HL Deb 13 February 1996 vol 569 cc45-6WA
The Viscount of Oxfuird

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What plans they have for the future of university air squadrons and all experience flights in Northern Ireland.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Defence (Earl Howe):

The primary role of the university air squadrons is to attract new recruits of, good quality and education into the Royal Air Force. The defence costs study Front Line First recognised the university air squadrons as a source of high calibre pilots for the RAF, but did identify scope for rationalisation within the organisation as a whole. As part of this rationalisation, it was proposed that the Queen's University Air Squadron (QUAS), being the least successful squadron in terms of providing pilot recruits for the RAF, should close. A consultative document covering this proposal was issued on 5 September 1995, recommending the closure of QUAS and as a consequence the closure of No. 13 Air Experience Flight based at Belfast.

My department received a number of representations from MPs and other interested parties. The consultation included the trades unions and local authorities and full and careful consideration has been given to the representations received, Following this work, we are satisfied that no issues have been raised which call into question the viability of the proposals.

We have therefore decided with regret that QUAS and No. 13 Air Experience Flight should close at the end of this academic year. Air experience flying for air cadets will be provided by offering them places at summer camps on the mainland. We also propose to reactivate No. 664 Volunteer Gliding School at Belfast with immediate effect.