§ 3.12 p.m.
§ [The Question was as follows:
§ To ask Her Majesty's Government what their future plans are for Staff College training in the Royal Air Force.]
§ THE MINISTER OF DEFENCE FOR THE ROYAL AIR FORCE (LORD SHACKLETON)
My Lords, the Royal Air Force has at present two staff colleges, one at Andover, and the other at Bracknell. It has now been decided that all staff college training in the Royal Air Force can be concentrated at Bracknell. We therefore intend to close the College at Andover. This amalgamation of training, which is not expected to take effect until about 1968, will result in useful savings in running costs, without any detriment to the effectiveness of the training or the standard of instruction.
My Lords, while thanking the noble Lord for his reply, may I congratulate him on his achievement in securing at least one decision on Defence policy from the Government in advance of this Defence review of which we hear so much? May I ask him two supplementary questions? The first is: what does he anticipate the scale of the savings which he forecast in his Answer will be? It was suggested in the Estimates Committee that the savings resulting from this amalgamation would not be very great. Secondly, may I ask him to give an assurance that it is the intention of the Royal Air Force to continue to provide facilities for the staff training 1437 of officers from overseas countries, from both the Commonwealth and other countries overseas?
§ LORD SHACKLETON
My Lords, it astonishes me that any member of the previous Government refers to the question of decisions, when so many of our decisions spring from their vacillation. But I do not take the noble Earl's point very seriously. The savings are expected to be between £30,000 and £40,000 a year which, in my opinion, are worth while, even if not in the opinion of the previous Administration. There will, of course, be an avoidance of further expenditure of a capital kind on a large scale, which otherwise would have been necessary, at Andover. On the subject of the training of foreign and Commonwealth students, I share the noble Earl's view of the importance of this. It is a matter which I personally, and others concerned, considered very carefully, and I am glad to say that the new arrangements will not reduce the number of places available for the training of foreign and Commonwealth students.
My Lords, may I thank the noble Lord for the assurance which he has given me in reply to my second supplementary, and may I just correct him on one point in connection with my first supplementary question? It was the Estimates Committee who thought the savings would not be very great; it was nothing to do with the opinion of the previous Government.