HC Deb 25 May 1960 vol 624 cc422-4
13. Mr. Gourlay

asked the Secretary of State for Air what percentage of civilians employed by the Royal Air Force in the United Kingdom is employed in Scotland.

15. Mr. Willis

asked the Secretary of State for Air the number of civilians employed by the Royal Air Force in Scotland at the latest convenient date.

Mr. W. J. Taylor

On 1st April the Air Ministry was employing 2,235 civilians in Scotland. This represented 3.3 per cent. of the United Kingdom total.

Mr. Gourlay

In view of the tremendous blot on the Scottish economy in having some 80,000 unemployed, and in view of the figures which he has given us today, does not the hon. Gentleman consider that his Department could do a great deal more to alleviate the hard- ship in Scotland at the present time?

Mr. Taylor

We are not unsympathetic to the circumstances which the hon. Gentleman has described, but the two matters are not really related at all. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] We certainly do not ignore the consideration of local employment when other factors are reasonably equal, but, for fairly obvious geographical and historical reasons, most of our good permanent air stations are in England, and especially in the South, and economy compels us to use the establishments we have rather than undertake the cost of developing new stations elsewhere.

Mr. Willis

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that we need something rather more than sympathy—we get far too much sympathy from the Government Front Bench—and that what we want is action? Is he also aware that in Scotland at least we feel that we ought to have a proper share of the defence expenditure and that this centralisation of everything around London and in the south of England is really not good enough? What does he propose to do about it to get a better distribution?

Mr. Taylor

I have said that I have a great deal of sympathy with what the hon. Gentleman has said. I have also said that the deployment of an Armed Service depends on the rôle which it has to fulfil. The considerations which hon. Members have brought into this discussion are really not relevant to that.

Mr. de Freitas

Since the Royal Air Force, unlike the other Services, obviously must be organised functionally and not regionally, will not the hon. Gentleman look at this matter particularly carefully to see whether it is possible, through the central control of the Air Force and by doing everything he can, to place contracts and so on in Scotland?

Mr. Taylor

I will certainly do that, but no one knows better than the hon. Gentleman that we have to deploy our forces where the best resources are available and not incur extra expenditure unnecessarily.

Mr. Wingfield Digby

If these various propositions are to be considered, will my hon. Friend bear in mind where the recruits are coming from who are so badly needed for the Armed Forces at present—wherever it may be, whether in Scotland or other areas.

Mr. Taylor


Mr. Paget

Is the Under-Secretary of State aware that, considering the mess his Government are in process of making of the boot and shoe industry, we should like some of his Department's help in Northampton, too?

Mr. Speaker

That would be out of order. We are dealing with civil servants employed by the Royal Air Force.

Mr. W. Hamilton

Is the Under-Secretary of State aware that, from the strategical point of view, there is a good case to be made for the dispersal of Air Force units? If there is, in addition to the strategical argument, a social reason for dispersal, does not the hon. Gentleman think that it is time this matter was reconsidered?

Mr. Taylor

That is an entirely different question. If the hon. Gentleman wants an answer to it, perhaps he will put it down.