§ 34 Mr. Wigg
asked the Secretary of State for Air (1) the reasons which made it necessary to ask the United States Air Force to provide aircraft to lift equipment from Britain and Germany to Jordan in July, 1958, in connection with the move of units of the 16th Parachute Brigade to that country; and whether he will make a statement.
§ (2) the date on which the United States Air Force was requested to provide aircraft to carry equipment from Britain and Germany to Jordan in connection with the move of units of the 16th Parachute Brigade to that country in July, 1958, the number and type of aircraft provided by the United States Air Force for the purpose, the weight of equipment lifted from Britain and Germany to Jordan, and the corresponding information in respect of the move of equipment from Jordan to Britain and Germany in October and November, 1958:
§ (3) whether he is satisfied that sufficient British freighter aircraft are immediately available at the present time for carrying out moves similar to that made by units of the 16th Parachute Brigade to Jordan on 17th and 18th July, 1958; and whether he will make a statement.
Royal Air Force aircraft are fully able to carry out an airlift on 400 the scale undertaken last year in Jordan and the capacity of our transport force is steadily increasing. The initial airlift of forces to Jordan on 17th and 18th July last year was undertaken by the Royal Air Force. United States Air Force aircraft took part with the Royal Air Force in the subsequent airlift to maintain British forces in Jordan as part of the joint measures for meeting the Jordan Government's request for assistance. Between 22nd July and 10th August, they carried some 1,500 tons of fuel and freight to Jordan. No United States Air Force aircraft took part in the airlift of personnel and equipment from Jordan in October, 1958.
§ Mr. Wigg
Would not the right hon. Gentleman agree that the use of Lockheed aircraft by the Royal Air Force was an essential part of the Jordan operation? Will he give the House an assurance that if the same situation arose today, or in the foreseeable future, we could carry on independently of the United States Air Force?
Yes, Sir. It was very good that this joint operation should have happened, because we were working side by side. Having said that, I should add that it would be quite wrong to suggest that it implies any inadequacy in the available forces of the Royal Air Force.
§ Mr. Wigg
Then will the right hon. Gentleman say what is all the fuss about the Britannic? Surely, there must be a gap which will last for five years. It is clear that this country must depend on the United States, and that there is no aircraft to fulfil the rôle which the Britannic will fulfil—assuming that we ever get the Britannic.
As the hon. Gentleman knows, most of the equipment to be carried by the Britannic is not yet in service with the Army. It is true that we could not carry it now, but we shall be able to by the time it is in service.
§ Mr. Peyton
Is my right hon. Friend aware that the suggestion of the hon. Member for Dudley (Mr. Wigg) about indecent haste over the Britannic is hardly borne out by the facts?
§ Mr. Beswick
Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that in the latest publication issued by the Conservative Central Office on the subject of defence, entitled "The 401 Missile Years", the impression is given that the airlift to Jordan was carried out by private British companies? In view of the information which the Minister has disclosed, will he see that future editions of the publication are corrected?