HC Deb 16 March 1955 vol 538 cc1271-3
9. Major Wall

asked the First Lord of the Admiralty the number of helicopters available at home and in the Mediterranean, respectively, for training Royal Marine Commandos.

Mr. Digby

It is not practicable to allocate any of the limited number of helicopters available for the specific purpose of training Royal Marine Commandos either at home or in the Mediterranean. We are well aware, however, of the potential value of helicopters in amphibious warfare, and Royal Marine officers and noncommissioned officers are given opportunities to familiarise themselves with their characteristics, limitations and military opportunity for overtime in these dockyards? Will he take that into consideration when considering the wages of the dockyard worker and also remember that the unskilled dockyard worker—however paid—is as skilled as the agricultural worker?

Mr. Digby

Certainly I will take that into account, but we have to bear in mindalso that establishment benefits are quite valuable, and there are other differences between dockyard workers and those outside.

Following is the reply:

Admiralty wages are based on the fair wages principle, and rates in the dockyards conform with this principle. Negotiations for revised rates are now in progress with the trade unions. The following table shows a comparison between the basic minimum rates in force in the dockyards before 12th March, 1955, and basic rates in comparable industries at that date:

potentialities. We shall continue and develop this process as more of these aircraft are delivered.

Major Wall

Whilst thanking my hon. Friend for that reply, may I ask if he will undertake to give grave consideration to acquiring at least one or two troop-carrying helicopters? Will he agree that it is essential to train modern raiding forces with modern technique and modern equipment?

Mr. Digby

I will look into that matter, but I cannot hold out very high hopes at the moment.

Mr. Dodds

Is the Civil Lord aware that those who are concerned about the use of helicopters are grateful to the Admiralty for its very progressive outlook on this matter? May I ask him to try to get the same sort of spirit into the Army and the Air Force?

Mr. Digby

I thank the hon. Member.