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Royal Air Force

Volume 480: debated on Wednesday 8 November 1950

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Recruits

32.

asked the Secretary of State for Air how many recruits have joined the Royal Air Force since the increase in the rates of pay; and how these figures compare with a similar period last year.

Eight thousand, two hundred and seventy men and women enlisted in the R.A.F. in September and October this year compared with 2,664 in those months last year. These figures do not include those Regulars already in the Service who have extended their current engagements or re-engaged.

Would the right hon. and learned Gentleman say how many National Service men have extended their engagements?

A very great proportion of the figures which I have given the hon. and gallant Gentleman apply to National Service men who have taken regular engagements on call-up. In addition, about 1,000 have extended their service from National Service to regular engagements.

Auxiliary Force (Strength)

33.

asked the Secretary of State for Air what is the present strength of the Royal Auxiliary Air Force in officers and airmen.

Seven hundred and thirty-five officers and 6,386 airmen and airwomen.

Does the right hon. and learned Gentleman appreciate that these figures are very poor indeed, and that if he is going to man the radar stations and control units something has to be done? Will he consider offering better amenities in the way of buildings and conditions for the Auxiliary Air Force?

I am anxious to do what I can to improve the amenities. I would point out that as regards the 20 auxiliary squadrons, the percentage of strength to establishment is 72. As to the fighter control units, as the hon. and gallant Gentleman knows, we have only been recruiting for these units during the past 18 months, and during the past year we have had an increase of 1,800.

Night Fighter Squadrons

34.

asked the Secretary of State for Air to what extent it is proposed to increase the number of the night fighter squadrons.

As I stated in my speech on the Air Estimates this year, we are planning, not only to re-equip our night fighter squadrons with the latest types of jet night fighter aircraft, commencing next year, but also to increase the size of the night fighter force. This expansion, which will be very substantial, has already commenced, but it would not be in the public interest to give numbers.

>Radar Training

35.

asked the Secretary of State for Air whether, in order to be able to place the coastal radar chain on a 24-hour basis at short notice, he will make a public appeal to all the men and women with wartime radar experience to attend refresher training courses.

Publicity has already been given to the need for those with wartime radar and other experience to join the Royal Auxiliary Air Force and the Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve, where there are increasing facilities for refresher training. I take the opportunity again of expressing the hope that as many as possible of those men and women will join the fighter control units of the Royal Auxiliary Air Force. Fighter control units are being placed under the control of Fighter Command as from tomorrow.

I should, however, like to state again that, in the event of an emergency, we shall be able to man the radar chain on a 24-hour basis at short notice. The necessary arrangements for doing so, by recalling released men and women, are already in existence. In addition, I propose to make a special appeal, individually, to these men and women to join their nearest fighter control unit, or the Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve, in order to receive refresher training in peace-time.

In view of the very dangerous shortage of wireless electrical mechanics in the first year of the war, can the right hon. Gentleman give an assurance that he is getting these men in substantial numbers now, or, alternatively, training them, because it is really impossible to work the coastal radar chain efficiently without them?

I quite agree with what the hon. Member has said as to the difficulties, but I would point out again that we have our plans prepared, covering all the various trades required, in the event of having to man our radar stations on a 24-hour basis.

What does the right hon. Gentleman mean by "short notice," when he says that this manning on a 24-hour basis can be carried out?

Why has the right hon. Gentleman made the statement that the radar reporting units are expanding at a fast rate, when only one has been formed, and that is in London, and it has only 30 per cent. of its establishment? Why are there no other units in other parts of the country to man our radar reporting chain?

I did not say that the fighter control units themselves are expanding at a fast rate. I said that the training facilities are being increased, which is a very different thing.

When the right hon. Gentleman has made appeals for personnel, the urgent need for wireless electrical mechanics has not so far been mentioned. Will he see that this is done?

Property And Equipment

36.

asked the Secretary of State for Air how many cases of suspected sabotage have occurred to Royal Air Force property or equipment in the last six months.

Contract, Manchester

38.

asked the Secretary of State for Air whether a tender was put out before the contract was let to fly aircraft for Army cooperation work in the Manchester area and how long does the existing contract, let to a Liverpool firm, run.

Competitive tenders were invited for Army Cooperation flying in a number of areas in February, 1949. The firm which secured the contract in the Manchester area terminated the engagement in March, 1950. Fresh tendering was not considered to be justified, and the contract was awarded to the second lowest firm in the original tendering. The present contract expires on 31st March, 1951.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that there are three charter firms in Manchester, and that they did not know of this tender having been put out? It seems a little unreasonable to import aircraft from Liverpool without the knowledge of the local Manchester firms.

I have no doubt that the three firms had an opportunity of tendering in March, 1949.