HC Deb 20 June 1951 vol 489 cc510-2
42. Mr. Paget

asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Admiralty what opportunities are open to National Service men and others to obtain short service commissions in the Navy as pilots and observers.

Mr. Callaghan

National Service men can at present apply to train in their National Service time for flying appointments in the Navy as pilots or observers. The Admiralty are now introducing a new scheme, which will become operative immediately, whereby these National Service men win be able to volunteer during their training to transfer to a short service engagement which would extend their full-time service to four years. On transfer they will receive Regular rates of pay. All time after transfer, subject to their having been awarded their "wings," will count for gratuity at the rate of £175 per annum. We hope that there will be a good response to this new scheme from all young men to whom the unique opportunity of service at sea and in the air appeals.

At the end of their four-year engagement, these officers may volunteer for another four years, all of which will count for gratuity at the same rate. During this period they may be considered for permanent commissions in the Navy.

I should emphasise, of course, that this scheme is in addition to the existing arrangements whereby men between the ages of 17 years 4 months and 24 years may apply for a short service commission of eight years at Regular rates of pay with a gratuity on completion of £1,500. There will be similar opportunities for permanent commissions for these officers. These engagements carry varying periods of reserve liability, up to seven years.

The shortage of aircrew is a most serious problem. In addition to permanent officers who specialise in flying, we shall now have two short service schemes—the new four-year scheme for National Service men, with the option to extend it to eight years: and the existing eight year scheme for all young men between the ages of 17 years 4 months and 24.

Mr. Paget

While thanking my right hon. Friend for his statement, may I ask whether it is possible to give to people who are to be called up and who wish to enter for pilot and observer duties, priority in the call-up so that they can get into the Navy?

Mr. Callaghan

Yes, Sir. Any National Service man who wants to enter the Navy and expresses a desire to fly is, subject to other conditions, automatically accepted. The pinch comes on those National Service men who do not wish to fly but who want to serve their National Service time in the Navy.

Surgeon Lieut.-Commander Bennett

Will the new scheme permit the beginning of flying training at an extremely early stage of a man's call-up, or will he have to do a certain amount of divisional and other work before he can get into the air?

Mr. Callaghan

After 10 weeks' initial training he can carry on with his flying training.

Commander Noble

While recognising the very great need for these pilots and airmen, may I ask whether the Parliamentary Secretary's answer means that there is any extension of commissions for National Service men on a general basis other than in the air branch?

Mr. Callaghan

No. My answer deals solely with the air branch.

Commander Maitland

Will the Parliamentary Secretary ensure that his statement is fully appreciated by cadet corps and other sources of naval recruitment?

Mr. Callaghan indicated assent.

Commander Galbraith

Will the hon. Gentleman say whether an opportunity is now to be available to naval National Service men similar to the opportunities available to National Service men in the Royal Air Force, and are the rewards equally advantageous?

Mr. Callaghan

I understand that the scheme is very closely allied to that which has just been started in the Royal Air Force.