essential will go short. In that spirit, therefore, I shall attack these Air Ministry figures.
It is far from true, as my hon. Friend the Member for the Isle of Wight (Sir P. Macdonald) said, that automatically you get greater efficiency by having greater Ministerial equipment or a greater number of records and files; on the contrary, there is an optimum figure beyond which an increase in bureaucracy makes for inefficiency rather than for efficiency. The right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for Air in his speech made reference to Speer as the ablest of all the Nazi leaders of war. There is an interesting passage in Speer's cross-examination where on one occasion the Royal Air Force, in attempting to bomb a factory, missed the factory but instead hit some Government offices destroying files and records. In his cross-examination Speer was asked if that had any effect on production, and he said, "Indeed it did, it doubled it." He then went on to argue that in this particular case the file had become a sort of self-generating sub- 88 pseudo-industry of its own, and it was a great relief to have all those records wiped out and be able to start again.
There is a moral in that which perhaps might be drawn in other matters, to which it would not be in Order to refer today. I agree with the hon. and gallant Member for Chelmsford that there is a great danger and tendency of Service Departments to grow simply because, as Sir Arthur Harris has pointed out, it is a natural human tendency for the head of each Department to increase his establishment as much as possible because that increases his own importance. Also, there is a natural human tendency to give chairborne posts to distinguished veterans who have done the most gallant service in the war in their active days, but are perhaps not very well suited for those chairborne positions. When I was working in an office at the end of the war, not at the Air Ministry, there was with me a most delightful and distinguished officer of high rank, now, unfortunately, dead. He had had the most gallant career but had been brought back to this chairborne occupation for which, by his own confession, and the confession of everybody else, he was far from well suited. My room was at the top of some very rickety stairs, and in the middle of one afternoon I heard him stumbling up those stairs and, when he entered my room, he handed me a trivial notice about some meeting that I had to attend on a subsequent day. I said, "That is very kind of you, indeed, sir, but why did you trouble to bring this yourself? You could have sent it up by the messenger." He replied, "Old man, I'd far sooner walk about than read or write." There is a good deal to be said for that, but the amiable habits of this distinguished officer, far from fulfilling a function and working himself not only prevented him from doing any work himself, but prevented anyone else from doing any work too. So there is an enormous importance in a very drastic comb-out of Air Ministry personnel.
Also, I entirely agree with the hon. and gallant Member for Chelmsford about war being a progressive art, if that be the right phrase. Anyway, the weapons of war change from one war to another and there is a grave danger of attempting to fight one war with the weapons and methods of the previous war. However, I do not think that he strengthened his 89 case by certain obiter dicta which seemed to be far from accurate. For instance, we have had a Minister of Defence not for a few months but for five years now. Also, I had a little to do with, and know the difficulties there were about Naval and Air Force co-operation in the war. I cannot really think it helpful, however, for the hon. and gallant Member to say that it never seemed to prevent ships tiring at the aeroplanes. I know he did not mean the phrase literally—
§ Wing-Commander Millington
I do indeed mean it literally. I mean that there were many occasions on which ships of the Royal Navy fired at the aircraft of the Royal Air Force.
§ Mr. Hollis
I will not give the hon. and gallant Gentleman a lesson in elementary grammar. He said "Never"; I was objecting to the word "never"; there may have been occasions. I agree entirely with his general thesis that each war has its own weapons. There is this danger of distinguished veterans of one war attempting to fight the next war with the weapons of the old one. Sir Arthur Harris has pointed out the difficulties that were encountered during the last war but one, when the tank was the operative weapon, in getting men with cavalry training to adopt the tank. He said it was almost impossible to get them to take the tank seriously unless somebody could invent a tank which could whinny and eat hay. I agree with that thesis, and that is why I think it is only the very exceptional and distinguished officers of the previous war who should be given a position of high authority afterwards, and why there should be a drastic consideration of these Air Force Estimates, and of the Air Ministry part in them in particular.
I shall be grateful if the Under-Secretary of State will answer three or four questions. The first is in regard to page 48 of Vote 3 to which my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Macclesfield (Air-Commodore Harvey) has referred already, namely, the question of photographers and Press officers. During the War the Air Ministry suffered, if anything, from rather an excess of Press officers and had many more than any of the other Service Departments. They seem to have gone to the other extreme now but, on the other hand, there is an extraordinary number of photographers. My hon. and gallant Friend seemed to think that photo 90 graphers might be Press photographers, but I cannot think that is so because they would come under Press officers. I should be grateful to know what photographs they take. Then on page 50 I have two questions to ask. The first is, Why are the Estimates presented in this curious way? We are told we have to vote salaries for eight air vice-marshals and then, in a footnote, that one of the air vice-marshals is not an air vice-marshal at all, but is a major-general. There are a number of curious footnotes of that sort. More important perhaps'is about scientific officers. My hon. Friend the Member for the Isle of Wight (Sir P. Macdonald) asked whether the scientific work should be under the control of the Air Ministry or the Ministry of Supply. However that may be, if it is under the control of the Ministry of Supply, what are all these scientific officers doing on the Vote of the Air Ministry, or is the country paying two sets of officers to do the same work twice over, or for one to undo the work that the other has done?
Then I should like to know, on page 57, about the four curious gentlemen called the "horticultural advisers" at the Air Ministry. When I was there Sir Archibald Sinclair had the most delightful geraniums in a window box outside his flat, but I can hardly think four horticultural advisers were required to look after those. What are they doing now? The horticultural advisers at the stations are another item. Then there is the Meteorological Office, about which a number of hon. Members have spoken. The right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State said these officers were almost invariably right, and yet that there was much to be desired in the service they rendered.
I am perpared to listen to the argument that there is still much to be learned in meteorology, but I would like an assurance from the Under-Secretary, not that there is much to be learned, but why for some reason or other meteorology has got worse—[An HON. MEMBER: "The weather is worse."]—If that is meant as a serious argument, that we cannot prophesy the weather except when it is going to be good, we are wasting this £800,000. The hon. and gallant Member for Chelmsford raised the general debating point that the first task of the meteorological service should be to advise people who wanted to fly in aeroplanes, rather than to advise farmers, and so on. That or may not be 91 so. There may be something to be said for having two meteorological services, one for civilians and one for the Air Force. But, at the moment, there is only one service, and it is its duty to give advice to civilians and those who fly in aeroplanes.
Another point is that on page 48 in the Vote for the Director of Public Relations there is one controller of typists paid £540. But in point of fact there are no typists on that page. But there are 825 shorthand typists and duplicator operators referred to on page 62 and we are told that it is a staff common to all the Departments. I know that during the war that was the case, and I think it is so now. Typing at the Air Ministry was generally far less competently done than it should be, because this highly technical work was done by people drawn out of the general pool, who were ill-acquainted with the particular terms they had to type. There was a movement, which I hoped had met with success, for dividing up the typists between the different Departments.
The great difficulty in getting a sufficient number of competent typists was that they were paid so badly. I would like to know something more about that. It seems to me that 825 of them, paid £190,000, get about £230 a year each. But, in Appendix 3, we find that typists receive salaries of 52s. to 99s. It seems to me that there must be a considerable number of typists who are down to something like the 52s. level, which is very inadequate, and a very powerful reason for the great difficulty in recruiting an adequate staff. Machines break down through the failure of the smallest cogs, rather than the largest pistons. The Air Ministry may break down—we hope it will not—through the inefficiency of a Secretary of State, or Under-Secretary of State, or it may break down through the paucity of typists.
There is another question on the matter of salaries which I would like to have elucidated. That is about the payment of schoolmistresses referred to on page 76 which mentions that 16 schoolmistresses who were detailed overseas received £5,650. According to the footnote (f):Provision is also made for the salaries, etc., of schoolmistresses employed abroad at schools for children of Royal Air Force personnel. The salaries paid are those obtaining locally for schoolmistresses.92 What does that mean exactly when applied to foreign countries? For instance, there are schools of that sort in Austria. Does it mean that these schoolmistresses receive the same salary as Austrian schoolmistresses? If not, what does it mean? Apparently they receive, on the average, about £320; but what do particular individuals receive? I should be very grateful if the Under-Secretary could give an answer when he replies to the five or six points I have raised.
§ 6.35 p.m.
§ Mrs. Nichol (Bradford, North)
I beg to move, to leave out from "That", to the end of the Question, and to add instead thereof:this House welcomes the introduction of an extended service scheme for the W.A.A.F., particularly in view of their contribution to the work of the service during the war and the effect its success will have on the future of the Women's Service; and considers that the Women's Service should be established as a permanent part of the Regular Air Force.By a most fortuitous circumstance I find myself in the unique position of speaking to a set Amendment on the Service Estimates. I cannot be anything but glad to have this opportunity and honour of moving this Amendment because I am very anxious that the points indicated in it shall have the serious attention of the Minister. But I would like to digress for a moment, as this is such a golden opportunity, to pay tribute to the women of Britain and the Commonwealth for the magnificent work they did during the war. We all know that there was not a single phase of that great struggle in which women did not play a conspicuous part. In the shipyards, factories, mills, engineering shops, as postmen, in hospitals, schools, A.R.P., W.V.S., on the land'and, very importantly, in the home, as well as in the Services. If I have left out any categories it is only because there were so many and not because I do not recognise the value of their work. They showed tremendous endurance and I am sure the nation appreciates and recognises the magnificent work they did.
Tonight I must speak, by my terms of reference as it were, of one section only, the Women's Auxiliary Air Force, hereafter called, for brevity, the W.A.A.F. I think it might not be inappropriate if I spent a brief moment on the history of this Service.. The association of women with the R.A.F. goes back more than a quarter of a century. In world war No.1 93 the Women's Royal Air Force contributed no fewer than 32,000 officers and other ranks to help the R.F.C. as it then was, and to help with the manpower problem. They served in a variety of categories. They showed, even in those early days—when, let it be remembered, women were fighting great prejudice and opposition—that they were capable of making a very vital contribution to the war effort. It was with confidence in the women that the Government in 1939 decided to set up a new Women's Auxiliary Service to help the R.A.F. When war was declared the W.A.A.F. numbered only a very few hundreds, but in a short time their ranks had swelled by thousands.
Volunteers came from all over the Empire, and from Czechoslovakia, Poland, Sweden, Norway, Belgium, France, South America—indeed there were in 1943 no fewer than 48 countries represented in the W.A.A.F. who had all come to join the men and women of Britain in the great struggle which lay before them. Early volunteers had the choice of only six trades. They could be cooks, clerks, telephonists, drivers, equipment assistants or orderlies. But they proved their worth and other trades were rapidly opened out until finally more than 60 trades were shared by the W.A.A.F. so releasing airmen for special duties which only the men could do. Since then the W.A.A.F. had become woven, so to speak, into the general pattern of the R.A.F., and in most R.A.F. units and stations up and down the country one finds W.A.A.Fs. working alongside the men in all sorts of trades. They worked in the most amazing variety of jobs.
It surprised me when I was making notes for this speech to realise the tremendous variety and highly technical quality of the work which the W.A.A.Fs. performed. They worked as flight mechanics, as electricians, they repaired and assembled the delicate instruments which make for the efficiency and safety of the aircraft, they handled thousands and thousands of photographs taken on reconnaissance flights. It was the accurate interpretation of these photographs which was of such supreme value and played such a tremendously important part in bombing operations and in giving early warning of the nearness of V.I. flying bombs. Incidentally, it was also discovered that women could keep secrets. Members of the W.A.A.F. worked in 94 other ways, in operation rooms, plotting the movements of our own and enemy aircraft and as radio telephonists in contact with our bombers who were dealing smashing and crippling blows on the enemy.
During the Battle of Britain we all know with what conspicuous pluck and courage they stayed at their posts and many of them were decorated for gallantry in the face of enemy attack. They manned the balloon sites and as equipment assistants they packed parachutes. They packed them with such skill and accuracy that at one unit where airborne training was being carried out more than 90,000 descents were accomplished without a single accident. Many a grateful airman has written a letter of thanks to the unknown W.A.A.F. who packed his parachute. Large numbers of women worked in signals and radio location and the less spectacular but very necessary clerical and domestic jobs. Let us not forget that many of these women came from very sheltered peacetime jobs. Many of them had never handled anything heavier than a needle or a pen in their work, and their limit of knowledge of machinery was confined to a sewing machine or a typewriter. They came from offices and shops, colleges and workrooms and many of them from extremely sheltered jobs. The girl with the smudge of grease on her face crawling from underneath her three-ton lorry had probably, before she joined the W.A.A.F., been a florist, a ballet dancer, interior decorator or milliner, but they achieved skill in these highly technical jobs which involved a knowledge of mathematics and a sense of precision which was staggering.
It is this record of service and of great adaptability—of which we may be very well proud—which fully justified the Government's decision on 30th May last to keep the women's Services as a permanent part of the Armed Forces. Plans are being made by the Services for Regular forces and in the meantime the extended service scheme has been introduced to enable women to continue or to resume their services until the Regular forces are set up. It will be readily understood how valuable and how important the success of the W.A.A.F. extended service scheme will be to the Air Ministry, since it is planned to provide the nucleus of trained officers and N.C.O.s who will train and supervise the young women who will come in to make the permanent force of the future. But I am much afraid that 95 this splendid scheme, fine in its conception, may be greatly endangered and may fail to achieve its object. It has admittedly advantages in leave and gratuity, which are, of course, very attractive; but, and this is the major drawback, officers and air-women accepting Service engagements, have to do so, at present, in complete ignorance of their terms of service. Although it is highly probable that the majority of the women would prefer short service engagements, it is equally likely that a number would like long service engagements, would like to make the Service a permanent career and qualify for a pension at the end of it.
Members and ex-members of the W.A.A.F. are concerned to know also what branches will be open to them. Under the extended service scheme most of the wartime jobs are open to them as volunteers, but there is no guarantee that these trades will be open to them as a part of regular service. I hope, therefore, that the success of the W.A.A.F. in war will not be forgotten, and that the scope of employment and the variety of jobs will be as varied as they were during the war, and will be made as wide as possible in the permanent service. I know it can be argued that among women the wastage is high. I know also that it can be argued that the training for some of the higher branches is long and expensive, but I hope that that will not weigh unduly with the Air Ministry, and I hope that merely on the grounds of cost women will not be debarred from having their chance in the more interesting jobs which should be available. It is essential that the women should have the same opportunities for interesting training, interesting jobs and variety of jobs as have the men, and that the Service should be attractive and well balanced. For example, a great number of women would like to fly, not just as passengers. They would like to fly as pilots, non-combatant, of course. Women are not desirous of competing with Boadicea and the Amazons. At the same time we know that fine work was done by women pilots in the Air Transport Auxiliary. We also know that a great number of women are qualified for civilian flying.
Again, women have an urge to see other countries. During the war a great many of our women served in various parts of 96 the world. Not only do they cherish that as an experience, but it has been of tremendous value to them, and one which will probably have a good effect upon them for the rest of their lives. So, women would like to know if these opportunities are still to be available. Not all countries and not all climates are suitable, I know, but, where possible, I am sure it would be of great advantage if the women could know that the opportunity for service overseas would still be available to them. Further, under the extended service scheme, all the officers and airwomen are re-engaged in their wartime ranks. They would like to know what their substantive rank is to be, and what are the prospects of promotion. I hope that the principle of equality between men and women, freely accepted during the war, will not be abandoned now. If the women attain the required standard of efficiency and skill in their work, they should have the same chances as have the men.
Now for the most burning question of all—that of pay. New rates were introduced for the men in July last year, but so far no new rates have yet been fixed for the women, and all this adds to the great and general feeling of uncertainty. W.A.A.F. officers and airwomen accepting extended service engagements get wartime rates; officers get is. a day extra and airwomen 8d. a day. But the fact that the gratuity for a W.A.A.F. officer on extended service commissions is less than two-thirds that of the men's is creating a feeling of anxiety. They are anxious lest that two-thirds shall be even further reduced—that is, two-thirds of the R.A.F. rates. Members of the W.A.A.F. feel strongly on this, and I think they are justified, and that they deserve the strongest support. In view of the emphasis which has been placed in the past on the basis, of one-for-one substitution, which, after all, implies equal work, I fail to see how the Government can escape the conclusion that that should carry with it equal pay for that work. The acid test should be the rate for the job; that should be the guiding principle, just as I feel that it should be the guilding principle in civilian life.
§ Mrs. Nichol
I agree entirely with that observation. On a comparable occasion last year, when my right hon. Friend the 97 Minister of Food was the Parliamentary Secretary to the Air Ministry, he paid a great tribute to the work of the W.A.A.F., and he said that not only did they do their jobs as well as the men, but many of them did some jobs better. That should remove any lingering doubt that women would not give equal work and would not give great service. If this question of pay could be settled, it would go a long way towards getting the recruits we want to attract into this great Service.
The women in the W.A.A.F. are conscious of the great opportunities which have been given to them, and those who have had the training and experience of working in this Service find that it has been of lasting value to them, whatever work they finally choose, or if they marry and run a home. I should here like to make a plea for continued training and education and for the employment of women education officers. Finally, may I just enumerate once more the information which is most urgently required. It is, information on the conditions of service, the rates of pay, the prospects of promotion, welfare, education and general opportunities which are proposed for the regular Service. I should like to press for this information to be given fully and frankly, and, above all, quickly. In this matter time is of the essence. We want 26,000 young women. We know what grand work they did and what grand work they are capable of doing, and how useful they would be. It is important that these outstanding questions should be settled May I even express the hope that the Minister might be persuaded to draw aside a corner of the curtain tonight?
§ 6.55 p.m.
§ Mr. Parkin (Stroud)
I beg to second the Amendment.
The oddest of odd jobs I ever had to do in the R.A.F. was my being detailed at a few" minutes' notice to take the chair at a meeting of all the W.A.A.F. in the station and to ask them what sort of conditions they would like to see established in a permanent Air Force. It would be an understatement to describe the meeting as lively and interesting. The quiet and efficient sergeant suddenly became a strident suffragette. The studious type, who in the night watches, with her headphones hung round her 98 neck, quietly studied medieval Latin, suddenly became a wild eyed, wild haired revolutionary. In an hour a large number of suggestions were put forward. Most of those suggestions are no doubt, resulting from the report of the meeting, duly embodied in a calmer and perhaps more statistical form, in the files of the Air Ministry.
I wish to underline some of the general points that were made at that meeting, and made repeatedly. The most important ones were those which my hon. Friend the Member for North Bradford (Mrs. Nichol), who so ably moved this Amendment, has rightly sensed. The first and overriding feeling in the minds of all these women was that if they were to be embodied permanently in the Royal Air Force, they should be embodied on terms of equality. That did not mean to them that they should do all the jobs in exactly the same way as the men, but they did observe that the Royal Air Force proved itself capable of the greatest elasticity in expanding, and including within its framework during the war, all sorts of people and recruits of the very rawest type, to do the very big job which the R.A.F. suddenly saw before it. They also saw that there was an equality of status between these different types. It may have been due to the fact that the operational pilot is warmly generous in his attitude to his colleagues on the ground when he gets back on to the ground. That is because the isolation and loneliness of a crew in the air differs entirely from the battle experience of any other Service at any other time in history. Therefore, as they feel so isolated and alone in the air, when they get down they are prepared to be generous, and to meet on equal terms those who contribute to their work and general welfare. The W.A.A.F. know that, and wish to be accepted, on equal terms, to do their jobs, but not as auxiliaries.
Please let us drop the word "auxiliary." In another sense, the word "auxiliary" has an honourable connotation. In the way it is applied to these women, it is a relic of the time when they were brought in as odd drivers, orderlies or generally decorative adjuncts to an office. If the right hon. Gentleman intends to do all he can to extend the W.A.A.F. and establish them, he must watch that they are not recruited as some 99 cheap and decorative adjunct or extension of the existing establishment. Although he has only got one person at Air Ministry to look after each 30 actual serving members of the Royal Air Force, he must not allow the W.A.A.F. to be used to do the odd jobs, or to bring the tea to these 10,000 harassed officials at headquarters. He must not allow them to be used to expand existing establishments which are contracted because aircraft are grounded. He must offer them the jobs which they can do best. There is no reason why he should not do that. In fact, he probably will.
He has behind him the experience of the war and the achievements of the Royal Air Force. After all, the Royal Air Force alone of all the Services managed to conquer the detestable colour bar and it might even give a lead in feminine emancipation. The main point which kept recurring in the suggestions of these girls was that they wanted the rate for the job. That does not necessarily mean that the jobs which are done by men and women must be identical and identically paid. A certain number of the jobs done by women must, in the nature of things, be limited to static stations, whereas, in the latter stages of the war, the Royal Air Force did a quick job in converting itself to extreme mobility. It might be fair to say that a man who, in addition to being able to do a job on a station, was also trained in mobility—the handling of convoy vehicles—and able to look after himself in difficult circumstances, was trained for a better job, and therefore, should be paid for it.
On the other hand, there are jobs where it would be the greatest economy to pay the best money to get the best people. Much has been said this afternoon about the Meteorological Service. Many women became very enthusiastic when they found themselves in that service during the war. It is, obviously, a service with a great future. It is one on which a great deal of scientific research will be needed. The best brains will be wanted and the Air Force should pay them the best rates. It is pre-eminently a job in which the ablest woman could look for an extremely useful career. If the subject of pay is approached in that light, I think it will eliminate some of the danger of regarding W.A.A.F.s as something cheap which can be used in large numbers. If they 100 are recruited as something expensive, to be used with economy, that will be the best way of getting the best work out of them.
The hon. Member for North Bradford has mentioned, as a sign of equality, the nostalgic desire to fly which some women have. It is the truth that during the war many were disappointed. At one time there was a scheme for recruiting them for the A.T.A., though very little came of it. Only the women who had been fortunate enough to train before the war were able to take part in the transport of aircraft. There is no need to look indulgently at women and to say, "Well, of course, they would never fly a Service aircraft." There are many distinguished officers of the Royal Air Force who do not fly the latest types of aircraft; indeed, in some cases they have not flown for several years. That does not alter the fact that their flying experience is something which is invaluable. Some of them may never have flown operationally in their Regular Air Force career. Again, that does not alter the fact that flying experience is something which cannot be replaced by anything else.
If among the women there were some who had a chance to train, and who were given some incentive to become pilots for the A.T.A., they could then go back and resume their career—as the men do—in their own branch of the Service. That would give a point of contact between the operational side and the ground staff, and it would make a tremendous amount of difference. During the war there were thousands of women working all hours in the W.A.A.F. who hardly ever saw an aircraft, let alone knew anything about the way in which it worked or for what it was used.
Having said that about the attitude to the job, one must make a great distinction between equality in work, and the conditions of life of the women in their off duty hours of relaxation. Although a woman may feel something of a suffragette on the subject of the sort of job she should do and the pay which she should get for it, she wants to be a woman off duty. It is most essential that there should be the least amount of "pushing around" in their off duty hours. Their living conditions should be such as to enable a girl to be natural and relaxed in her own way. A sort of unofficial cocoa party in pyjamas in a small 101 bedroom, sometimes can be just as satisfying as some elaborately arranged Ensa show, a section dance or a mechanised amusement. I think the girls should be encouraged to relax as much as possible when they are in their own quarters.
That leads me to the question of supervision and the recruitment of officers. There is a difference between recruiting the officers for a men's Force compared with the procedure in the case of women. There seems to be something peculiar about young women aged 18 to 20, which makes them regard anything over 30 as a frump. So far as that attitude exists in the W.A.A.F., it was exaggerated by the fact that in that section, as in any other branch of the Air Force during the war, there appeared that gravest defect of the Air Force—the fact that the officer was not in daily contact with the other ranks in his unit on matters of welfare. It happened because the operational personnel of the Royal Air Force were so much occupied with other things that others had to be recruited from schools and banks, and goodness knows where, to do the ordinary routine groundwork. In fact, they in turn were given specialised jobs and they were neither trained nor able to pay attention to the welfare of the men. The ordinary day-to-day welfare of the other ranks in the Royal Air Force depended entirely upon the Flight Sergeant.
I think the W.A.A.F. "G" officer is a misnomer which should be eliminated. The R.A.F. as a whole, and the W.A.A.F. in particular, should put upon the junior specialist officers the job of looking after the day-to-day welfare of other ranks. The W.A.A.F. would find that they can discover a sufficient number of young officers to counterbalance those of mature experience. This subject cannot be isolated from the whole problem of the Minister of Defence at the present. It is quite useless to make guesses of how many million or hundreds of thousands of people we ought to keep armed and trained. The object should be to keep the whole community able to play its part at short notice in any sort of commitment which our own difficulties, or our U.N.O. obligations, brought upon us. The objective should be a steady turnover of trained personnel, men and women, so that we can reach the real target eventually of being able to put a nation in arms at short notice, if need be.
§ 7.11 p.m.
§ Air-Commodore Harvey
I shall detain the House only for a few minutes. I apologise for speaking twice on the same day. While having no desire to be involved in a controversy about equal pay, I support to some extent what the hon. Lady said this afternoon. I appreciate the work that was done by the W.A.A.Fs. during and since the war. Let nobody underestimate their contribution to victory in any of the Services.
There is one point I should like to make in regard to women flying. During the war, some go women in the A.T.A. were qualified to fly all kinds of aircraft from Spitfires to Baxters all over the country, and they did a magnificent job of work under the leadership of the lady who was better known to us as Miss Pauline Gower. I would like, with your permission Mr. Speaker, to pay a tribute here to the great work she did in the service of her country. She was the daughter of Sir Robert Gower, previously a Member of this House, and much respected by all of us. It was a job the women could do perfectly well, and they proved it. I do not know what the attitude of the Air Ministry will be to the transportation or ferrying of aircraft in the future by the A.T.A., which did a very fine job of work, but I suggest that the Ministry should review this matter very carefully. It may be necessary for the Ministry to organise a service of its own, to be known as the Reserve of Flying with a nucleus of regular personnel in which the A.T.A. will be given a chance to participate. I do not want to see them fly operational aircraft. I hope the Minister will give this matter his consideration and that we shall hear more about it in the future.
§ 7.13 p.m.
§ Mr. P. Noel-Baker
Perhaps you will permit me, Mr. Speaker, to say one or two words about the admirable speech made by the hon. and gallant Member for Macclesfield (Air-Commodore Harvey) earlier in the day. There were many subjects which I left out of my original review in my desire not to take too much of the time of the House, but I regret that I did not refer to the Auxiliary Forces and the Reserve. It is, of course, the case that my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State will deal with the matter in detail later. In regard to the suggestion that we should have auxiliary squadrons as part of our first line of defence for the country. I 103 can assure the hon. and gallant Gentleman that the Under-Secretary of State and myself, and also the Air Council, will take into very careful consideration what he said.
Now I will turn to the Amendment, and to the admirable speech made by my two hon. Friends and by the hon. and gallant Member for Macclesfield a moment ago. I would like to pay my tribute to the service given by women in the W.A.A.F., both in this country, in the Commonwealth and foreign lands during the war. They have a number of remarkable achievements to their credit. I mention now, because I hope to encourage some people to see it, a film showing the work done by women of the W.A.A.F., and indeed other ranks of the W.A.A.Fs., Who were parachuted into France and other occupied countries. Their job was to help to organise resistance movements, the so-called dropping operations, to act as couriers and wireless operators, and to carry out espionage and sabotage. They took every kind of risk and danger.
If hon. Members desire to see what it was like let them see the film called "School for Danger," which has been made by the Government. Every incident in the film actually happened and the very people who appear in the film were those who did the work. Also let me recommend a book by Anne Marie Walters in which they will see another dramatic and thrilling account of this work, most dangerous work, in which women were engaged and in which they played a most distinguished and heroic part. As the hon. Lady says, some W.A.A.Fs. were specially selected to carry out the code and cipher work of the War Cabinet. They not only did the ciphering but they did the duplicating and the circulating of the war codes and signals at the time of major military planning, proving, as the hon. Lady said, that women can keep secrets.
There was also the work of the women of the A.T.A. I would like to say a word about them. The A.T.A. ferried more than 309,000 aircraft. They had 637 pilots, of whom no fewer than 110 were women. I would add my tribute to the work of Miss Pauline Gower. When 30 places were offered in the A.T.A. to the W.A.A.Fs., 1,400 women volunteered, and of the 30 who were chosen 18 came 104 through and actually took their places and did splendid work in the A.T.A. Long years ago I first flew in a two-seater plane with a woman pilot. I have always believed since then that women have many of the qualities, if not all of them, of physique, nerve and character which are required in a top-grade pilot. The present state of the W.A.A.Fs. is this: Since VE day, 145,000 have been released, 93.5 per cent. of the total strength. That strength now is 25,000. We hope to raise it and keep it at 26,000, as the hon. Lady said. Recruits are coming in at the rate of 9,000 a month, which is satisfactory, though we would like them even faster.
We intend that they shall be an essential part of the R.A.F. in time to come. During the war, they flew as air passengers, officers of the meteorological and signal service, as nursing orderlies, instrument repairers, radio operators, mechanics and wireless operators. They had the responsibility of servicing and maintenance of aircraft and the instruments by which they flew. No one can deny that we ought to keep in the Air Force women who have that background, and that we ought to give them their proper place.
I will do my best to reply to some of the queries put by my hon. Friends. I will do all I can to raise the curtain, but I am sure the hon. Lady will forgive me if I do not wholly satisfy her. I hope that she will realise that the Air Ministry is not the only Department involved in this matter but that a lot of Departmental consultations have to be carried through. Let me start with what was said about the use of the word "auxiliary." In the W.A.A.Fs. we have this choice: Shall we describe the Force as we want it to be in future by giving it the title corresponding to its new character, or shall we keep the old and honoured title, which has accumulated upon itself a great mass of sentiment and tradition? I feel that even if we dropped the second "A," people could still be called W.A.Fs. We intend that women shall be properly incorporated in the R.A.F. We mean to employ them extensively, in the same branches and trades as men. We mean them to be an integral part of the R.A.F. Of course, those parts which are run by women will continue to be administered by women. All women optants will be trained in those aspects of administration, and on every 105 station where any airwomen are employed there will always be at least one woman officer. Besides those who are entirely integrated into the R.A.F., there will also be an auxiliary for women, so that the W.A.A.F. will in fact continue as an addition to the new integrated Service which will be built up.
Women who come into the new Service as part of the R.A.F. will be liable for service both at home and overseas. On the scope of employment. I would give the hon. Lady these examples: for officers, the following branches will be included: secretarial, catering, equipment, medical, dental and educational; for airwomen: electrical mechanic, equipment assistant, fabric worker, M/T driver, photographer, telegraphist, clerk, cook, masseuse, nursing orderly and radiographer. I think the hon. Lady will agree that it is pretty wide. The training for these jobs and the qualifications required will be exactly the same as those for men, except of course that, according to the principle which we have adopted, combat training will not be included. In regard to welfare and education women will have identically the same rights as men, and welfare and educational services will be organised for them as they are for airmen.
About the terms of service, one of the important points which the hon. Lady made concerned the length of engagement. I think she is right in believing that at the start in any case women will be entered predominantly on short service engagements, but I add that there will be a limited outlet to pensionable service. On the other terms of service, I think the hon. Lady will recognise that it was not possible last July to introduce a new pay code for the members of the women's Services. At that date, we had no firm decisions about the trades and duties in which women would be employed, we had nothing about the ratio of substitution, the arrangements for promotion or the ages at which women were likely to reach the various N.C.O. and commissioned ranks. Moreover, the Royal Commission on equal pay had not at that time reported. In consequence, certain interim arrangements were made and were announced by the Prime Minister.
106 Since then a great deal of work has been done both in my Ministry and, I am sure, also in the other Service Departments on the conditions of service for women in the postwar Forces. I hope that at no very distant date it will be possible to introduce revised arrangements. Certainly, I can promise the hon. Lady and the other hon. Members who have spoken that my colleagues and I will give very full weight to the views which they have expressed. I hope they will be patient until we can formulate the conditions clearly and make a final decision. I add that all these questions of rank and promotion which, as she has rightly said, are so important, are now under very careful consideration.
If I may add one word about flying, it is part of the terms of service of those who join the regular part of the women's Service in the R.A.F. that all must be ready to fly as passengers, and it is proposed when circumstances permit—and I am afraid I must emphasise "when circumstances permit"; I have already explained this afternoon the lamentable position of the R.A.F. with regard to training, and the very great strain which there is on instructors at the present time—it is proposed, when circumstances permit, to train and employ a very limited number of women to begin with as aircrew for employment on non-combatant duties, in communication flights, anti-aircraft cooperation duties, etc. Consideration is also being given to the formation of a flying branch for women in the Reserve, into which women who are already qualified pilots, including women who have served in the A.T.A. during the war, can be entered.
Here is a real hope for women flyers in the R.A.F., both in the active service and in the auxiliary. I hope it may be of some comfort to the hon. Lady and to women outside who are thinking of joining the Force. I would only end by adding my words to hers about the value of the training in the R.A.F. to those young women who subsequently marry and set up homes. I think, broadly speaking, they come out of the Service richer for the experience they have had, and I trust the R.A.F. will always have a strong body of women in times to come.
§ Mrs. Nichol
I thank my right hon. Friend for his reply. It is most encouraging, and I am satisfied that he has given the matter such great consideration. I 107 hope and feel sure that it will encourage the young women and satisfy them as it satisfies me. I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Main Question again proposed.
§ 7.27 p.m.
§ Mr. Crawley (Buckingham)
I do not want it to be thought that it was due to any lack of gallantry that I and many other hon. Members did not speak to the Amendment which has just been withdrawn. As one of those serving in the Royal Air Force at the beginning of the war, may I say how we welcomed the introduction of large numbers of W.A.A.Fs.? Occasionally their voices over the radio telephone induced an unwonted restraint in one's language when one was coming in to land in bad weather, but I have no doubt that was salutary. In every other way, they added to the charm and gaiety of life, and in war time, perhaps even more than at any other time, that is an incalculable asset.
On the Estimates, I should like to raise three small points, and then make one point of rather more substance. First, in regard to recruitment, which my right hon. Friend mentioned. I think he said—I have certainly read—that one of the less encouraging features about recruitment is the slowness with which people who have served during the war are returning to take up Regular engagements with the Royal Air Force. I have no specific instances with me, but I have been told on several occasions that one of the reasons, may be it is only a small one but I think it is important, is the time they are now having to spend at recruitment depots. I have been told on several occasions of people who have joined up again, hoping for Regular service, and who have then spent many weeks at these depots before being sent to start their retraining. There is no indication of what they are to do and during that period they become very disgruntled, and when they meet friends who may be thinking of joining up in their turn they discourage them from doing so. I hope the right hon. Gentleman will look into the question of the time spent at these recruiting depots, and that he will find that quite a lot could be done to overcome that difficulty.
The second point I want to raise is a hardy annual. It has to do with 108 allowances paid to officers and men serving abroad, particularly in countries where there is a great difference between the official and the unofficial rates of exchange. Almost annually this matter is brought up. I was in Poland the other day, and I was talking to those of the Royal Air Force who are seconded out there, and it really is a tremendous difficulty. To give one example, in Warsaw today at the official rate of exchange a single dish in a meal may cost as much as 10s. or 15s., and officers who are drawing their allowances do not want, particularly in view of our efforts to maintain these exchanges, for good or bad reasons, to have to resort to the black market. It does no good to their prestige, yet it is in fact impossible for them to live on their present allowances at the official rate of exchange. I urge the Secretary of State to take this matter up again with the Treasury, and to see whether some new arrangement cannot be made.
I want to put another point, with regard to married quarters. A little over a year ago, I landed at Gibraltar, and was very surprised to see that, although there were extensive married quarters for the other Services, the R.A.F. had none. The matter was taken up by the Under-Secretary at that time, and was to some extent put right. I have since heard that, in other parts of the world, the same thing applies, and that where the other Services have been in the field first, so to speak, the R.A.F. does not get its proper proportion of the married quarters that are available. This matter causes some discontent, and it will detract very much from this urge for recruitment. I therefore ask that it should be investigated.
The only point of substance which I want to argue is one which has been raised already by the hon. and gallant Member for Chelmsford (Wing-Commander Millington), and it concerns Transport Command. I should be one of the last to detract in any way from the record of Transport Command. I was one of those who were rapidly ferried out of Germany after the war in that very remarkable operation in which prisoners and others were brought over here. I would also pay tribute to the work that Transport Command has done since. I have never been in the least perturbed by the publicity given to it by reason of accidents, because I was always sure that statistics would 109 show that Transport Command was doing the very good job which it has, in fact, done.
I want to ask the Secretary of State to consider very seriously the overlapping which undoubtedly does exist between Transport Command and the work of the civil airlines, and, to some extent, that of the charter services. Transport Command has run services all over the world, in some cases, even parallel with the services of the civil airlines that we are now developing, and I think there is unavoidable overlapping, and it seems to me that the moment has come when something must be done about this duplication. It has been suggested to me that the rationalisation or co-ordination of the work which Transport Command is now doing, in simply carrying passengers in ferrying operations, might result in a net saving of about 10,000 men, many of them skilled men. If there is to be such a rationalisation; I think it would inevitably mean that the main passenger work of Transport Command, whether it is transporting men in the Services or fee-paying passengers, should generally be taken over by the civil airlines. This might mean complete re-organisation of Transport Command—I am not sure—but it certainly would mean a modification of the programme which the civil airlines have at the moment, and certainly the civil airlines would be inclined to resist it. They would resist anything which tended to force them to do work which was less congenial and perhaps less profitable.
I suggest, however, that we must cut our coat very carefully to suit our cloth, especially in view of the present manpower situation. If it is really true that, not only at home, by the existence of a large Transport Command, there is unnecessary duplication at a high level and in the overhead staff kept at home, but that there is also duplication on the ground at so many points in the world where Transport Command planes land, I think the whole question should be examined very carefully. If civil airlines took over a lot of this work, they would have to fly a good many planes which would have to have certain modifications, and it might mean they would have to have some differential charges and something like third-class fares for the less comfortable aircraft. If the civil airlines do take over this work, they will be better able to act as a reserve force in time of war for the air transport 110 work in connection with the Army which the R.A.F. will be called upon to do, and it seems to me that it is important that we should begin to think of integrating the Services in that way.
I want to ask the Minister this question: Does the preponderating proportion of Transport Command in the R.A.F. at this moment make for the right type of air force? I have heard it suggested, and it was hinted at by my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Derby (Group-Captain Wilcock), that the work of Transport Command might be extended further and that all transportation of troops might be transferred to the air. I suggest that the whole balance of the Air Force would be completely thrown out, and I suggest that even now Transport Command in fact overweights the Air Force and is preventing it at this moment from being developed as a really efficient fighting force. There are two main divisions of Transport Command work—the ferry service and the airborne force work whim an Air Force must perform; and the right emphasis on Transport Command work should be on this intensive type of training in connection with the Army for such operations as that at Arnhem, rather than, as it is at the moment, mainly the ferrying backwards and forwards of troops and supplies. If my information is correct, I think that only about one-sixth of Transport Command is engaged in intensive airborne work with the Army. There is a large amount of other work being done, and I am sure that that is the wrong emphasis.
Lastly, is not the emphasis on Transport Command really hampering the other arms of the Service—Fighter and Bomber Commands? I am told that, although machines and new equipment are coming forward satisfactorily, Transport Command is getting priority in manning and that Fighter and Bomber Commands are short of ground crews as a result. Any shortage of ground crews must mean less flying, and I suggest that it is because the emphasis in Transport Command is wrong and that the whole question of how much carrying Transport Command is to do should be overhauled. At the beginning of the war, Goering described the R.A.F. as a "Cartier" Air Force. The danger now is that it may become a Carter Paterson Air Force, and I do not think that that would be the best guarantee for our defence.
§ 7.38 p.m.
§ Lieut-Colonel Corbett (Ludlow)
I only wish to reinforce a point mentioned by the hon. Member for Buckingham (Mr. Crawley) concerning quarters for the wives of airmen overseas. I have had some correspondence on the subject concerning a number of wives of Regular R.A.F. personnel who go out to these quarters overseas. I asked the Secretary of State a Question a short time ago, and he replied that it would be possible for the wives of Regular R.A.F. personnel to go overseas if their husbands provided civilian quarters for them. I understand that that is a fact, and I believe that the Government are prepared to pay their passages, but I am informed that there is no provision for an allowance to help them to maintain themselves while they are overseas, which I find it hard to believe. I am told, too, that when wives have applied to join their husbands overseas, they have received a letter from the Air Ministry which, to say the least, has been of a putting off nature. They have been told that there can be no guarantee that their husbands may not be posted to another station at short notice. That, of course, taking into consideration the exigencies of the Service, is quite understandable, and a point with which I can sympathise.
But I feel that the question of these wives is not being treated as sympathetically as it might. I think that there must be quite a number of people on stations abroad who can be assured that they will remain on those stations, at any rate, for some reasonable time. In those cases, and where the husbands can provide quarters, I hope that the Under-Secretary will try to make some arrangement whereby wives can be given a certain amount of encouragement to join their husbands overseas. I should also like the hon. Gentleman to deal with the question of allowances and marriage rates of pay. I hope that some of these wives will be able to join their husbands overseas, and that they will not be put off by the letters which they receive from the Air Ministry.
§ 7.42 p.m.
§ Mr. Bowden (Leicester, South)
We have heard a great deal this afternoon about the very gallant work performed during the war, and since, by the flying personnel pf the Royal Air Force. I am sure that we all agree that that cannot be reiterated too often. But there is 112 another side to the work in the Royal Air Force, and, if I may, I want briefly to refer to one particular job performed by a section of the ground staff. It is the work of the Royal Air Force Fire Services.
In opening the Debate, the right hon. Gentleman referred to the meteorological section as the "Cinderella" of the Royal Air Force. Cinderella got somewhere in the end, but the Royal Air Force Fire Services never seem to do so. For that reason, I am raising the subject tonight in the hope that the Under-Secretary will tell us what is the intention in the future with regard to this very important service. By way of explanation, it might, perhaps, be necessary to point out that the Royal Air Force Fire Services came into being during the war. They were formed for a dual purpose, for domestic fire fighting in the Royal Air Force—the protection of Royal Air Force property—and for performing the very valuable and important work of fighting crashed aircraft fires. The latter part of their work is far and away the more important of the two. It is only when we realise that, out of the total number of aircraft that crash, a very high percentage of them burst into flame, often with great loss of life, we appreciate to the full the value of an adequate fire service.
In my view, now that we can sit back and view the situation rather more calmly in time of peace, it is necessary to reorganise the policy of the fire-fighting service in the Royal Air Force. It grew up in rather a Gilbert and Sullivan fashion, out of the needs of the time, and without very much help, guidance or support from the top. It is a special job, and must be treated as such. Towards the end of the war, after various methods had been tried of forming a service within each station, fire officers were appointed to co-ordinate the duties of fire fighting on the stations, both domestic and crashed aircraft, and, at the same time, to carry out training with material which they might be fortunate enough to get, and which other sections did not want at that time. Fire crews were not always understaffed, but they were, very often, inadequately trained. The officer called the fire officer, was given many other jobs to do, and had not sufficient time to devote to the job of fire fighting. He was usually gas officer, salvage officer, mess secretary, entertainments officer, and "Uncle Tom Cobley and all." When an aircraft crashed and burst into flames, 113 the fire fighting crew had to go into action with the equipment at their disposal. I propose to say a word about equipment a little later.
Not only the Royal Air Force, but the Ministry of Civil Aviation as well should now realise, at long last, that any work in connection with aircraft, and where human lives are at stake, must not be attended to in a parsimonious manner. It is never a waste to spend money on saving human life. I should like to pay a tribute to the officers and the fire crews who, during the war, did the best job possible. But the standard of fire fighting on any particular Royal Air Force station was really determined by the commanding officer, and not by any national policy. When the hon. Gentleman replies, I shall probably be told that at the Air Ministry there was a group captain or a spare air-commodore or two and, in the end, that there were probably wing-commanders looking after the fire-fighting force.
But, as the hon. Member for Devizes (Mr. Hollis) said in an interesting speech, many of those men were of the type who prefer to walk about rather than to sit down writing. They were the gallant gentlemen of the air crews, who did the flying in and out of operations. It could be expected that, when they retired, they could deal with a highly technical and scientific job such as fire fighting. The result was that it was left to the commanding officer of the station. Many of these gave the fire officer plenty of latitude. Others recognised that the work of fire fighting on the station was a bit of an annoyance and a nuisance, because all fire-fighting services, whether military or civil, must spend a large part of their time standing by waiting for something to happen. If it does not happen, all to the good, but, when it does, they must be on the job to deal with it. Many commanding officers did what was possible, but others, from start to finish, were critical of the fire fighting section.
I was a fire-fighting officer for a short while. On one occasion, I actually had a fire on hand, with one crew attending to the fire, and another crew, with a second crash tender, came in to assist. The second crew had been standing by because the men were off duty. The result was that they were in their shirt sleeves. In the middle of dealing with this burning aircraft—a Wellington bomber—and with am- 114 munition exploding—fortunately there were no bombs aboard—I was called out by the commanding officer and told that my men were working without overalls. The next morning I was on the mat because the men had worked on that fire without wearing overalls. That particular commanding officer was one of the best, but he did not understand the job. It is for that reason that the thing must be dealt with at a high level.
With regard to equipment, that used for fire fighting by the Royal Air Force during the war was largely the same as that used at the beginning of the war, and, apart from the fact that, today, Mark I has become Mark VI, with one or two minor alterations in design. it is the same kind of equipment as now used on our aircraft. A little while ago, the public were shocked to hear that a tender had arrived on the scene of a crashed aircraft fire, and that the occupants had lost their lives because the equipment was frozen and would not work. Had our experiences during the war been made known to the public, that shock would not have been so great. That sort of thing was happening time and time again. The fault was neither that of the men on the job nor that of the officer. The equipment was old, and as an hon. Member of this House said to me the other day, "It looks rather a Heath Robinson contraption." I would like the Minister at some time to spare the time, if and when he is in America, to have a look at some of the fire fighting equipment of the American Air Force. They have not failed to spend money. They have done everything possible for what they recognise as a very important service, and I commend to him some of the equipment that they are using. I would urge the right hon. Gentleman to look at this whole question of fire fighting in the R.A.F. as a very important job in which it is impossible to save money—in fact, one cannot spend enough—and so assure us that in the Royal Air Force of the future if the men who fly the machines crash they will have a possible chance, at least, of getting out alive.
§ 7.52 p.m.
§ Mr. John Morrison (Salisbury)
I had not intended to intervene in this Debate, and I hope the hon. Member for South Leicester (Mr. Bowden) will forgive me if I do not follow him. I want to put two 115 points and also emphasise one which has already been made. As regards recruiting, I feel there is some misgiving in the minds of some men concerning the position of married quarters abroad, and I hope the Under-Secretary will tell us something of that position which is not as satisfactory as many in the R.A.F. would wish. Secondly, I hope the Under-Secretary will be able to tell us something of the position of the many R.A.F. bomb and ammunition dumps which still spread over the English and Scottish countryside. I appreciate that a great deal has been done to clear up these dumps, but many who live in rural areas fear that in a dry summer there is always the danger of fire when underwood and bracken are easily lighted by a stray cigarette. The large numbers of bomb dumps in such areas do not add to the comfort of those who live in villages around them.
Lastly, I want to ask about the de-requisitioning of Royal Air Force camps and airfields. Is the hon. Gentleman satisfied that as many as possible have been derequisitioned at a time when our agriculture and food production is of the utmost importance, and is likely to be so for a considerable time? Is he satisfied that sufficient numbers of these establishments have been given up to enable agriculture to be carried on and food to be produced on the ground which in the war was used by huts and by aircraft landing? It is not a political fact but an absolute fact that small boys always break windows if huts are left empty for too long. I hope where possible the Under—Secretary of State will derequisition these huts which they could use for temporary buildings instead of keeping them empty and letting them go derelict as in the case of some that I know.
§ 7.54 p.m.
§ Mr. Symonds (Cambridge)
Like the hon. Member for Salisbury (Mr. J. Morrison), my Service experience has been entirely with the Army, and I am a little hesitant about attempting to intervene in a Debate of this kind, as I have no specialised experience in Royal Air Force matters at all. But I wish to do so, briefly, in order to raise one matter which has come to my notice a good deal during this past year in the course of my ordinary duties as a Member of this House. In essence, it is a matter of welfare. I was 116 very pleased to read in the Estimates and to hear the Secretary of State indicate that much more is to be done in the future in the way of amenities. Under Vote 9, Subhead E, "Welfare expenses" these words appear: The increased sum—an increase of £63,000 over last year—provides for miscellaneous expenses in connection with the general welfare of, and amenities and entertainments, for personnel of the Royal Air Force and Women s Auxiliary Air Force at home and abroad, including payment towards the costs of the overseas recorded broadcasting organisation and of hostels.It is particularly with regard to the latter part, hostels, that I would like to say a few words. During the past year there has been a process of the general closing down of Service hostels. The pressure for their return for use for ordinary civilian housing purposes has been intense, and understandably so. The numbers of people requiring to use hostels has, with demobilisation, diminished and so we found in many cases that existing Service hostels were in use, at the most, for weekends only. At least, it was only at the weekends that they were anything like full and could be regarded as an economic proposition. Because of the needs of civilian housing many of these hostels have been closed down, and that is particularly so in the borough which I have the honour to represent, Cambridge, which is surrounded by a large number of permanent R.A.F. stations.
All around in the flat Fen country there are these stations, and men from them inevitably find themselves making their way towards Cambridge, but they find nowadays that there are not the hostels which they used to find. This, I think, is inevitable. As I say, it is impossible to retain for weekend use houses which are urgently required for everyday use by the ordinary civilian population, but I am not sure, in the first place, that this has been fully explained to men in the Royal Air Force. Many of them come along and wonder why these hostels have been closed down. I think the R.A.F. have failed to bring home to the men the necessity for such buildings to be surrendered to meet the needs of civilian housing.
It is not really a local problem, purely affecting my constituency. It arises in most parts of the country, I think. As R.A.F. aerodromes tend to be placed well out in the rural areas, there is always the difficulty of personnel from those stations 117 getting to towns and finding accommodation there. At present there seems to be a tendency in the Royal Air Force to release at weekends practically everybody who is not immediately required for duty. It is a laudable practice of closing down, for all practical purposes, at weekends; and on Saturdays and Sundays a station is almost deserted. Everyone is given his freedom to go away. So we get the rather difficult situation that on the one hand, because of the extension of weekend leave, more liberty is being created, and on the other hand, with the closing of the hostels, there are less facilities for the people who have that extra liberty. Men get to these towns, if they can get the transport or can hitch-hike, and then find there is nowhere for them to stay.
It is no use simply criticising the situation as one sees it without attempting to make some constructive suggestions. In the first place, I think the R.A.F. might inform all personnel what hostels have been closed down, and in what towns there are hostels open to them. I do not think that information is as widely known as it should be. In the second place, more should be provided in the way of amenities on the stations themselves, particularly in the more remote rural areas. This afternoon the Minister indicated that something was to be done on those lines. It will have to be done carefully, because it does, in a sense, tend to conflict with the other process of clearing the stations at weekends. Something must be done for those people whose homes are too far away for them to get home on Saturdays or Sundays. My third suggestion is with regard to transport. This afternoon, the Minister himself admitted that the amenities on stations are not yet all that we should like to see. Until that time, until the stations themselves can provide full amenities, it is essential that transport should be available to take men from their stations to the nearest large town. On many occasions I have had complaints brought to my notice about the difficulty R.A.F. men have, either in getting from their stations to towns or, once they are in the towns, of getting back to their stations, particularly when returning from leave.
A few months ago I put a Question to the Under-Secretary, asking what transport arrangements he was making to enable Service personnel stranded in, say, 118 Cambridge to get to their stations, owing to the late arrival of trains and other unforeseen circumstances. He replied:If a man is unable to report to his unit in time he must inform his orderly officer either directly or through the local military or civil police. The orderly officer will, then decide whether service transport can be provided; if not, the local police will give advice on where to spend the night."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 21st November, 1946; Vol. 430, c. 182–3.]It is all very well to say, "If you want a bed for the night ask a policeman." What I want to know is: whom is the policeman to ask?—because in a place like Cambridge, where there is such pressure on all the available accommodation by local people, students and civil servants, it is a very difficult job indeed to find accommodation; and the police themselves have great difficulty in dealing with inquiries from men of the Services, particularly the R.A.F., who find themselves stranded, at, say, Cambridge station, and unable to get out to their stations in the countryside.
It is difficult enough where accommodation is short in the ordinary way, but—and this is my final point—when the matter of a man's colour comes into it and makes it still more difficult, it is all the more urgent that something should be done. I should like to read a brief extract from a letter which reached me only a few days ago:I wonder if you can help the coloured boys at Bassingbourn aerodrome?Bassingbourn is a few miles outside Cambridge.Up to last Christmas they had transport to and from Cambridge. During the Christmas holidays it was stopped and so far it hasn't been restarted. These boys now have to hitch hike their way into Cambridge and are then faced with the difficulty and expense of finding a night's lodgings and then catching the 7.20 a.m. train next morning. On various occasions I have accommodated one of them. The Salvation Army hostel cannot always put them up. Their colour unfortunately doesn't help with certain lodging houses. Consequently one of them had to walk to Lord's Bridge at to o'clock the other night.I think most people would deplore the fact that a man's difficulties in getting accommodation should be in any way affected by his colour. I think it is extremely deplorable and regrettable that such a thing could happen in a place like Cambridge, but the fact remains the difficulty is there.
Until there are full amenities on the stations, the men will make their way 119 into towns when off duty. Once there, they will be faced with the problem how to get back. I suggest that in R.A.F. welfare, even more than in Army welfare, the matter of transport to and from rural areas is a particularly important one. I hope that there will not be any undue economy in the use of transport, but an effort will be made to make life easier for these men in getting to and from towns, if they happen to be situated on remote rural stations.
§ 8.7 p.m.
§ Mr. Driberg (Maldon)
In the course of this tranquil Debate a number of hon. Members have raised particular points of interest. The hon. Member for Salisbury (Mr. J. Morrison) raised an extremely important point about the derequisitioning of agricultural land, which is often far too slow. The hon. Member for Devizes (Mr. Hollis) asked a number of questions; and I hope that my hon. Friend will be able to reply in particular to his rather interesting question about horticultural advisers. I think it must have been on the advice of one of these gentlemen—or perhaps for want of such advice—that an enormous, and presumably expensive, consignment of young trees was delivered some time ago at an R.A.F. station that I know of. Unfortunately, they were delivered at the wrong time of the year, and without any warning whatever, so that naturally they all died at once. However, they came in useful for kindling for the fires in the various houses which had been requisitioned in the neighbourhood—all the bookshelves and mantlepieces having already been chopped up.
A number of other particular points will no doubt be raised by various hon. Members when we come to discuss the individual Votes one by one. Meanwhile, I should like to raise two matters of perhaps secondary importance, but, I think, some general interest. First, I should like to ask my hon. Friend to say a little about what is being done for the welfare, education, and entertainment—especially by the provision of modern and new films, not films which are two or three years old—and, above all, quick postal services for airmen stationed in out-of-the-way parts of the world. My hon. and gallant Friend the Under-Secretary has recently been on an extensive tour of the world himself; and, since there is plenty of time tonight, 120 I hope he will be disposed perhaps to give us a few impressions of his tour, especially as regards the particular matter I am now raising. In the past year many hon. Members have drawn his attention to matters which seemed to need correction, in places like the Azores, Shaibah, Vizagapatam, Mauripur and other Godforsaken R.A.F. stations of that kind.
I am sure that there have been many improvements. Could he tell us whether that is the case, from his own personal observation? Could he tell us, also, that constant watch is kept upon the improvements? Very often, when a particular issue is raised in this House, there is a temporary improvement; perhaps, the postal services are speeded up for a few weeks or a month or two; and then there seems to be a relapse. So, is there a follow-up of all these improvements when they have been made? Can he tell us, in particular, whether his Department have been able at last to solve the mysteriously and peculiarly intractable problem of the conditions at Mauripur, which was, some time ago, one of the worst of all stations? I realise that, fortunately, many of these stations to which I am referring have been wound up in the past few months, or more or less wound up; but there is the minor point that, when they are reduced to small staging-posts manned by a handful of airmen, it becomes all the more necessary to remember the welfare of those few men, who, naturally, feel all the more lonely and isolated when their numbers are reduced.
The second point I want to raise at this stage of the Debate is this. I was particularly glad to hear reference made by the hon. Member for the Isle of Wight (Sir P. Macdonald) to Colonial Servicemen, and I should like to congratulate my right hon. Friend—or rather, I think, his predecessor—on the very enlightened action that was taken some time ago by his Ministry in abolishing the colour bar against applicants for Regular engagement in the Royal Air Force and for commissions in peace-time—the retention of which in the other two Services is a standing insult to millions of our fellow-citizens in the Colonial Empire and to thousands of good citizens of this country.
I should like my hon. Friend, if he will be so good, to tell us how this experiment in what one may call interracial unity within the Service is working out 121 in practice. How many West Indians, for instance, now hold Regular or extended service commissions? How are they doing? Are they making a good job of it? His answer, I think, may be illuminating to the War Office and to the Admiralty, and may, perhaps, help them to overcome their largely imaginary difficulties in this respect. At any rate, I hope that he will be able to give us on the back benches a few hints which we could use in our representations to the two more backward Service Departments.
§ 8.13 p.m.
§ Mr. Bramall (Bexley)
I should like first of all to refer to the numerous remarks which have been made in the course of this Debate, particularly by hon. Members on the other side of the House, about the large number of civil servants who are shown in these Estimates in the Air Ministry. I am as aware as anybody of the need for combating the tendency of all large Service headquarters to grow ever larger and larger, but I think we should say a word in praise of those civil servants at least, in the Air Ministry, who deal with the questions of hon. Members of this House. I think it is the experience of many hon. Members that, whether it is the particular excellence of the Ministers, or whether that of the civil servants who work for them, there is no doubt that there is no Ministry with which we have to deal from which we get more scrupulous attention in every individual case than the Air Ministry. I know many cases myself where I have been extremely thankful for the very great attention to detail which has been given by the Air Ministry to individual cases.
One other small point of procedure I should like to raise is for my own instruction. It is with regard to the construction of the Service Votes. I think it applies to this Air Vote, and also, to the Army and Navy Votes. At least, it applies to the Navy Vote, I know. It is that the form does not appear to have been modified to the new fact, or comparatively new fact, that we have women in the Services. It is, I understand, the procedure that we vote under Vote A for the bulk maximum total of bodies which the Service concerns may have mobilised at any time during the financial year. Now, Vote A—
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Mr. Hubert Beaumont)
The hon. Member is dis- 122 cussing now details of Vote A which will be taken in Committee.
§ Mr. Bramall
I bow to your Ruling, Sir. I pass to three small points concerning three types of people covered by this Air Force Vote who consider themselves to be labouring under very considerable grievances at the moment. They are comparatively small groups of people, but they are people whose case has come to my notice; and I should like my hon. Friend to consider whether he can, perhaps, do something to assist them. The first category is one referred to by the hon. and gallant Member for Macclesfield (Air-Commodore Harvey)—the education officers in the prewar Royal Air Force.
These people, I think, have had, probably, the rawest deal of anybody in the Armed Forces of the Crown. They are people who have done sterling work in the rather thankless atmosphere of the peacetime Service, and, furthermore, during the war did not only their normal work as education officers, but did extremely valuable work in the darkest days of the war as instructors in navigation. To carry out their duties they had to go through full training as navigating instructors, as well as maintaining their educational qualifications for the work which was normally their bread and butter. But they have seen time go by, and they have had extremely slow promotion. They have seen people who came into the Service, perhaps, as navigation instructions, who served with them in one of those salubrious seaside resorts which were the hide-out of R.A.F. training centres, promoted to higher rank, and leaving the Service with gratuities, or, in the case of Regular officers, with pensions which now come within the provision of the Pensions (Increase) Acts. But they themselves, because of the terms of their service in peacetime, have been tied down to very lowly rank; their rates of pay have been extremely poor; and they do not even now benefit from pension increase, because of the particular circumstances at the time when they were recruited into the Service, because they abandoned the system of superannuation pension, and took on deferred pay. This deferred pay which they are to obtain does not benefit from the pension increase which goes to other members of the Service. I would ask my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State whether he could consider the case of those Regular serving education 123 officers who today find themselves leaving the Service feeling they have had the dirty end of the stick at every stage of their careers.
The second category are the redundant aircrews. I know something has been done for the most important section of the redundant aircrews, namely, the people with actual combat experience in the war. The people who flew during the war have largely been relieved from the effect of their redundancy which meant that they would be relegated to lower rank, with considerably lower rates of pay. The people who did a considerable training are still left. They were in many cases those boys from the Air Training Corps, to whom reference has been made, who had pinned their whole heart and soul on doing their flying duties. They then went through the long period of training for aircrew and passed out as proficient members of aircrew. Since the end of the war they have become redundant and are now faced with a very considerable reduction in rank and a reduction in pay. We cannot expect the Service to go on carrying large numbers of redundant personnel who are being paid for doing jobs which they are not carrying out, but one must recognise the unfortunate position of these people. During the long period when they were having their aircrew training, if they had been in some other trade in the Forces they would in all probability have been able to attain senior N.C.O. or warrant officer rank. As it is they have not been able to do so. Those who became warrant officers as aircrew are now faced with the necessity of going back to A.C.1 because they have had no training in any other trade and no chance of attaining proficiency in another trade.
The third category is a similar type of case and I ask the Secretary of State to see whether he cannot do something for these people. They are people of both the R.A.F. and the W.A.A.F. who gave service as instructors under the educational and vocational training scheme. They may have come from any trade and many have had special aptitudes in civilian life which enabled them to be instructors. They became instructors with senior N.C.O. or warrant officer rank and served a year or 18 months giving instruction under that scheme. During that time they lost all possibilities of promotion in their own trade. The scheme 124 comes to an end and they find themselves faced with going right back to the bottom of the scale again, feeling that they lost opportunities when they did their best in a scheme sponsored by the Royal Air Force in order to do a very valuable job in its time, and that that service has been forgotten and that they have to suffer for it.
Those are the three cases. The numbers in each case are not large, but in each case I have had most pathetic letters from people who just have that nasty taste which is left in the mouth when someone in the Services feels that his particular small category has been forgotten. I would like the Minister to see whether he cannot give these type of people some hope for the future.
§ 8.23 p.m.
§ Mr. A. Edward Davies (Burslem)
I want to pursue a subject which I have had in hand with the Ministry, in reference to a particular case but on broader lines because I believe it is a matter of interest to hon. Members in all parts of the House. With the contraction of the Services we have bad some amount of premature retirement in all ranks and particularly among the officers, and it has been brought to my notice that some of the men have very great difficulty in getting fixed up in suitable jobs in civilian life. A man I know had laid out his career expecting to serve until perhaps the middle fifty's in the Services, but because the Service was contracted he found he had to retire prematurely at the age of 49. He was given a retirement pension which some people would regard as not unreasonable but which he considered to be quite inadequate to his value and his service, having regard to his great training and ability. This man, in common with hundreds of others, has had to tramp the streets trying to get a suitable job, but without success. He has used every means through the Appointments Board and through all the organisations which purport to provide jobs of work for such men.
Although he has a pension, he does not receive the amount which he could have expected had he gone on to the end of his time. The case is submitted, I think with some degree of worthiness, that there should be some form of compensation where men are prematurely retired and 125 where difficulty is experienced in obtaining suitable employment. The present regulations make no such provision. Where men have risen from the ranks, allowance should be made in assessing their pension rights for all their service in the ranks and not merely to count half their service below the grade of warrant officer, which I believe to be the position so far as the present regulations are concerned. Further, periods of service under a completed year ought to be counted for retired pay proportionately, whereas in the present regulations only completed years of service are counted. I believe that the practice of paying a proportionate amount for the uncompleted year obtains in some of the other Services. I should like the Minister when replying to give sympathetic consideration to these points and to say if it is the intention to make some further provision in the future.
I hope that when we are appointing people in civil aviation many of these excellent men will have consideration. Obviously we do not want a new Service to be stocked with old men who may not be suitable for their posts, but I am quite certain that there are plenty of good young men who have had excellent administration and flying service during the war who could well fit into some of the posts which should become available in the future. I am sure that hon. Members in all parts of the House would desire to utilise the services of these men to acknowledge their great contribution during the war, and I feel sure that the Minister will sympathetically consider that point of view.
§ 8.28 p.m.
§ Mr. Harold Macmillan (Bromley)
It falls to my lot for the second time in two successive years to have the opportunity of congratulating the Secretary of State or the Under-Secretary who has presented the Estimates to the House, although my right to do so is built upon the very slender foundation of probably the shortest tenure of office as Secretary of State for Air in its history. Yet it does give me the happy opportunity of recalling the many friendships and loyalties which I have had with the Air Force over the period of the war. I do not think I have any recollections which are so pleasant as in my short period of office and the long association in the Mediterranean with the Air Force in many different ways. I would like to divide what I have to say into, first a number of detailed questions which I will 126 try to recapitulate—some of which have been touched on by hon. Gentlemen on both sides of the House in the course of the Debate—and afterwards into a series of one or two more general propositions such as seem to me suitable to the broad character of a Debate of this kind.
In the first place, I would like to press once more upon the House how nugatory has been the so-called concession with regard to the pay of officers. New scales of pay and allowances were brought in on 1st July, 1946, but, since the Treasury never gives with one hand what it does not take away with another, on 1st April, 1947—a suitable date—a number of allowances which have always not been taxed became subject to tax. What were these? They were marriage allowance, service grants, lodging allowance, London allowance, servant allowance, hard-lying money and Indian transition allowance. It is quite true that ration allowance and local overseas allowance and travelling allowance remain not subject to tax.
What is the ground upon which the White Paper defended making these allowances subject to tax? It said—and this is true, I think, of marriage allowance—that the emoluments of married men were fixed in such a way as to make them a suitable salary and, therefore, like everybody else's they should be subject to tax; it was part of the system of fixing their pay. That may be true, but if a ration allowance—which is really an allowance in lieu of free rations which are otherwise drawn—is not taxable, so also ought to be allowances which fall into that category—lodging allowance, allowance for living in London. Both are special allowances to recompense the officer for the extra cost of living in a particular place. To give with one hand and to tax away at 9s. in the £ with the other makes nugatory the purpose of the increase. I would say, with the exception possibly in that group of marriage allowance, all the others are really allowances in lieu of some right which the officer, had he been in different circumstances, could have drawn free; for instance, servant's allowance—if he lived in mess, he would get a servant; lodging allowance—if he lived in camp he would get quarters. It is absurd to give allowances in respect of that, and take away nearly all of them in the form of a tax. I hope, therefore, that the Under-Secretary will look into this matter further.
127 I want also to reinforce what was said in the admirable speech of the hon. and gallant Member for Macclesfield (Air-Commodore Harvey) with regard to pay. I think that the flight sergeant, whose pay now is 108s. 6d., really has—with all respect to the Army—a more responsible position than a staff sergeant in the Army. He has to put the machine into the air and, if the smallest mistake is made, disaster and great loss of human life follow. That is not so in the same rank either in the Army or the Navy. The corresponding rank in the Navy is that of engine room artificer, who gets 110s. but, should he do anything wrong, the ship does not necessarily sink, it sits in the harbour, it can float. But if this fellow who is in charge of servicing an aeroplane makes a mistake, there is a fatal result. Therefore, I hope the pay of that particular class can be reconsidered and added to in review of their great responsibilities.
I want to raise a point regarding the policy of reserves, the R.A.F.V.R. and the Auxiliary Air Force. What are to be the conditions for the training and maintenance of technical efficiency of officers and men in these reserves? In time of peace it is the building up of reserves in the Army, Navy and Air Force which is the major function of the Services. That is the great defence endeavour we are trying to build up during these years. Training, however, is no good unless it is related to some real operational function. What kind of machines will be used for training? Just flying in Tiger Moths, or in other little machines which take their place? Is that any good as training for either Bomber Command or Fighter Command? It does not seem so to me. Unless they are given modern machines, something like those which they will have to use in actual operation, that training is not much more than training for ordinary civil flying. Are the subjects to be taught in the reserve training schools to include modern operational flying requirements and all-instrument flying, the learning of radio operation, the learning of blind approach, and so forth? If not, we shall not have the trained reserves we require.
In the Auxiliary Air Force, as the House well knows, squadrons operate as self-contained operational units; they do their training at weekends, and a wonder- 128 ful record they have in the service which these squadrons did during the war. I would like the Under-Secretary to confirm that there will be adequate opportunities for these Auxiliary Air Force squadrons to carry out operational training in cooperation with regular squadrons, for night flying practice, for air firing, and for all the other operational duties which approach to the conditions of war; otherwise their training will be hampered and their usefulness much reduced.
The Air Training Corps has already been mentioned. This set of Estimates produces some very strange contrasts of figures, if one has time to examine them. While many go up enormously, some go down, and I think it is to be deprecated that the Vote for the A.T.C. is £23,000 less than last year. One would have thought that we need to build up this Corps and do everything possible to maintain it at the highest level for the future. I know, and everybody in the House knows, the excellent work that individuals have been doing in the slump that necessarily follows war, trying to get these groups and organisations going again in different parts of the country. I am rather disappointed to see, judging from the Vote, that less interest is being taken by the Air Ministry in this Corps and less effort is being made to support it.
Then as to the Air Ministry itself, I was only six weeks at the Air Ministry and therefore I have no method of judging headquarters except by looking at every other headquarters—G.H.Q. or S.H.A.E.F. It struck me, like those, as being twice as big as it ought to have been in the war. I think that is true of every headquarters of which I have had experience. Functions duplicate themselves, officers get themselves into a room, get other officers with them, build up their staffs, nobody quite knows why or how. If they can escape notice and get the right letters in front of their name, they can build up an intelligence service to study the customs of the ancient Arabs or Christianity or anything you like and, by Jove, you will probably find them there still.
I cannot understand why, when the Air Force has been nearly halved since the right hon. Gentleman's predecessor took office—it has fallen from 760,000 to 315,000—when one comes to the Air Ministry, the total Vote is only £113,000 129 less than last year—£3,400,000. That is to say, that while the approximate average human strength last year was 565,000 and 340,000 this year, and the manpower over the whole of the Service is down by 38 per cent., the Air Ministry's manpower is reduced by only 3 per cent.
These are broad figures, I know, and without detailed knowledge one cannot say that they should be cut here or there. But I hope the Under-Secretary will look at that point again. The tendency is to cut the outside things, and leave the centre. There are 11,383 people employed in the Air Ministry. That is a very large number. The permanent Under-Secretary employs 4,400, of whom 3,195 are described as "other clerical staff." What do they do? I believe that number could be reduced by a determined effort to reduce staff at headquarters.
The scientific research work is really the function of the Ministry of Supply, and not of the Air Ministry. Of course, a lot of such work is carried on by officers seconded to the Ministry of Supply, but it seems strange that there should be 100 scientific officers at the Air Ministry in addition to those of the Ministry of Supply. That is a heavy number, and I hope it will be looked into again. The Meteorological Office has been discussed a good deal today and I do not propose to go into that. Some have praised, and some have blamed it. I suppose the trouble is that this is a very small country and it is, therefore, very hard to tell what the weather will be on any day. But I do not know whether it is realised that it has cost £260,000 at headquarters and £865,000 at the different stations. Those are large figures and we want to be sure that they are justified. I am calling them to the attention of the Under-Secretary and hope that they will be looked into. Some 97,000 civilians are employed by the Air Force. That is equal to one-third of the whole Force. There are 121 surveyors, 145 surveyors' clerks, 530 clerks of works and 174 scientific staff, all in addition to the other staffs. There are 62,000 industrial employees all directly employed by the Air Force, not by the Ministry of Supply. I am not saying that they are not necessary, but it seems to me that when the total employment of civilians amounts to nearly 150,000, that is about half the total employed in the Service and the Ministry is not manufacturing its own weapons— 130 all are being manufactured by the Ministry of Supply or some appropriate body—it is a very big figure, and would repay careful attention. I am not making charges, but I am putting the sort of line to which I hope the Under-Secretary of State will give his rigorous attention.
I imagine "movements" takes two forms, transferring troops or Servicemen on duty from one part of the world to another, and the enormous movement of demobilisation. That was a great thing last year when there was enormous movement on account of demobilisation. Considering that the numbers for demobilisation are less than 14 per cent. this year of those demobilised last year, I am rather surprised that movement shows an increase of £1,500,000. I should have thought there would have been a possible reduction and I suggest that that might be looked at. On general supplies there is an increase over last year. There is an increase on provisions and food which might be due to a rise in cost. There is an increase for fuel and light—happy people if they ever get that. On general stores and for clothing an increase, on a force smaller than last year, and less than half the year before, of £3,250,000. It is especially large, as my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Macclesfield pointed out, in relation to clothing. I hope that these points will be considered from the general point of view of saving, not that I want in any way to skimp on this vital service, but I think that in these times it is the job of Ministers to make a most careful scrutiny and to be quite certain that they are really getting their money's worth.
There are two other points of minor detail which I would like to raise and to which I would like an answer tonight or at some other time. I am interested to see that the sum of money allocated for petrol and oil is exactly half that of last year. Does that mean that there was less supplied or less training, or what is the reason? Is less flying being done or is there some fall in the price, or is there some other reason? It is rather remarkable that it is exactly half the sum voted last year. On the reconstruction of airfields at home and abroad we are to spend £2,500,000 at home and £2,250,000 abroad. I have no doubt that that is necessary, but I should have thought that we had a fairly good whack 131 at building airfields in this country during the war. One could hardly move for them and I am surprised that we should have to spend so much this year on reconstruction. No details are given, and we cannot tell precisely where they are or what they are.
Finally, there is a more or less book-keeping item. I see that the charge to the Air Force is £2,250,000 for the Polish Resettlement Corps of the R.A.F. I think the House knows that no one cares more than I do about the Poles, and about their resettlement, but I understood that the Resettlement Corps was formed in order that Poles could be reabsorbed and trained in civilian life. I cannot see why the Air Force should carry the Vote on that account. It seems to me quite separate but it might be a more convenient method of accounting. Admirable as the work is, I would like to know why the Royal Air Force should be charged £2,750,000 on that account.
Having made those points of detail on which I have no doubt replies will be given spontaneously from Ministers or, if my recollection is clear, drawing inspiration from assistants and advisers, I will come to two other points. I was very much moved by the speech of the hon. Member for South Leicester (Mr. Bowden), who praised the fire services of the Air Force and wanted to be sure that they were kept at the highest possible standdard. My chief recollection of them is that when one looked out of an aircraft and one engine had gone wrong one saw men wheeling ambulances and fire vehicles forward and one wondered what would be the result of landing. However, I had the experience of making use of their services and they were very rapid and successful in at least not allowing the planes to explode until I got sufficiently far away. This service is very important and I hope it will be studied. I have the recollection that on those airfields in the Mediterranean Command which were maintained by the Americans they were able to produce a very much higher standard of equipment than anything we saw provided for our own planes. No doubt the hon. Member knows the remarkable work done in the development of equipment for fire fighting on American airfields.
With regard to Transport Command, the hon. Member for Buckingham (Mr. 132 Crawley) was quite right. It would be a bad thing indeed if the Air Force allowed itself to be turned into a convenient way of moving people who want to travel about the world and who cannot get any satisfaction out of nationalised staffs or services but have to rely on General Critchley, who has all the best planes and the best pilots. It would be a bad thing for the Air Force to be so used. It would be as if the Navy allowed its ships to be used to push stores and men around and become a kind of travel service. It has been quite natural, after the war, that with the difficulties there are, there has been a tendency to do that. But Transport Command has only one function; that is an operational one, nothing else. It is to move troops, to take airborne troops, to take part in airborne operations, to move stores—all for battle—not to become, as the hon. Member said, a "Carter Paterson," serving everyone in general. Its sole function is similar to that of Fighter Command and Bomber Command. They, are all operational Commands, and the use of Transport Command, its whole function and its size, should be brought down to that of an operational function, having regard to its strategical and tactical role. I hope that that will be done as quickly as possible, and that the other purposes I have mentioned will be handed over to the appropriate civil body.
One further point. I made some observations on a subject last year which I wish to revive again this year. The Minister of Defence is not in his place. I am not happy about the system of the supply of aircraft and weapons by the Minister of Supply. I have never been happy about it, and had I stayed at the Air Ministry I would have raised this matter. It is quite true that in the war, owing to the immense sudden strain which was put on this comparatively new Service, new compared with the long history of the other Services, the Ministry of Aircraft Production was brought into being. I am sure that it did invaluable work. Nevertheless, I happened to be at the Ministry of Supply where at that time we performed a somewhat similar function for the Army. It was our duty to provide the weapons, vehicles and everything which the Army required. Before I left the Ministry, I became convinced that except for the essential purpose of common needs, like clothes, mess tins, and 133 that kind of thing, there is a grave danger in separating, in the use of weapons, the user and the manufacturer too far. They really ought to be got as near as they can possibly be got.
Take the history of the tank, which really was that between the man who had to fight the tank, the fighting officer who came back from North Africa, and the man who built it, there was first of all the War Office. That great organisation had to be fought through. Then he had to go to the Ministry of Supply, then to the manufacturer. There were interposed all kinds of things—tank boards and all kinds of methods were used. The only method is to put the man who uses the weapon in as close a touch as possible with the manufacturer. That is my view, and I would ask the Minister of Defence, if he were here, what do the Navy do, the Service over which he presided for so long? They have never allowed anybody to take away from them the right to design and build their own ships. I am not saying that there is not a lot of common work that can be done. In the case of the Automatic Gun Board during the war, the Navy came into that. There are all sorts of technical purposes for which joint organisations like the Ordnance Board can be made effective. The Navy has also this advantage. In the Controller of the Navy it has always had, in the job of design and manufacture, an officer whose experience of command is very recent. He commands a Fleet for two years and comes back to be Controller for two years and then goes to sea again. He designs and fights the ships. When I was at the Ministry of Supply, Admiral Fraser was Controller of the Navy. He went off, after that, to control one of the greatest Fleets ever collected by the Navy.
It is well worth considering whether it is wise to interpose, in the design, development, ordering and production of aircraft, the Ministry of Supply between the Secretary of State and his manufacturers, especially under peace conditions. If I was Secretary of State I should be unhappy about it, especially under peace conditions, because in war the Ministry of Aircraft Production and the Minister of Supply at least collected all kinds of people who came in for war—business men, technicians etc., which added enormously to its strength over the normal peacetime routine system. I hope that that 134 will be studied again before a final decision is made, before it is too late.
§ Group-Captain Wilcock
I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman, with his experience, will appreciate that it will be necessary to have one authority to decide on what manufacturers should build for the Fleet Air Arm, for the R.A.F. and for civil aviation. There must be some control in that direction.
§ Mr. Macmillan
That is true. In relation to artillery the Ordnance Board has always existed and has co-ordinated design of ordnance and the use of explosives and propellants, originally between the Army and Navy, and now, as between the three Services. If we do not want fighting aircraft to become the servants of others who want other kinds of aircraft, if we desire to keep up the Service end in the supply of aircraft. I, if I were Secretary of State, would fight as hard as I could to get direct contact with my designers and suppliers. Otherwise, I should feel unhappy at taking responsibility for progress and design. That feeling is fairly strong inside the Service and amongst the most experienced members of the Service.
There are one or two general remarks which I venture to make to the House. In my view the reorganisation of a Service after the war is almost as difficult as, if not more difficult than, its expansion in war. In war, there are great enthusiasm and a great impulse and expansion in the numbers of aircraft. To take on a service after the war, when there is a sort of bathos, a sort of backwash, is difficult. I think the Government are treating the Services with contempt. The first Secretary of State who succeeded me was practically never in the Air Ministry for a year. He spent six months trying to negotiate a Treaty with Egypt. That is not the way to treat a Service. There was no real Secretary of State, although there was a very good Under-Secretary. There is no continuity here. We have had, in 20 months, two Ministers and two Under-Secretaries.
The very day on which the right hon. Gentleman the Minister took office he went to New York to U.N.O. I do not think that is the right way in which to study the immense problems there are in trying to keep this Service running. It is not the Minister's fault. He did what he was told. I think the way in which 135 this Service has been treated is very bad. The Minister has a very difficult job, and I think he needs all the continuity of service that he can get. I was very sorry that this double change was made, above all, in the Air Ministry which, to be frank, has not got the same power to organise on its own as my Lords of the Admiralty, who always manage to travel first class when they get together. The Air Ministry really did require a powerful Minister to support them.
A shrewd observation was made by one hon. Gentleman opposite when he said that after a war the great war figures, the admirals, the generals and the air marshals, are very powerful. They have great reputations and records, and Ministers need to be very strong and determined if they are to have their way—and that is the duty of a Minister. It needs sufficiently long service for a Minister really to become informed of the details of one of these great Services, and it needs a very strong character to insist that, at a period when a considerable amount of change is to be made and new ideas have to be introduced, we should not be dominated by—as one hon. Member said—the idea of trying to fight the last war when we ought to be thinking about strategic and tactical conditions for the next.
That is why I felt a little unhappy at the Minister's introduction. He delivered his speech in the usual most charming way in which he does everything in this House. He delights us all, but he did not really tell us the sort of basic facts about the Air Ministry which we want to know. What really is his conception of its functions? How many squadrons are there? What is the state of the Force? How far is he thinking in terms of front line defence, or how far in terms of great depth and building up all effort upon research and new plans. What is really his view of the effect of new weapons upon the whole character and thought of the Air Force? Is the bomber obsolete, will the bomb be driven by a pilotless machine, and what is the effect of the rocket?
I was hoping that we should get some picture—of course not the details; we cannot have them—in our minds of how the Minister saw the Air Force in the new world in view of the strategic commit- 136 ments of His Majesty's Government, and how he fitted that into the broad picture of our defence as a whole. I think it was the hon. and gallant Member for Chelmsford (Wing-Commander Millington) who rather delighted me by saying that one of the greatest of all the many achievements of the present Government was the setting up of a Ministry of Defence. That was a completely new idea. I would like to recall the fact that there was the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Woodford (Mr. Churchill), whose name will be familiar to the House, who was Minister of Defence for five years with some success. The only thing which the Ministry of Defence Act has done is to regularise and make permanent the broad system of the Chiefs of Staff Committee and the functions of the Minister of Defence which were developed during the war and perfected in the war. I think it might have been wiser—and perhaps another year we will see how these things work out—if we had had the Defence Debate before we considered the Service Estimates. There was talk of that at one time. I raise this broad question because I feel that the House and the country, if not this year then next year or the year after, as the pressure grows, will have to face the real problem. We know the pressure behind the real problem of defence. We are going to experience more pressure in matters of manpower. There may be an economy drive in which all of us will feel the same temptation to cut the defences of the country, such as we have succumbed to very often in our history.
We shall then want to be sure that the people who are in charge of our defences think not merely in the ordinary way of carrying on by force of habit the Service, the existing formations, and all the ancillary services, but that they are making efficiency the spearhead of their attack. We shall want to be sure that they are actually thinking of defence in terms of sharp teeth and are not letting the tail grow too fat. That is a battle which has to be fought not only in war but in peace. There is a tendency always to forget the ultimate purpose and to exaggerate the organisation. The other day, during the Debate on the Army Estimates, we were unable to be told how many divisions are in His Majesty's Army, and now we are not told how many squadrons are in His Majesty's Air Force. Nevertheless, we will confidently vote and grant to His 137 Majesty and to the Government the money which is wanted. Not in any spirit except that of trying to make sure that we get the best and most efficient force for the expenditure, I have ventured to put forward these general and detailed observations.
§ 9.8 p.m.
§ The Under-Secretary of State for Air (Mr. Geoffrey de Freitas)
I think we all agree that we have had an interesting Debate. I assure the House that my right hon. Friend and I have carefully noted the points that have been made. If there are any points with which I am unable to deal—I am afraid there will be some—they will nevertheless be carefully considered. This applies particularly to matters raised by the right hon. Member for Bromley (Mr. H. Macmillan), whose views are of particular importance on this matter.
The Debate was opened by the hon. and gallant Member for Macclesfield (Air-Commodore Harvey), who raised points about the non-Regular Forces. The question was taken up by other hon. Members, and it is right that I should deal with it immediately. The non-Regular Forces come into three categories: The Volunteer Reserve, the Auxiliary Air Force and the A.T.C.—a pre-entry force—plus the special list which I shall mention at the end. The specific question put to me relating to the Volunteer Reserve was: When does recruiting start?
We are getting under way with the Volunteer Reserve. We have deliberately not gone ahead earlier because we wanted to have the reserve centres ready. Like everything else, reserve centres take labour and material. University squadrons of the R.A.F.V.R. started recruiting in October last year. Most of them are entirely flying squadrons, but in three universities—Birmingham, Nottingham and Southampton—the programme, although basically flying, has a technical slant to enable us to obtain officers for the new technical branch. Undergraduates can join these squadrons in the volunteer reserve. Recruiting of ex-pilots for the Volunteer Reserve started on Saturday, two days ago, and the first four civil schools start refresher training next month. In May we expect that there will be about seven others ready to operate. An important point was made by the right hon. Member for Bromley (Mr. H. Macmillan) 138 about theoretical and synthetic pilot training. That will begin in the reserve centres, and we expect the first to get going in May. The recruiting of ex-R.A.F. navigators and other aircrew will begin in about May or June; again we are not going ahead of the opening of the Reserve centres. We shall also form within the Volunteer Reserve certain complete ancilliary units such as M/T. companies, air stores parks, ammunition parks and embarkation units. So we shall have the University squadrons, the aircrew in the volunteer reserve, and these other units which we shall form in time.
The Auxiliary Air Force, as we all know so well, is a part of our front line, and knowing the wonderful record of the auxiliary squadrons in the last war, once more the Air Council has placed upon them the heavy responsibility of being in our first line of defence. There are 20 flying squadrons. The question was asked, why should there not be 40, and my right hon. Friend said in an intervention that he would certainly consider that, but of course our first aim is quality not quantity. It was quite fairly asked by the right hon. Member for Bromley, would these squadrons have a chance of operational training with the regular Air Force? Eventually, yes. Within the Auxiliary Air Force we have the flying squadrons I have mentioned, but we also have ground squadrons and units as in the Volunteer Reserve. Recruiting for the first nine of these air defence units started on 1st February for ex-R.A.F. and ex-W.A.A.F., and we are forming 20 Auxiliary Air Force Regiment light antiaircraft squadrons which will be linked with the flying squadrons. I hope we shall be able to start the first four of these in about two months time. In this work we shall draw on the experience of the Territorial and Auxiliary Forces Associations who are doing great work for us and who, of course, have a great deal of experience in non-regular ground formations which we at the Air Ministry frankly have not. Ultimately there will be a place in Reserve Command for every ex-R.A.F. man.
Meanwhile, the supplementary list of ex-R.A.F. or W.A.A.F. officers is open to those who wish to maintain a connection with the Royal Air Force and who are prepared to volunteer in the event of an emergency. While their names are on that supplementary 139 list they will be free to undertake any other form of reserve service.
The hon. Member for the Isle of Wight (Sir P. Macdonald) said that the A.T.C. had suffered from the allocation of manpower when, in 1944, many of the cadets were drafted into the Army and the Navy. It is perfectly true that we suffered for it and we are still suffering, but recruiting is rising and in the last quarter of last year it was definitely going up. I look forward to a great deal of assistance from the link we shall have with the Territorial and Auxiliary Forces Associations. Conditions have improved. All proficient cadets are now guaranteed entry into the R.A.F. They have got a reduction in the length of their basic training, and there is a wider choice of trades. For all cadets there is better clothing and equipment, and we are specially emphasising gliding. We are getting more gliders from Germany, where there are 100 A.T.C. officers undergoing training as glider instructors.
On the point made by the hon. and gallant Member for Macclesfield, I noted what he said, and I can assure him that we are anxious to encourage the people in the Colonies to assist in their own defence. The hon. and gallant Member will recognise the enthusiasm of many ex-R.A.F. people who are out there now, and I can say that, during my trip, I discussed this matter with several colonial Governments, and I found that, on at least one occasion, the talks opened with a reference to the comments of the hon. and gallant Member on this point in the Estimates Debate last year.
When I come to the point raised by the hon. Member for Maldon (Mr. Driberg) on the colour bar, I can only say that so far have we eliminated it in the Royal Air Force that there are no statistics with which I can answer my hon. Friend's question.
§ Mr. Driberg
Could my hon. and gallant Friend say whether it is really true—I imagine it is not— that most of these men have been employed on flying duties, and only a minority in ground crews? I should think it would be the other way about.
§ Mr. de Freitas
I cannot answer that at all. So completely have we eliminated this colour bar in the R.A.F. that an 140 airman is just a man. In reply to the hon. Members who asked about the conditions at certain stations abroad, it seemed to me that, underlying their comments, was the impression, which is held in some parts of the country that overseas service is unpopular. I believe that there are many people from these islands who deliberately go into a Service like the Royal Air Force in order to see the world, to travel and to have adventure, and I would say that they do have travel and adventure and that they have opportunities of seeing parts of the world which they would not normally see. Although I am not pretending that overseas service is one long holiday, I assure hon. Members that many people enjoy it very much, in spite of the heat, the flies, the delays in the mail from home or even of the necessity of turning out in a guard of honour under a hot sun for an Under-Secretary of State. There are many men who will willingly put up with this, and, provided we achieve a great development in the provision of married quarters and in educational services overseas, I think there will be a great spur to recruiting. I have seen the bricks and mortar and the books, and we are going ahead.
Now I come to the question about manpower and the size of the Air Ministry staff, which has been commented upon by many hon. Members. I take up the specific points. First, about the horticultural advisers. They are there to help to guide the R.A.F. in the growing of food on their stations, and I remember that, during the war, a flight-lieutenant was chosen to do this job when his sole qualification was that, in the mess, he could imitate Mr. Middleton. We have advanced very far from that to a really constructive achievement. Secondly, the major-general is an R.A.F. Regiment major-general. Thirdly, the photographers are chiefly doing lithographic work, which is a service used by all Government Departments, and they are working now particularly for the Ministry of Town and Country Planning on surveys of towns and local authority areas. In other words, it is not strictly photographic in the sense of taking photographs; it is photographic reproduction. I agree that we should have made it clear on the Estimates. The general point about the size of the Air Ministry—
§ Air-Commodore Harvey
May I interrupt the hon. Gentleman to ask, before he leaves the question of horticulture, 141 whether he is satisfied that the Royal Air Force stations are producing the amount of food which should be produced, taking into consideration the amount of land which they have at their disposal?
§ Mr. de Freitas
I take it that the hon. and gallant Gentleman is referring to food produced for consumption on the stations. I am convinced that they are doing a great deal, but I shall not be satisfied until every tomato and every potato possible is produced by the Royal Air Force. We had a very successful exhibition last year, and it is surprising what we have done up till now.
On the size of the Air Ministry generally, demobilisaton, administration of the Royal Air Force at this stage, plus planning the Royal Air Force of the future, are, I think I can claim, tasks as difficult as any with which a large institution can be faced. There we have three things together. There are also two facts which I think will illustrate certain points. First, from the point of view of the very structure of the Air Ministry and Air Force, I think we should realise that there are certain pay matters, for instance, which are dealt with by civilians at the Air Ministry, and which, in the Army, are dealt with at Commands by Service people. Secondly, and this is very important and goes to the root of so much of the Air Force organisation and to the root of so much of the manning conditions, is the great complexity of modern aircraft and the multiplicity of components, all of which may be subject to failure. For example, the inspection of a Lancaster bomber means 600 separate investigations or checks. Twenty years ago, that figure for an aircraft was only about 20. I ask hon. Members to consider what that means, not only in connection with the direct maintenance of the aircraft and its components — maintenance at outstations and at maintenance units carried out by civilians, and, overseas, by native civilians, whose numbers are reflected in the Estimates to which the right hon. Gentleman referred—but on one little sphere in the Air Ministry. I ask hon. Members to think what this means in relation to the number of people required to calculate the requirements of spares for air frames, engines, instruments, or other accessories. This job must be done accurately because, otherwise, one either gets too many spares produced, or too 142 many of a particular component produced, with a resultant enormous waste, or one gets the great waste of aircraft being grounded for lack of spares.
§ Mr. Hollis
It would be a great advantage to this House and to the country if the hon. Gentleman could explain more clearly whether that is the responsibility of the Ministry of Supply or of the Air Ministry.
§ Mr. de Freitas
The Air Ministry decides what is required, and passes its demands to the Ministry of Supply.
§ Mr. H. Macmillan
Has the Ministry of Supply no right to criticise or to discuss. the character of the demands, such as whether the spares are too many or reasonable? Because they both have to come into it, it is a duplicated system, the Ministry of Supply being responsible, and having the duty to criticise the demands of the Air Ministry.
§ Mr. de Freitas
Certainly, the Ministry of Supply is able to criticise, but it does not go to the root of the matter and issue the demand. I should also like to comment on the point made so lightheartedly by the hon. Member for Devizes (Mr. Hollis) when he said that a great boost was given to production when bombs fell on the German statistics office. I dare-say it was an enormous boost to production, but were the right things produced? Therefore, I think that of this paper work is sometimes necessary.
The Manpower Economy Committee which was mentioned by my right hon. Friend will be turned on to the Air Ministry when it is finished with the R.A.F., but meanwhile we have this chief scientific adviser who has been mentioned by more than one hon. Member, with 24 other scientists, who are working on particular problems on manpower and equipment; such as, for instance, the extension to the whole of the R.A.F. of the planned servicing system. It is calculated on the strength of the R.A.F. as it is today, that if planned servicing gets into the whole of the R.A.F. there will be a saving of about 18,000 ground airmen. These 25 scientists will not be allowed to be "dug in" at the Air Ministry and become so much in love with the institution that their critical faculties will become blunted. We shall deal with that in two ways. They will be divided into, as it were, visiting scientists who will stay with 143 us for two or three years and go back to their ordinary scientific and technical job, and the permanent scientists who will be put on a transfer list after some years; and we hope that although they will remain with our staff we shall be able to exchange them with outside institutions—for instance, railways, trade research associations and, if other Government departments have similar organisations, with them. In that way I feel that we are going as far as we possibly can in self-criticism on this manpower matter. We are doing a great deal. We have this Manpower Economy Committee and with- in that, on the lower level, we have these men on the staff of our Scientific Adviser. They are producing great results.
The right hon. Member for Bromley and my hon. Friend the Member for Buckingham (Mr. Crawley) both raised the point about transport effort and the whole general conception of transport aircraft. My right hon. Friend and I regard it as of the greatest importance that transport squadrons should be restricted to military purposes, and that all ranks should be able to feel at all times that they are performing a military function in support of either our air, land or sea Forces. Unfortunately, while civil aviation is still catching up we have had to carry out certain civil tasks, but we are pulling out as soon as possible. I can give two facts which, I think, will help us to judge how that is taking place. First, ten months ago, when I went to the Air Ministry, I found I was chairman of an inter-departmental committee dealing with military and civil transport aviation. So quickly did the civil side expand and the military side contract, that by the autumn I was able to hand over the committee with a clear conscience to my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Civil Aviation. Secondly, a year ago 20 per cent. of the Royal Air Force squadrons were transport squadrons. Today 24 per cent. are transport squadrons, although in peacetime, as the size of the R.A.F. contracts, a higher degree of mobility is necessary. So I submit that on the face of it there is no evidence of effort wasted in transport.
§ Mr. de Freitas
Twenty per cent. a year ago, and 24 per cent. today. The hon. 144 Member for Tonbridge (Mr. G. Williams), the right hon. Member for Bromley and my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Chelmsford (Wing - Commander Millington) referred to the air striking forces and the obsolescence of the aeroplane. I should like to quote a few sentences from the R.A.F. War Manual which deals with the air striking force. It says:The bomb is the primary weapon of air power. Bombardment is the chief role of the Air Force. An air striking force is the means by which a nation wields its air power. In war the Air Force will be called upon to provide an air striking force for attacking objectives in enemy territory or on the high seasNow, I can say just two things. First, that we are still a very long way from being able to say that the aeroplane is obsolescent; secondly, as hon. Members will have noticed, there is no exclusive reference to aeroplanes in this definition as the means of carrying the bomb.
The hon. and gallant Member for Macclesfield and the right hon. Member for Bromley both mentioned clothing, and seemed to think we were being wasteful in our use of clothing. Last year we were using up our stocks a great deal. In our clothing requests in the Vote we are not asking for more than our fair share of the nation's resources. The President of the Board of Trade—who naturally has a great deal to say in this—is judicially minded on such matters, and we share fairly with the rest of the community, because clothing, like everything else, is rationed. The figure in the Estimate—I assure the House of this—is based on existing scales of entitlement, and takes all our stocks into account. Furthermore, as is indicated in the Estimates, on 1st April, in order to ensure that the greatest care will be taken of clothing, we are introducing a clothing allowance system covering the cost of replacement kit.
I have been asked about the increase in the sum paid for movements. That is due to the reintroduction of inter-departmental accounting. A great deal of what we had before was covered by the Army and Ministry of Transport. The hon. and gallant Member for Macclesfield commented on the fact that only £70,000 is required for the educational branch. That, of course, is the civilian part of the Service, which we are winding up. On 1st October the new Service R.A.F. Education 145 Branch came into being. The hon. Member for the Isle of Wight and the right hon. Member for Bromley were worried about the link between the Ministry of Supply and the Air Ministry. I think it should be noted that the controller of air supplies at the Ministry of Supply is not only a member of the Air Council, but not so very long ago was an air officer commanding in the field, which is the equivalent to an admiral on his battleship.
We are getting more transport and maritime aircraft. There are the Valetta, which is the military version of the Viking, and the Hastings, which is a heavier trans-transport. There is also Shackleton which is for long range maritime operations. I understand it has no connection with the hon. and gallant Member for Preston (Wing-Commander Shackleton), but has, I think, with his father.
As to the point made by the hon. Member for South Leicester (Mr. Bowden) about the fire service, I can assure him that we shall do everything to raise the standard, and that I have noted all his points with interest. The hon. Member for Cambridge (Mr. Symonds) made a point about certain airmen at Bassingbourn. I shall look into it. I cannot believe they are discriminated against, certainly not by the R.A.F., or even by civilians; but we shall look into it. The hon. and gallant Member for Bexley (Major Bramall) mentioned education officers. I think the point was covered pretty extensively in an Adjournment Debate quite recently. I am sorry about it, but they were civilians during the war. As to his second point, about redundant aircrew, if he looks into this again he will see, I think, that his points are covered by the steps that we have taken, first in bringing forward to 30th September from 30th June the significant date, and, secondly, by speeding up the release of these airmen. The right hon. Member for Bromley mentioned the point about petrol and oil, and less expenditure on it. Not only is there less flying, but we have reduced our stocks. There will be less flying now as the Air Force is reduced. I will look into the points he raised on the question of allowances, and the point about flight-sergeants' pay. As to the point raised about Vote 8, subhead F of that Vote covers the purchase of airfields, which are in many ownerships, in order that we may farm the land. That is why there is increased expenditure 146 there. The hon. and gallant Member for Macclesfield and several other Members talked about Dominion contributions. I think it is only right that I should draw the attention of the House to page 27 of the Estimates, where, in the Explanatory Note to Subhead Z 3, they will see the phrase:(a) a contribution by the Government of Southern Rhodesia towards the cost of training Royal Air Force aircrew in the Colony.I am glad to have this chance to put on record the gratitude of His Majesty's Government to the Government of Southern Rhodesia for the help that they are giving us in training our Air Force overseas. Southern Rhodesia are finding men, materials and money. Their money contribution will be about £250,000 this year. Last summer, when the Minister of Defence of Southern Rhodesia came to this country, we signed the agreement setting up the air training scheme. At that time I told him how right it seemed to me that the youngest fighting Service should he linked with the youngest British self-governing nation in the training of young men.
Far from Southern Rhodesia, in Japan, there is another example of British Commonwealth co-operation. Only last month, I was there visiting R.A.F. squadrons in Japan—I say "squadrons" deliberately, and not "stations," because in Japan there are R.A.F., Royal Australian Air Force, Royal New Zealand Air Force, and Royal Indian Air Force squadrons; but the stations are British Comonwealth Air Command stations. That is not just juggling with words. That means something. It means that in Japan we have an integrated air force from four nations such as has never been seen in neacetime before. The lessons we learn from this experiment will be useful not only to the British Commonwealth but to the United Nations. British Commonwealth Occupation Forces in Japan are under the command of an Australian general, and comprise land, sea and air forces of the Commonwealth; but of the three components, the Air Command is the most closely integrated. In the R.A.F. we have had long experience of working with Dominion and foreign units. I think we can claim some credit for the success of the British Commonwealth Air Command. General MacArthur himself told me how impressed 147 he was not only with the efficiency of the British Commonwealth Air Command but with the degree of integration achieved. That is high praise coming from a man with such great experience of the problems of integrating forces.
It so happens that the Air Officer Commanding is an Englishman in Royal Air Force uniform. His Senior Air Staff Officer is an Australian in the darker blue of the Royal Australian Air Force. Half the men in the mess hall at Iwakuni where I landed were Royal Air Force men and half were Royal New Zealand Air Force men. I emphasise the important political lesson to be learned from this peacetime integration. I emphasise it because I believe, as I said a moment ago, that the British Commonwealth and the United Nations Organisation has a great deal to learn from this Japanese experiment. They can learn how to administer an international force in peacetime. Each squadron and unit in the British Commonwealth Air Command is commanded and manned by men of one nationality and thereby each squadron and unit retains its full national identity and character, but the staffs are integrated and the stations and the Command are international.
It was in August, 1945, that we ratified the United Nations Charter here, and it is now even clearer than it was then how much our survival depends on the success of the United Nations. I am encouraged that a small part of these Air Estimates will be used for an experiment which will be of great value to the United Nations Military Staffs Committee—an experiment in the peacetime international command of a fighting Force.
§ Question, "That Mr. Speaker do now leave the Chair," put, and agreed to.
§ Supply accordingly considered in Committee.
§ [Major MILNER in the Chair]