HC Deb 22 November 1948 vol 458 cc925-8

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Clause stand part of the Bill."

Mr. Shackleton (Preston)

It must be obvious that the superior wisdom of the Air Force as regards distribution has avoided a great deal of serious trouble. I should like the Under-Secretary of State for Air, whom I am glad to see here, to consider certain further aspects regarding the distribution of funds that are available to the Air Ministry. The Royal Air Force Association are naturally extremely appreciative of the large grants which they are receiving. I am sure, too, that the British Legion and other bodies are pleased with their token grants.

I would especially like to urge the case of the S.S.A.F.A., a body which I have the honour to serve as a member of the council. It is rendering service to all three Services, the Army, the Navy and the Air Force. It does so upon a very small grant provided by the Government, and only about one-tenth of its outgoings are covered by that grant. It disburses money not only in the way of services but in actual cash. It is not always able to draw on the R.A.F. Benevolent Fund or from other Service Funds. I am sure that the work that it does must be known to Members in all sections of the House. In my own constituency of Preston S.S.A.F.A. does a first-class job. I hope, therefore, that the Under-Secretary of State for Air will consider giving S.S.A.F.A. a fairly good-sized grant, say, something in the neighbourhood of £50,000 or £60,000, which would go some way to make up for the serious deficit it is facing at present.

Mr. George Ward (Worcester)

On the Second Reading of the Bill, I put forward the suggestion that the Royal Air Force ought to make some effort to trace people entitled to prize money. Since then I have had conversations with people outside, and I have listened to members of the Royal Navy in the House trying to decide how they are going to do it. They are getting into such difficulties that I must admit, and agree with the hon. Member for Preston (Mr. Shackleton), that perhaps our way of doing it is, in the circumstances, the best, after all.

On the other hand, I adhere to the point I made on Second Reading that the terms of this Clause are too vague. I ask the Under-Secretary of State for Air to consider this matter and see whether before the Third Reading, he can devise some phrases to make clear how this money will be used. All the Clause says is that this money will be used for the benefit of charitable organisations at the discretion of the Air Council. That is not enough. In his reply in the Second Reading Debate, the Under-Secretary told us that roughly £600,000 of this money would be used for the Air Force of today and a similar amount for those who were in the Service during the war, by means of the Royal Air Force Benevolent Fund, the Royal Air Force Association, the British Legion, St. Dunstan's, S.S.A.F.A., etc. They are highly commendable charities, but they should be specified in the Bill.

The £600,000 for the Air Force of today will not, I understand, be given to the central fund as a lump sum, but the amount will be invested by the central fund and the interest will be given in the form of annuities to certain approved charities. I should like to know whether that is so, or whether the money will be given in lump sums to be used as those charities like. It is an important point and should be made clear in the Clause. The only other point I made in my Second Reading speech was that I thought the Royal Air Force was not getting enough. I still think that, but I realise that nothing can be done about it because the Air Council have agreed to it.

The Under-Secretary of State for Air (Mr. Geoffrey de Freitas)

I know how well S.S.A.F.A., mentioned by the hon. Member for Preston (Mr. Shackleton), serves the interests of past and present members of the Royal Air Force and their dependants. As I said on Second Reading, they will receive a grant. I can only add that I fear it will not be as great as the £50,000 or £60,000 which the hon. Member suggested, but it will be substantial.

I come to the points put by the hon. Member for Worcester (Mr. G. Ward). I have always known him to have the interests of the Royal Air Force at heart and was much encouraged to hear him say that he was a convert to the principle of paying not to individuals but to organisations for the benefit of past and present members of the Service. He wanted me to make clear how the money would be used. I cannot undertake to make it clear in the Bill, but I will undertake to consider with my right hon. Friend how best we can make clear, either in the House or outside exactly what we intend to do with the powers which will be granted to us if this Bill is passed.

Clause ordered to stand part of the Bill.