Aircrew (Commissioned Rank)
asked the Under-Secretary of State for Air whether he will alter the present system which requires that all those in combat planes shall hold commissioned rank.
It is not our policy that all aircrew should hold commissioned rank. Pilots and navigators normally hold commissions, but air signallers, engineers and gunners are normally non-commissioned officers.
Could my hon. Friend say whether that answer means that there has been no appreciable change in the system from that prevailing during the last war?
Yes, Sir. There was a scheme introduced at the end of 1950 known as the probationary officer scheme, under which all candidates accepted as pilots and navigators became pilot officers on probation and were confirmed in their commissions on getting their wings.
Officers' Uniform (Issue)
asked the Under-Secretary of State for Air if, in order to prevent waste, he will defer the issue of officers' uniforms until those for whom they are intended are actually commissioned.
No, Sir. Flight Cadets at Cranwell are the only members of the Royal Air Force who are provided with officers' uniforms before they are commissioned. If for any reason a cadet is not granted a commission, he has to return his uniform.
Is my hon. Friend aware that there are an appreciable number of cases in which, owing to the shape of the candidate in question, the return of the uniform in the state in which it was issued to him does not meet the case because it may be quite unsuitable to the shape of the next candidate? Will my hon. Friend, therefore, take steps to try to eliminate this waste?
The number of cadets failing to be commissioned each year is very small. It is only about 25. When returned, their uniforms are not reissued to another officer but are offered for sale at a reduced price.
Candidates, Cardington (Regular Engagements)
asked the Under-Secretary of State for Air how many Royal Air Force recruits were sent home from Cardington during the week ended 15th March because they refused to sign on for a longer period than three years.
Out of 803 candidates interviewed at Cardington during the week ended 15th March, 124 decided not to enlist on Regular engagements. The trades for which they were suitable, or which they wanted, were open only to men prepared to enlist for longer periods than three years.
Is the hon. Gentleman aware that, during the debate on the Air Estimates, he said there was no substance at all in the charge which I made? Will he now withdraw the accusation which he made against me and apologise for the language which he used?
Certainly not. I withdraw absolutely nothing.
Is the hon. Gentleman aware that we shall know, in future, how much importance to attach to any statement that he makes?
asked the Under-Secretary of State for Air how many recruits called to Cardington during the week commencing 10th March were persuaded to increase their period of enlistment beyond the three years for which they originally signed.
Altogether, 120 candidates for the Royal Air Force called to Cardington during the week beginning 10th March decided to enlist for periods longer than the three years for which they had provisionally volunteered.
Is the hon. Gentleman aware that there is grave disquiet in the country about the treatment which these boys receive when they go to Cardington? Is he aware that some hon. Members on his side of the House, as well as hon. Members on this side of the House, have received letters complaining about this treatment, and will he now agree to carry out the investigation which I asked him to carry out when I spoke during the Air Estimates debate?
When these boys leave Cardington, each one is issued with a pro forma asking for his suggestions or complaints, if any. They are perfectly at liberty to put down on the form any complaints they wish.
Is the Minister aware that it is wasteful to take these lads to Cardington and then send them back home because they will not sign on for more than two years?
When they get to Carding-ton they have to do certain trade tests, and they cannot be accepted if they do not pass those tests.
In view of the unsatisfactory reply and the attitude of the hon. Member—[HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."]—I beg to give notice that I shall raise the matter on the Adjournment.
Following a Ruling of my predecessor, I should remind the House that in giving notice to raise a matter on the Adjournment, the only proper formula is, "Owing to the unsatisfactory nature of the reply."
With great respect to you and your predecessors, Mr. Speaker, was not that Ruling in itself an innovation, since previously we were all allowed quite freely to introduce all sorts of pejorative matter into such intimations?
I think that the Ruling was made because it was found that the introduction of what I called, the other day, objurgatory phrases led to a waste of time.