HC Deb 08 November 1950 vol 480 cc928-9
35. Mr. Donner

asked the Secretary of State for Air whether, in order to be able to place the coastal radar chain on a 24-hour basis at short notice, he will make a public appeal to all the men and women with wartime radar experience to attend refresher training courses.

Mr. A. Henderson

Publicity has already been given to the need for those with wartime radar and other experience to join the Royal Auxiliary Air Force and the Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve, where there are increasing facilities for refresher training. I take the opportunity again of expressing the hope that as many as possible of those men and women will join the fighter control units of the Royal Auxiliary Air Force. Fighter control units are being placed under the control of Fighter Command as from tomorrow.

I should, however, like to state again that, in the event of an emergency, we shall be able to man the radar chain on a 24-hour basis at short notice. The necessary arrangements for doing so, by recalling released men and women, are already in existence. In addition, I propose to make a special appeal, individually, to these men and women to join their nearest fighter control unit, or the Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve, in order to receive refresher training in peace-time.

Mr. Donner

In view of the very dangerous shortage of wireless electrical mechanics in the first year of the war, can the right hon. Gentleman give an assurance that he is getting these men in substantial numbers now, or, alternatively, training them, because it is really impossible to work the coastal radar chain efficiently without them?

Mr. Henderson

I quite agree with what the hon. Member has said as to the difficulties, but I would point out again that we have our plans prepared, covering all the various trades required, in the event of having to man our radar stations on a 24-hour basis.

Mr. J. Langford-Holt

What does the right hon. Gentleman mean by "short notice," when he says that this manning on a 24-hour basis can be carried out?

Mr. Henderson

I suggest it is about 48 hours.

Mr. C. I. Orr-Ewing

Why has the right hon. Gentleman made the statement that the radar reporting units are expanding at a fast rate, when only one has been formed, and that is in London, and it has only 30 per cent. of its establishment? Why are there no other units in other parts of the country to man our radar reporting chain?

Mr. Henderson

I did not say that the fighter control units themselves are expanding at a fast rate. I said that the training facilities are being increased, which is a very different thing.

Mr. Donner

When the right hon. Gentleman has made appeals for personnel, the urgent need for wireless electrical mechanics has not so far been mentioned. Will he see that this is done?

Mr. Henderson

I will see that my appeals go to men in that trade.