§ [The Question was as follows:
§ To ask His Majesty's Government whether they will say what opportunities are open to National Service men and others to obtain short-service commissions in the Navy as pilots and observers.]
THE FIRST LORD OF THE ADMIRALTY (LORD PAKENHAM)
My Lords, I am obliged to the noble Lord for putting down this Question. National Service men can at present apply to train in their National Service time for flying appointments in the Navy as pilots or observers. The Admiralty are now introducing a new scheme, which will become operative immediately, whereby these 197 National Service men will be able to volunteer during their training to transfer to a short-service engagement, which will extend their full-time service to four years. On transfer they will receive Regular rates of pay. All time served by these men after transfer, subject to their having been awarded their "wings," will count for gratuity at the rate of £175 a year. We hope that there will be a good response to this new scheme from all young men to whom the unique opportunity of service at sea and in the air appeals. At the end of their four-year engagement, these officers may volunteer for another four years, all of which will count for gratuity at the same rate. During this period they may be considered for permanent commissions in the Navy.
I should emphasise, of course, that this scheme is in addition to the existing arrangement whereby men between 17 years 4 months and 24 years may apply for a short-service commission of eight years at Regular rates of pay, with a gratuity on completion of £1,500. There will be similar opportunities for permanent commissions for these officers. These engagements carry varying periods of Reserve liability, up to seven years. The shortage of air crew is a most serious problem. In addition to permanent officers who specialise in flying, we shall now have two short-service schemes—the new four-year scheme for National Service men. with the option to extend it to eight years: and the existing eight-year scheme for all young men between 17 years 4 months avid 24. The House can be assured that we shall never rest until we have overcome the shortage.
My Lords, while thanking His Majesty's Government for their reply, which I am sure will be welcomed on all sides of the House, I should like to ask whether care will he taken to see that some assistance is given to these young men to obtain positions in civil employment when they complete their short-service commissions. I feel sure that if this assistance can be assured there will be no difficulty in increasing the number of candidates for short-service commissions.
My Lords, I think there is a great deal in what the noble Lord has said. I can assure him that the whole matter is under consideration at the present time.
My Lords, arising out of that answer, can the noble Lord, Lord Pakenham, say whether a pilot who does not volunteer for extended service is able to reach operational flying standard during his National Service period?
It takes about two years, I understand, to become a pilot and a little less to become an observer.