HC Deb 13 February 1953 vol 511 cc79-80W
Mr. Dodds-Parker

asked the Under-Secretary of State for Air what discussions were held with the Prime Minister of Southern Rhodesia on air force matters during the latter's recent visit to this country.

Mr. Ward

During the recent visit of Sir Godfrey Huggins, the Prime Minister of Southern Rhodesia, to this country my noble Friends the Secretaries of State for Commonwealth Relations and for Air have discussed with him questions of defence policy in which Southern Rhodesia is particularly concerned. The guiding principle in these discussions has been that the Governments of the United Kingdom and Southern Rhodesia wish to co-operate in using their resources in the way which is most effective for Commonwealth defence and the interests of the Empire. In particular, plans were discussed for the re-equipment of the Southern Rhodesian Air Force with modern aircraft, including jet fighters, which will enable Southern Rhodesia to make a contribution of great strategic value and to provide a trained contingent for operations with the Royal Air Force in the event of war.

As a result of recent changes in the United Kingdom defence programme, and a measure of reorganisation which necessarily follows, there will be sufficient training facilities for all Royal Air Force pilots and navigators required in the future without the Royal Air Force continuing to use the schools in Southern Rhodesia. The two Governments have examined this changed situation together. The Prime Minister of Southern Rhodesia and my noble Friends regret that the new circumstances do not warrant the continuation of the Rhodesian Air Training Group on the long-term basis originally expected, and they have agreed that the training schools should not continue beyond March, 1954, when the existing agreement is due to expire.

The United Kingdom Government wish to place on record that the scheme has in the past six years made a valuable contribution to the Royal Air Force training programme, and that excellent results have been obtained with the generous co-operation of the Southern Rhodesian authorities. There will, of course, continue to be close partnership between the Air Forces of the two countries, and in particular it is hoped that some of the short service Southern Rhodesian Air Force officers, who have learnt to fly modern aircraft, will afterwards join the Royal Air Force.