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Royal Air Force

Volume 387: debated on Wednesday 10 March 1943

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Officers' Private Residences (Domestic Help)

14 and 15.

asked the Secretary of State for Air (1) the conditions of an allowance for civilian domestic help in the private residences of Royal Air Force officers;

(2) the conditions in which a member of the Women's Auxiliary Air Force can be ordered by her commanding officer to carry out the duties of a domestic servant in the private residence of the commanding officer?

Prior to 1936 an officer was allowed the services of a batman or batmen according to his rank, if he was living in an official residence or official quarters. At many of the Royal Air Force stations built since then, official residences have not been provided for the Commanding Officer and because of this and of the difficulty in many areas of obtaining domestic help, Commanding Officers of Stations or of Groups have been allowed the services of batmen at their private houses if the circumstances were held to justify it. In 1941 in pursuance of the general policy of substituting women for men wherever possible, the employment of W.A.A.F.'s as batwomen was authorised subject to certain provisos of which the main were that definite hours of duty would be laid down and that the working conditions satisfied the responsible W.A.A.F. officer.

The scale of batmen and batwomen to which R.A.F. officers are entitled has recently been under review and a new regulation is shortly to be issued. This new regulation will include a provision that only women who volunteer may be employed as batwomen in married quarters or private residences and the authority of the Air Officer Commanding Will be required in each case. Women who do volunteer may withdraw from such employment at will. When batmen or batwomen are not provided, servant allowance at the rate of 2s. a day per batman or batwoman allowed is issuable to R.A.F. officers in aid of the cost of civilian personal servants.

While thanking my right hon. and gallant Friend for that very reassuring statement, would he answer that portion of the Question which deals with an allowance for civilian domestic help in the case of commanding officers of R.A.F. stations?

There is no specific allowance for civilian help as such, but when batmen or batwomen are not provided a Service allowance at the rate of 2S. a day is available in aid of the cost of civilian servants.

Is the right hon. and gallant Gentleman aware that the National Service Acts were not passed by this House to enable private individuals to be mobilised to serve in a domestic capacity in the private homes of officers?

Is it not a fact that in the cases that have been mentioned, as no official quarters have been provided for the officers, their private home in fact becomes their official quarters?

Is it not a fact that men batmen go out on errands for the officers' wives?

Would the right hon. and gallant Gentleman say whether an officer's wife who is childless and available for domestic work can use the services of a W.A.A.F.?

Waaf, British Embassy, Washington

16.

asked the Secretary of State for Air whether his attention has been called to the refusal of British Women's Auxiliary Air Force personnel attached to the British Embassy in Washington to obey local black-out orders; and what action he proposes to take in the case?

I have made inquiries into this incident, and these show that there was a technical breach of local regulations by two members of the Women's Auxiliary Air Force stationed in Washington. It appears that this breach was entirely unintentional, but in the meantime strict instructions have been issued to all members of the Delegation concerned emphasising the necessity for rigid observance of all local black-out regulations.

Commissions (Home Service)

17 and 18.

asked the Secretary of Slate for Air (1) whether there are vacancies for home service commissions in the Royal Air Force, and, if so, in which branches;

(2) how many members of the Royal Air Force who have been recommended for home service commissions are now waiting for appointments?

Normally commissions are granted only to those fit for service overseas. Occasionally candidates with special qualifications are accepted for the Technical Branch and in certain categories of the Administrative and Special Duties Branch, even though they are fit for home service only. No vacancies are specially reserved for them. Seven airmen are awaiting appointment to commissions for home service only in the Technical Branch and a like number in the Administrative and Special Duties Branch. The numbers may vary from day to day.

Do these seven airmen know that they have been recommended and are still awaiting an opportunity to be posted?

I would like notice as to how soon the airmen are told that they have passed for recommendation.

Post-War Air Transport

19.

asked the Secretary of State for Air whether when creating an air transport command to take over the British Overseas Airways Corporation and the operation of British air routes throughout the world, he will ensure that full use is made of the experience of British Overseas Airways executives and personnel, and that the whole of this organisation will not be relegated to the command of a retired air marshal?

Perhaps the hon. Member would be good enough to await the Debate on Air Estimates on the next Sitting Day when my right hon. Friend hopes to be in a position to make a statement.

Will the right hon. and gallant Gentleman see that the personnel of British Overseas Airways, who, as he knows, have considerable experience in British civil aviation, are given their proper place in any future Government set-up?

I am sure that the statement which is to be made on the next Sitting Day will take account of that particular fact.

Aircraft Factories (Workers' Complaints)

20.

asked the Minister of Aircraft Production whether, in view of the time occupied by Ministry officials in investigating complaints of bad management made by individual workers direct to his Department, he will state why the usual channels for receiving complaints are ignored?

It is not the practice or policy of my Department to ignore the usual channels for dealing with complaints of the kind mentioned. On the contrary, whenever matters of complaint are raised which are appropriate for investigation by a works joint production committee or by the recognised trade union machinery, it is the practice of my Department to refer the complainant to those bodies and to point out to him or her the importance of utilising the proper machinery of negotiation. I am most anxious that these bodies which operate by agreement between the trade unions and the employers should be used in every possible case to resolve domestic difficulties between managements and workers; it is for this reason that I do my utmost to encourage the work of the joint production committees.