§ 1. Mr. E. Johnson
asked the Secretary of State for Air to what extent under his regulations an officer in the Education Branch of the Royal Air Force, whose application to be considered as a volunteer for premature retirement under the terms of the White Paper, Command Paper No. 231 has not been approved, can apply again for early retirement without prejudice to his pension rights and without forfeiting the benefits provided under Command Paper No. 231.
§ The Secretary of State for Air (Mr. George Ward)
An officer whose application to retire prematurely is not approved 342 in any one phase of the redundancy scheme is free to apply in a later phase if he is within the age and seniority groups to which it relates.
§ Mr. Johnson
Is my right hon. Friend aware that a good deal of anxiety is felt by those officers who applied for premature retirement and whose application was refused in view of the terms of Air Ministry Order No. 555, paragraph 10, which reads:When an application has been rejected and an officer persists in a further application for premature retirement the Air Ministry may decide to approve the application without grant of benefits provided in Command Paper No. 231.Could my right hon. Friend please clarify that point?
§ 2. Mr. E. Johnson
asked the Secretary of State for Air what is the proposed future establishment of officers, by ranks, in the Education Branch of the Royal Air Force and if he will make a statement about the future of that branch.
§ Mr. Ward
As the Royal Air Force contracts, the reduction in establishment of the Education Branch will, as far as we can foresee, fall mostly, though not entirely, on the junior posts now mainly occupied by short service and National Service officers. I realise that my hon. Friend has been anxiously awaiting the results of the examination into the future structure of the branch, and I am sorry that I am not yet able to be precise about it. However, I have this morning satisfied myself that the delay has been unavoidable and that the report is now in the final stage. I will let my hon. Friend know as soon as I am able to make a full statement. This cannot, however, be in the immediate future, as there will have to be discussions about the report with Departments other than my own.
§ Mr. Johnson
Is it not a fact that at a recent conference at Cranfield it was suggested that this establishment should consist of 950 officers, including, among others, 450 squadron leaders and 450 officers below that rank? Can my right 343 hon. Friend say what steps he is taking to ensure that there will be an adequate supply of junior officers in the future.
§ 10. Mr. E. Johnson
asked the Secretary of State for Air if, in order to end the block in promotion affecting squadron leaders in the Education Branch of the Royal Air Force, he will offer suitable inducements to those officers who are now entitled to serve until they are 60 years of age, to retire before that age.
§ Mr. Johnson
Is my right hon. Friend aware that, despite what he has said and despite the somewhat unjustified comments he made on my previous Question, everyone in the Education Branch knows perfectly well that there is a serious block in promotion, and, furthermore, there is a very real grievance and sense of injustice because a number of extremely highly qualified people were induced to join this branch on the promise of a promising career, and are now finding that they have no prospect of promotion whatever beyond the rank of squadron leader?
§ Mr. Ward
I immediately apologise to my hon. Friend if I showed impatience or discourtesy, but the point I was trying to make was simply this, that he has been saying and is now saying that there are no promotion prospects and have been no promotion prospects in the Education Branch. This is not so. Promotion prospects—this has been said more than once—have up to now been comparable with those in any other branch of the Royal Air Force. We are aware that this may not be so in the future, and it is for this reason that our Committee is looking into the methods we can adopt to prevent a blockage.
§ Mr. G. Thomas
In view of the fact that people in the Education Branch holding commissioned rank are very 344 highly qualified, and in view of the fact that there is widespread dissatisfaction with the present rate of promotion, can the Minister give the House an assurance that he will expedite the new policy so that men may know exactly where they stand in this matter?