asked the Secretary of State for Air on what grounds women are excluded from the Women's Auxiliary Air Force unless they have family connections with the Force; and whether there will be equality of opportunity for all applicants and selection made only on grounds of merit and suitability?
Merit and suitability remain essential qualifications for enlistment in the Women's Auxiliary Air Force. As, however, in the age group recently called up, the number who had expressed a preference for service in the W.A.A.F. greatly exceeded the authorised allocation for that Service, recruitment was restricted, except in cases of special qualification, to those who had been in civil employment under the Air Ministry or were closely related to personnel already in Air Force service. I am advised that under this arrangement sufficient recruits will be obtained of the requisite standard to meet the needs of the Service.
While it may suit the Air Force Selection Board to carry it through in this manner, is it not very unfair that intelligent and capable girls who are anxious and keen, and who are qualified to join the Air Force, are denied, simply because they have not family connections, while somebody with poorer qualifications may be admitted on these grounds?
The position is that we have far more applicants for the Women's Air Force, suitable applicants, than we can accept. Therefore, among the suitable applicants, we give preference to those who have some close connection with the Air Force. I think that is a fair and reasonable system.
Is it not a fact that the documents issued to the girls say that they are debarred, although they are qualified, unless they have these family connections?
Although the right hon. and gallant Gentleman has a large number of applicants, would it not be more efficient to choose the girls on the ground of merit rather than of background?
We have so many girl applicants with the requisite merit and qualifications that we have to make a distinction within the category of those who are eminently suitable. Therefore we say:
"Previous civilian work at R.A.F. unit or in the Air Ministry.
Father or brother in the Royal Air Force.
Fiancé, deceased, formerly member of the Royal Air Force.
Fiancé, prisoner of war, member of the Royal Air Fore.
Widow of former member of the Royal Air Force.
Mother or sister in the W.A.A.F."
Does the right hon. and gallant Gentleman say that the existence of a former fiancé makes a girl more suitable?