asked the Secretary of State for Air whether he can make any statements as to what is being done by his Department to retain a sufficiency of skilled pilots; and whether he is also giving attention to the necessity of having available an adequate number of trained engineers and skilled workmen to deal with the manufacture and upkeep of aeroplanes, bearing in mind the needs of the future?
The Short Service Commission scheme which was instituted in 1919 will provide a regular flow of qualified pilots into the Reserve. Under this scheme commissions are granted for four years' service in the flying branch of the Regular Air Force, followed by four years in the Air Reserve. A number of these short service officers will pass to the Reserve in a few months time. Skilled men who have served in the ranks as fitters, riggers, etc., are also passing into the Reserve and will be available for service in connection with the upkeep of aircraft in a national emergency. As regards manufacture, it is the policy of the Air Ministry to support aircraft constructors to the utmost extent compatible with the needs of national economy.
Realising that the right hon. Gentleman appreciates as much as anybody else the urgency of this question, and the impossibility of improvisation, can he say what his Ministry is prepared to do in the case of British plants having to close down while this lengthy consideration is going on?
That is too important a question to answer by way of reply to the supplementary question.
In regard to the personnel, is the right. hon. and gallant Gentleman satisfied that the flow of pilots and mechanics is sufficient in view of unforeseen contingencies?
I think the annual flow of pilots will rise to about. 300, and of mechanics probably to 2,000.