HC Deb 10 November 1954 vol 532 cc1171-3
4. Mr. Chapman

asked the Under-Secretary of State for Air how far it has been the practice in recent months for men registering for National Service in Birmingham to be told that they can serve in the Royal Air Force only if they sign on for three years, and then only in a clerical job; how many National Service men in Birmingham have agreed to do so in order to train in the Royal Air Force; and whether he will give an assurance that this is not being used as a means to recruit men for the Regular Forces.

Mr. Ward

The practice in Birmingham is the same as in any other part of Great Britain. There is a limited number of vacancies for National Service men in the Royal Air Force and keen competition for them. No man is obliged to take a Regular engagement, but suitable men for whom National Service vacancies cannot be found are offered Regular engagements, not necessarily in clerical trades, and they often prefer to accept such engagements as an alternative to doing National Service in one of the other Services. In Birmingham in the last three months, 125 men were rejected for National Service vacancies, but were accepted for three-year Regular engagements.

Mr. Chapman

Can the Minister say what, in fact, is the proportion of National Service men who get into the Royal Air Force? Would it not be a good idea, in order that the public should not think that registration is being used as a racket to get Regulars, that at the point of registration men should not be pressed in this way to take long service engagements? Does not this make it seem to the general public like a racket to get Regular airmen?

Mr. Ward

In answer to the first part of the hon. Gentleman's supplementary question, there are at present in the Royal Air Force about 160,000 Regulars and about 65,000 National Service men. That will give him some idea of the proportion. As regards the second part of his supplementary question, we have made it quite clear to all concerned that pressure is not to be put on these young men to take on Regular engagements. However, it is fair to point out to them that if they care to come in on a three-, four- or five-year engagement, they will enjoy certain definite advantages. A wider choice of trades will then be open to them, and they will be able to serve in the Royal Air Force instead of in the Army.

Mr. J. Harrison

Can the Minister say why there is this strong preference for the Royal Air Force compared with the preference for the other two Services?

Mr. C. I. Orr-Ewing

It is the best Service.

Mr. Ward

I can only imagine that it is for the same reason that I myself joined the Royal Air Force.

8. Lieut.-Colonel Lipton

asked the Under-Secretary of State for Air what reduction in, or exemption from, service is granted to National Service men in respect of previous service with a Commonwealth air force.

Mr. Ward

Service in a Commonwealth air force does not exempt a man from being called up under the National Service Acts. The length of time he serves is, however, normally reduced by the length of time he has been in the Commonwealth air force.

Lieut.-Colonel Lipton

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that his answer will give some satisfaction to a constituent of mine who served in the Royal Australian Air Force and who is now back in Brixton?