§ 44. Mr. F. Noel-Baker
asked the Secretary of State for Air whether he has now considered public comments on the conclusions to be drawn from "Operation Quickstep" regarding the inadequacy of present arrangements for transporting troops by air; and if he will make a statement.
Mr. C. I. Orr-Ewing
"Operation Quickstep" was a joint R.A.F.-Army air mobility exercise, primarily intended to test the organisation required for moving part of the Strategic Reserve at short notice. Only four Hastings, four Beverleys and one Comet were used. The exercise was in no way designed to call on the full resources of Transport Command and of the air transport forces in overseas theatres which would rapidly be made available in emergency. As I emphasised on Monday, the total airlift available from military aircraft has almost doubled since 1951, and a further large increase is planned. In addition there is considerable civil capacity which could be used for troop movement if required.
§ Mr. Noel-Baker
In view of the misunderstandings which seem to have been created by this operation, will the Under-Secretary see that publicity is given as to its real purpose?
I am most grateful that the hon. Member should have put down a Question which directs publicity to the fact that this was a limited operation with a very limited force and using mixed aircraft. We chose to do it at short notice and in one of the most difficult months of the year. That is a true test of operational capability.