HC Deb 17 June 2002 vol 387 cc6-7
4. Mr. Desmond Swayne (New Forest, West)

What recent progress he has made with recruiting additional pilots. [58673]

The Minister of State for Defence (Mr. Adam Ingram)

Armed forces' recruitment of pilots is such that, in financial year 2001–02, the recruiting exceeded demanding targets. We are on course to meet fully the pilot recruitment target for this year.

Mr. Swayne

Why have the Government reduced the trained requirement for the Royal Air Force from 54,530 to 49,990 since the strategic defence review?

Mr. Ingram

Of course, manning and training requirements are constantly kept under review. We face a number of issues, one of which is, of course, recruitment. I have said in answering the hon. Gentleman's specific question—in which I would have thought he had an interest, but clearly not—recruiting is very high for pilots. We are addressing retention with a wide range of measures, and already the indications are that they will prove successful, but only time will tell just how successful.

Angus Robertson (Moray)

Will the Minister consider using additional resources, possibly raised from the commercial use of RAF bases, to help in the retention and training of pilots? Will he perhaps consider instructing RAF Strike Command to widen its ongoing feasibility study into this issue to include RAF Kinloss in my constituency? That would not only offer a possible new revenue stream to help in the retention and training of pilots, but boost desperately needed commercial landing options in the north of Scotland.

Mr. Ingram

The hon. Gentleman will be aware that we are considering the use of such airfields, but the primacy would be in terms of strategic and military usage. It would be wrong to rule out any option that would enable best use of our existing assets, but that must not undermine or work against that which we ask our armed forces to deliver from those bases.