HC Deb 20 May 1953 vol 515 cc2059-60
32. Mr. de Freitas

asked the Undersecretary of State for Air what branch of the Royal Air Force will operate the guided missiles the responsibility for which was recently transferred from the Army to the Royal Air Force.

The Under-Secretary of State for Air (Mr. George Ward)

In this, as in other matters connected with operations, the main responsibility will rest with the General Duties Branch. Further study, and actual experience of handling these weapons, will be necessary before it is possible to define with precision the role which each branch will play when these weapons come into service. In view of the complex technical problems involved, however, the part played by the Technical Branch must be of great importance.

Mr. de Freitas

Would the Minister remind the Medical Branch that the very high physical qualities that are necessary for fighting or for flying an aircraft are not necessary in push-button warfare, whether the officer is in the Air Force or in the artillery?

Mr. Ward

We will certainly bear that point in mind.

Mr. Shinwell

Does this transfer mean that the Army is to have nothing to do with the use of guided missiles as and when necessary? Does it mean that the Royal Air Force is to have the exclusive right to handle such weapons? Has not the hon. Gentleman heard of co-ordination in the Services?

Mr. Ward

Certainly. The right hon. Gentleman will, however, remember that my noble friend the Minister of Defence said in another place that surface-to-air guided missiles are complementary to fighter aircraft and operate in the same air space, and must, therefore, be under the same ground control.

Mr. Shinwell

Is the Minister aware that guided missiles are also complementary to anti-aircraft devices of the conventional pattern?

Mr. Ward

Of course, but these new weapons will be integrated into the air defence system as a whole.

Mr. Snow

In the meantime, is the Minister aware that the many thousands of technicians—men and women—in the Army who are at present engaged in anti-aircraft are in a state of great despondency over this transfer of responsibility, with which, technically, we may not disagree? Are the Army doing anything to suggest that they should, or to encourage them to, take over equivalent appointments on a territorial basis under Air Force auspices?

Mr. Ward

I am not sure what approach has been made to them, but I will look into the point.