HC Deb 06 May 1970 vol 801 cc404-5
31. Mr. Wingfield Digby

asked the Secretary of State for Defence how many officers have applied to retire from the three Services since 1st January, 1969.

Mr. Hattersley

The number of officers whose applications for retirement (including voluntary redundancies) were accepted during 1969 was 1,427. The total number of applications is not readily available.

Mr. Wingfield Digby

Are not these figures rather disquieting? Cannot the Minister do more to try to persuade promising young officers to stay in the Services, particularly in view of the career structure ahead of them?

Mr. Hattersley

Naturally, one regrets that so many officers wanted to leave during the period, but, if it is any consolation to the hon. Gentleman and the House, the figure was appreciably smaller than in the preceding year. I hope that young officers will understand, as I think the House does, that there remains a substantial career in all three Services, with a good salary, and that many of their best interests will be served by remaining in the forces.

Mr. Rippon

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that there is particular anxiety about the position of officers in the Fleet Air Arm? There are allegations that there have been redundancies because of pressure which can only by the wildest stretch of the imagination be described as voluntary. Also, would the Minister make it clear that there is no truth in the suggestion that the Fleet Air Arm will not be allowed to fly at Farnborough, which, if true, seems incredibly petty?

Mr. Hattersley

The point raised by the right hon. Gentleman in the last part of his supplementary question is another matter. On the first part, I am sure that he welcomes our absolute assurance that there have been no pressures of the sort which he describes. I hope that we shall hear no more of that allegation from the newspapers or from anywhere else, because it is simply not true.