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Royal Air Force

Volume 387: debated on Wednesday 3 March 1943

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Women's Auxiliary Air Force

16.

asked the Secretary of State for Air whether, since it is officially announced that recruiting for the Women's Auxiliary Air Force service is closed owing to the full complement being attained, he can state the object of the recruiting drives for this corps which are still being held; and whether he will see to it that the time and energy expended are better employed?

Instructions have already been issued that recruiting publicity for the W.A.A.F. is to cease.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that women who are now volunteering for this Service are being told that it is full and that they may be told of a vacancy within a year?

Yes, Sir. We have a limited number of vacancies only for a few specialist members. Otherwise our establishment is full.

Airwomen (Domestic Duties)

17.

asked the Secretary of State for Air whether he has examined the case of an airwoman who was directed by a commanding officer to report for duty as a domestic servant at the commanding officer's private address in Cardiff and was given 14 days' confinement to camp as punishment for refusing to carry out this order, the facts of which were reported to his Ministry by the hon. Member for Brecon and Radnor (Mr. Jackson); and whether he has any statement to make?

The hon. Member for Brecon and Radnor was asked to furnish particulars of the Service number of the airwoman referred to, the date on which the alleged incident took place, and the name of the unit. Further inquiries will be made if and when this information is received. On the general question which he raised, as to whether airwomen may be instructed to carry out domestic duties, the hon. Member was informed that under certain conditions such instructions may properly be given.

Will the Minister inform the House how it is possible that the commanding officer of the Cardiff Airport could summon this girl before him last Friday and apologise to her for having illegally "crimed" her, and ask her, or attempt to induce her, to get this Question postponed or not asked at ail in this House; and will he give an undertaking that there will be no molestation of this girl by that commanding officer until he has made some inquiries?

The hon. Member is purporting to give some of the information which I asked the hon. Member for Brecon and Radnor to give me some time ago. If I can have particulars of the date on which the incident took place and the name of the airwoman and the unit, of course investigations will be made, as I have already said in my original answer, and there is no question of any victimisation because such investigations are being undertaken.

How is it the Air Ministry cannot identify this person when the commanding officer of the Cardiff Airport is the person involved?

The reason is that when the hon. Member for Brecon and Radnor wrote to me he gave no particulars of the place or date, or the name of the airwoman. I wrote to him asking him to let me have those particulars, and I said I would then investigate the matter, but I have not yet received a reply to my letter.

Will the right hon. and gallant Gentleman give further consideration to the broader question involved, because surely it is paradoxical for a young girl to be directed from domestic service in private life into the Services and then directed to undertake private domestic service in the Services?

An R.A.F. officer can order a W.A.A.F. to undertake domestic work if he is entitled to the services of a batman under King's Regulations and if he is living in married quarters or some other official residence, provided that certain conditions are fulfilled and that the appropriate W.A.A.F. officer is given the opportunity of seeing that the airwoman's working conditions are satisfactory. I shall be glad to send to the hon. Lady a list of those conditions.

Is it not a fact that if that officer was in private life, he would have to get an older woman to do this work?

No, Sir. If the officer was a serving officer and entitled under certain conditions to live-in in official quarters or married quarters, he would not have the services of an older woman but of a male batman, and one of the objects here is to save man-power.

But does that apply in the case where the officer's residence is four miles away from the camp?

Film Exhibition Facilities, Air Ministry

20.

asked the Secretary of State for Air whether he will indicate the reason for the provision of a new cinema theatre at the Air Ministry; what is the estimated cost, including furnishing; and to what purpose will the existing premises be put?

Facilities are required in the Air Ministry for the exhibition of operational and other technical films to staff officers who must see, examine and discuss them in connection with their official duties. Up till now, films have been shown under improvised conditions which had a considerable risk of fire. This old accommodation can and will be used for other official purposes, as has hitherto been the case. I am informed by my Noble Friend the Minister of Works that the estimated cost of the facilities now being provided is £4,320.

Are we to take it from that answer that it is considered that such facilities are necessary now, but were not required before?

This film exhibition place is now required for showing many films of a highly secret nature, their exhibition often being followed by secret discussions. The standard of furnishing is very modest. There are only 16 ordinary theatre tip-up plush seats, which were recovered from a blitzed cinema, and a few cane-seated chairs.

On the question of fire precautions, are precautions taken to see that the films used are not inflammable?

They are not always non-inflammable. There has been a considerable fire risk.

Aircraft (Dutch Gifts)

22.

asked the Minister of Aircraft Production whether he can make any statement regarding gifts from the Dutch people for the purchase of aircraft for the Royal Air Force?

I am very glad to have this opportunity of expressing the gratitude of His Majesty's Government for the most generous gifts which have been made by the people of the Netherlands Empire. The total subscriptions amount to nearly three-quarters of a million pounds, £726,000 of which has been received from the Queen Wilhelmina Fund and the Prince Bernhard Fund. These funds are being applied to the purchase of 145 fighter aircraft, each of which will bear a name chosen by the donors. Ninety-eight aircraft have already been named, and many of these are also being piloted by our gallant Dutch Allies.

Dive-Bombers

23.

asked the Minister of Aircraft Production the reason for the delay in the delivery of dive-bombers?

I would refer my hon. and gallant Friend to the reply given to my hon. Friend the Member for Walton (Mr. Purbrick) on 10th February.

On a point of Order, Mr. Deputy-Speaker. May I ask for your guidance? This Question was put down to the Secretary of State for Air, who referred in this House last week to the fact that there had been delay in this matter of dive-bombers. How is it, when I put a Question down to obtain the reasons for the delay, that the Question is transferred by him, and not by you, to another Department, who, in fact, have just given me an answer referring to another Question which has nothing to do with this point at all?

The hon. and gallant Member must be aware that it is the usual practice for Questions to be answered by the Ministers representing the appropriate Departments. Hon. Members cannot really insist upon Questions being put down to particular Ministers.

May I ask the right hon. and learned Gentleman whether he will state the reasons for the delay which was referred to by the right hon. Gentleman in this House last Wednesday, and why the House cannot be told what the reason is?

Those reasons are given in the answer which I have quoted to the hon. and gallant Member.

Is the real reason for the delay in the delivery of dive-bombers that the Services are not fully convinced that they want dive-bombers?

I cannot answer the hon. Gentleman's Question as to what the Ser- vices think. That is not my Department. Among the reasons which were given—and perhaps I may quote again—was:

"The interval between the dates of the orders for these aircraft and their delivery was occupied mainly in overcoming exceptional difficulties of design, necessitating modifications dictated by operational experience and the solution of problems inherent in the rapid expansion of the production of new types of aircraft."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 10th February, 1943; col. 1294, Vol. 386.]

Is it the intention of the Ministry of Aircraft Production to design a British dive-bomber?

I am afraid I could not answer as to the intentions of my Department with regard to new designs, because to do so would not be consistent with security.

Does not the Minister realise the urgency of this matter and the great public anxiety there is about it?