asked the Secretary of State for Air what has been the increase since 1955 in the number of children of Royal Air Force parents requiring school places at Khormaksar and Steamer Point, Aden; when this increase became known; and why there has been such a long delay in adjusting the schoolbuilding plans.
Since 1955 the number of children requiring places at Royal Air Force schools in Aden, including children of naval, military and civilian parents, has risen from 400 to 1,000. The increase has been a progressive one, and it was not until 1958 that we realised the present figure was going to be quite so large. Because of the successive increases the schools now to be built have twice had to be redesigned.
Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that I raised this question on 18th July, 1956, and that the then Under-Secretary of State for Air, who is now Secretary of State for War, then said that he realised that the position was unsatisfactory. He went on:
That is to say, in 1957. Is he aware that nothing has been done to build either a new primary or a new secondary school for these children of the increased number of families there in this period of time? There has been a delay of over two years? Is this not a case of disgraceful neglect on the part of the Royal Air Force?"That is why we are planning to go ahead and build this new primary and secondary school. We hope to be able to start early next year."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 18th July, 1956; Vol. 556, c. 1185.]
I do not think it is anything of the sort. I do not want to appear complacent about this, but it was no good going ahead with new schools if they were going to be hopelessly inadequate. We have twice had to start all over again, and that is why there has been the delay.
Does not the right hon. Gentleman make some plans to provide for the children who are going there? Surely, it is the responsibility of the Air Ministry to see that some sort of educational provision is made for the children of R.A.F. parents who it is known are going to these places? Is it not the fact that for over two years no increased provision has been made?
As the hon. Gentleman knows, the population, both of R.A.F. and of naval, military and civilian personnel, has been rapidly increasing in the last few years. We have had to try to bring our school plans up to date.
asked the Secretary of State for Air when it is expected that school places will be available for the fifty children awaiting admission to school at the Royal Air Force base at Khormaksar and Steamer Point, Aden.
We hope to have school places for all the children who need them in time for the January term next year.
Is it not a fact that for a considerable period of time a very large number of the children of Royal Air Force families have been without educational provision? Has not this been due to lack of planning and competence on the part of the Air Ministry and failure to provide for the expansion of schools at this base? Is it not a fact that there is no real reason why this should have taken place, but that it happened because of sheer negligence?
About 160 children of Service families in Aden attend civilian schools. Fees of those who are unable to get into Service schools are paid from Air Votes.
asked the Secretary of State for Air when he expects to receive the report of Her Majesty's Inspectors on Royal Air Force schools in Aden; and if he will publish the recommendations contained therein.
I understand that the report will probably be ready by the end of the month. Reports by Her Majesty's Inspectors are customarily treated as confidential and I see no reason to make this an exception.
Will the Secretary of State for Air make a statement as soon as this report is available? Is it not a fact that it was admitted by the Air Ministry that accommodation for the children of Royal Air Force families at these bases was totally unsatisfactory in 1959 and that nothing has been done during the intervening time, except for the provision of a couple of huts, because of the argument that the plans have to be adjusted to the increasing numbers of families? Is not the result that a large number of children are without provision for education today, and will the Minister promise to take urgent action to see that these children are provided with some opportunity for education?
I told the hon. Gentleman that we are making urgent provision. We hope that all the children who want to go to Service schools in Aden will be able to do so by January.
asked the Secretary of State for Air how many Regular airmen have been recruited through the Royal Air Force recruiting office and publicity centre in Worcester in each of the years since it was established.
I will with permission circulate in the OFFICIAL REPORT figures for 1949 onwards. Figures for earlier years in which we were recruiting on Regular engagements are not available.
Is the right hon. Gentleman satisfied that the expense of publicising the recruiting centre at Worcester is justified?
That is one of the matters we shall look at during the current review.
Following are the figures for men and women recruited into the ground trades on Regular engagements through the Recruiting Office at Worcester. Comparable figures for aircrew are not available.
asked the Secretary of State for Air in how many towns he has established Royal Air Force recruiting offices.
Forty-four. In three others we have small inquiry offices.
How does the Minister decide where the recruiting centres are to be established?
We review the situation from time to time in the light of recruiting figures. In fact, we are at present reviewing this part of the recruiting organisation. If we find certain changes are necessary we shall certainly make them.
asked the Secretary of State for Air what steps his Department is taking to ensure that potential recruits for the Royal Air Force are made fully aware that Service opportunities for flying and a full career for pilots are likely to continue for many years to come, notwithstanding current changes in defence policy.
Our continuing need for aircrew and the full and varied career which the Royal Force can offer are emphasised in our recruiting literature, in advertisements in the national Press, and by officers visiting schools and universities. I am grateful to my hon. Friend for this opportunity to emphasise once more that we shall need aircrew of the highest quality for as far ahead as we can foresee.
I thank my right hon. Friend for that reply. Is he aware that there is a widespread impression among young people who are potential recruits for the Royal Air Force that the airman of the future will be some sort of automatic troglodyte pressing buttons in a subterranean cave? Is it not necessary to give the maximum publicity to the fact that the traditional qualities of pilotship, courage and daring are still required, and will be required for many years to come?
Certainly a year ago there was such an impression, but I believe that statements made recently by my right hon. Friends and myself have done a great deal to put this right.
asked the Secretary of State for Air the total expenditure on the air base at Habbaniya from the time of its establishment to that of its abandonment.
Can the Minister tell us what we had for this expenditure?
Certainly. This base at Habbaniya played a vital part in pre-war days in maintaining internal security by the use of air power. During the war the existence of this base and the gallant action against Rashid AH buttressed the Allied position in the Middle East.
Is my right hon. Friend aware that there was some concern when this base was finally evacuated? In the circumstances, can he tell the House whether any claim has been made on the Iraqi Government for compensation? Is the Royal Air Force acquiring any assets for the base? Are we negotiating the terms of the transaction?
Quite a large quantity of movable equipment which was there has been sold or brought out.
asked the Secretary of State for Air the total expenditure on the Royal Air Force in Cyprus since its establishment as a base up to the present time; and what further expenditure is to be incurred there.
About £10 million has so far been spent on construction for the Royal Air Force in Cyprus. I cannot forecast how much will be spent throughout our future tenure.
Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that Mr. Randolph Churchill said recently that the purpose of this air base is to bomb the Soviet Caucasus? Does not he think it a dangerous thing to invest £10 million of British money in a place which could be so easily destroyed by a rocket?
I cannot comment on what was said by Mr. Randolph Churchill. It is true that Cyprus has become increasingly important as the only base of the United Kingdom in the Eastern Mediterranean from which we can protect our interests in that area.
Prestwick Airport (United States Aircraft)
asked the Secretary of State for Air to what extent additional facilities are being given to the United States Air Force to use Prestwick Airport as a result of the new arrangements for additional United States aircraft to be stationed in Great Britain.
I cannot at present add to the statement made by my right hon. Friend the Minister of Defence on 8th July.
Can the Minister do anything to allay the anxieties of the people who live in that part of Ayrshire? Is he aware that there is an opinion that these arrangements will mean that it will be more exposed as a potential target, with greater danger to the people in that area?
Is the Minister aware that there is absolutely no civil defence in this area? What does he propose to do to assure the civil population?
The words used by my right hon. Friend on 8th July were:
"They will be stationed at airfields which are already in use by the United States Air Force. The detailed plans for the move will be worked out between the Royal Air Force and the United States Air Force."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 8th July, 1959; Vol. 608, c. 1631.]
34, 35 and 37.
asked the Secretary of State for Air (1) the reasons which made it necessary to ask the United States Air Force to provide aircraft to lift equipment from Britain and Germany to Jordan in July, 1958, in connection with the move of units of the 16th Parachute Brigade to that country; and whether he will make a statement.
(2) the date on which the United States Air Force was requested to provide aircraft to carry equipment from Britain and Germany to Jordan in connection with the move of units of the 16th Parachute Brigade to that country in July, 1958, the number and type of aircraft provided by the United States Air Force for the purpose, the weight of equipment lifted from Britain and Germany to Jordan, and the corresponding information in respect of the move of equipment from Jordan to Britain and Germany in October and November, 1958:
(3) whether he is satisfied that sufficient British freighter aircraft are immediately available at the present time for carrying out moves similar to that made by units of the 16th Parachute Brigade to Jordan on 17th and 18th July, 1958; and whether he will make a statement.
Royal Air Force aircraft are fully able to carry out an airlift on the scale undertaken last year in Jordan and the capacity of our transport force is steadily increasing. The initial airlift of forces to Jordan on 17th and 18th July last year was undertaken by the Royal Air Force. United States Air Force aircraft took part with the Royal Air Force in the subsequent airlift to maintain British forces in Jordan as part of the joint measures for meeting the Jordan Government's request for assistance. Between 22nd July and 10th August, they carried some 1,500 tons of fuel and freight to Jordan. No United States Air Force aircraft took part in the airlift of personnel and equipment from Jordan in October, 1958.
Would not the right hon. Gentleman agree that the use of Lockheed aircraft by the Royal Air Force was an essential part of the Jordan operation? Will he give the House an assurance that if the same situation arose today, or in the foreseeable future, we could carry on independently of the United States Air Force?
Yes, Sir. It was very good that this joint operation should have happened, because we were working side by side. Having said that, I should add that it would be quite wrong to suggest that it implies any inadequacy in the available forces of the Royal Air Force.
Then will the right hon. Gentleman say what is all the fuss about the Britannic? Surely, there must be a gap which will last for five years. It is clear that this country must depend on the United States, and that there is no aircraft to fulfil the rôle which the Britannic will fulfil—assuming that we ever get the Britannic.
As the hon. Gentleman knows, most of the equipment to be carried by the Britannic is not yet in service with the Army. It is true that we could not carry it now, but we shall be able to by the time it is in service.
Is my right hon. Friend aware that the suggestion of the hon. Member for Dudley (Mr. Wigg) about indecent haste over the Britannic is hardly borne out by the facts?
Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that in the latest publication issued by the Conservative Central Office on the subject of defence, entitled "The Missile Years", the impression is given that the airlift to Jordan was carried out by private British companies? In view of the information which the Minister has disclosed, will he see that future editions of the publication are corrected?
National Service Men, Christmas Island
asked the Secretary of State for Air why certain National Service men have been retained on Christmas Island for more than twelve months without leave.
I am making inquiries and will write to the hon. Member.
Is the Minister aware that a firm promise was given to these men when they departed for Christmas Island that they would receive extended home leave within twelve months and that the failure to redeem this promise has led to considerable discontent and uncertainty, and avoidable anxiety to their families?
I have told the hon. Gentleman that I am making inquiries. The tour of duty in Christmas Island is twelve months. The only thing I can think of which would cause some slight delay in repatriation is a difficulty about transport. I do not know whether that was so in this case.