Pilots And Skilled Workmen
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.
asked the Prime Minister whether the Committee appointed to inquire into the position and work of the Naval wing of the Royal Air Force has held any meetings as yet; when it is likely to conclude its labours; whether any Report will be issued; and whether the serious lack of machines and pilots for work in conjunction with the fleet has received the consideration of the Government?
The reply to the first part of the question is that no Committee was appointed to consider the position and work of the Naval Wing of the Royal Air Force. A Committee was promised by the Leader of the House to examine into the system of naval and air co-operation. No formal meeting of the Committee has yet been held, but some progress has been made by preliminary exchange of views. The reply to the second part of the question is that I am unable to say when the Committee is likely to conclude its labours, and to the third part that a report will be rendered to the Committee of Imperial Defence of which this is a Sub-committee. With regard to the fourth part of the question, I am not aware of any serious lack of machines or pilots for work in conjunction with the Fleet, and air training in cooperation with the Navy is being actively and efficiently carried on with the limited forces at our disposal.
asked the Prime Minister whether he has received a letter, dated the 2nd June, from the Parliamentary Air Committee; and what action the Government proposes to take in regard to the air position?
asked the Prime Minister if he will take steps to ensure that our safety in the air shall receive full consideration relatively to our other defensive services?
asked the Prime Minister whether the Committee of Im- perial Defence has considered the adequacy or otherwise of the provision for the air defence of the country; if so, what is their decision; whether the same Committee has considered the adequacy or otherwise of the arrangement made and the provision for aircraft working with the Royal Navy; and, if so, whether the Dominions were represented at such deliberations and if they concur in the conclusion reached?
Yes, Sir. I have received the letter in question. Long before this letter was written the attention of the Government had been directed to all the questions of aerial defence and development to which it refers, and a special sub-committee of the. Committee of Imperial Defence had been appointed to consider and report upon the general question which is now before the Committee of Imperial Defence. The arrangements for aircraft working with the Royal Navy is being considered by a separate committee.
Having regard to the very great importance which I know my right hon. Friend attaches to this question, may I ask whether there is any possibility of him being able to make a statement in the approximately near future?
The letter, I agree, contains some very impressive passages, and the Committee are examining the whole problem very closely. I think it would be a great mistake to be in a hurry to insist upon a report, because there are a good many considerations which must be taken into account.