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Royal Air Force

Volume 645: debated on Monday 2 October 1961

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Sovereign Base Areas, Cyprus (Private Trading)


asked the Secretary of State for Air whether he will make a statement about the extent of the preferential arrangements granted to Navy, Army and Air Force Institutes as against private firms operating in the Sovereign Base Areas in Cyprus.

Within military stations and cantonments, it is the policy of the Services, in Cyprus as elsewhere, to permit private trading only to the extent that the facilities provided by N.A.A.F.I. need to be supplemented. Elsewhere in the Sovereign Base Areas private trading is permitted either where there is a military requirement for it or, if there is no military requirement, where the authorities of the Republic raise no objection under Appendix "O" to the Treaty. In addition, N.A.A.F.I. is, of course, permitted to import goods free of duty for sale to members of the forces to the extent provided in the Treaty.

While a N.A.A.F.I. monopoly in the military establishment is obviously justified, does not the Minister agree that to extend the monopoly to the whole of the base area is grossly unfair to both British and Cypriot traders who used to deal with all these families before Cyprus became a republic? Will he confirm that N.A.A.F.I. is not opening shops in the Republic itself?

I think that my hon. Friend did not quite catch what I said. Outside the cantonments but in the Sovereign Base Areas private trading is permitted in two sectors, either where there is a military requirement for it or where the authorities of the Republic raise no objection when there is no military requirement. In accordance with the provisions of the Treaty, there are certain N.A.A.F.I. establishments outside the base areas. As my hon. Friend knows, we have certain retained sites within the Republic.

As so many of the families live outside the base areas, is it not for their convenience to have N.A.A.F.I. shops, for example, in Nicosia?

Yes. I think that they do benefit where there are retained sites outside. Where they live outside it is a great help to have N.A.A.F.I.

Does not my right hon. Friend's reply indicate that N.A.A.F.I. still has a veto, even though not a complete monopoly, in the base areas? Is it not a fact that many of these so-called private enterprise shops and kiosks which operate in the base areas are licensed by N.A.A.F.I.

I do not think that N.A.A.F.I. has a veto. It is in the hands of the Service commanders to decide whether there should be private trading either within the cantonments or outside them; that is, where there is no military requirement, where the Services are indifferent, the decision remains with the republican authorities in accordance with Appendix O of the Treaty.

Queen's Colour Squadron


asked the Secretary of State for Air what was the cost during the last financial year of the Royal Air Force Queen's Colour Squadron; and how many funerals, guards of honour, drill demonstrations and other ceremonies, respectively, it took part in during that period.

In the last financial year the Queen's Colour Squadron cost about £80,000 and had 112 engagements. These included 11 funerals, 27 guards of honour, 35 drill demonstrations and 39 other ceremonies.

In view of the cuts that the Government are making in much more desirable social expenditure, will the right hon. Gentleman consider cutting very drastically the expenditure on this unit? Can he continue to justify as his predecessors have done over the last two years, over 100 fit men attending funerals and as guards of honour when cuts are being made in much more essential social services?

Yes, Sir. I am satisfied that the Queen's Colour Squadron performs an extremely valuable task in the functions of the Royal Air Force. The hon. Gentleman should bear in mind that a good deal of ceremony inevitably attaches to military life. If there were not a Queen's Colour Squadron the burden which it carries would fall on the individual Commands which would have to use time for training at the expense of other duties.

While agreeing that some ceremonies are a necessary part of military life, may I ask the Secretary of State whether he is sure that the men and money involved here are being put to the best use? Will he not have another look at the whole of this problem?

I have investigated this matter before and I investigated it again, when the hon. Gentleman tabled the Question. I am satisfied that this is the most economical way of meeting ceremonial commitments from the point of view of the useful deployment of men in the Royal Air Force.



asked the Secretary of State for Air what steps he is taking to overcome the shortage of trained aircrew in the Royal Air Force.

We are not at present short of trained aircrew. But we could face a serious shortage within a few years if recruiting does not improve. We have accordingly introduced more attractive terms for direct entry officers. We have extended publicity. We are improving our school liaison arrangements and providing more opportunities for headmasters and careers masters to visit Royal Air Force units. We are also trying to make our selection methods better and to cut down training wastage. There has been some improvement in recruiting in recent months, but it is still too early to say whether this will be maintained.

Is it not the case that enrolments in the initial training schools are declining? Are they declining because there is a widespread feeling that the trainees are getting their air experience too late? Would the right hon. Gentleman look into that aspect of the problem?

As I have said, there has been some improvement in recent months, but I agree with the hon. Gentleman that it is very important to introduce air experience into the flying training of young men as early as possible.

Can the Secretary of State say whether he has anxieties about reaching the target of the Royal Air Force by 1st January, 1963, in view of what he has just said?

The Question is directed to aircrew. The numbers concerned in aircrew are small and we shall not be short of aircrew art the end of this year. The shortage is not now in aircrew but in the intake, and this could have serious repercussions later.

Flying Scholarships


asked the Secretary of State for Air whether he has any plans for widening the basis on which flying scholarships are awarded.

In addition to the 350 flying scholarships now awarded to members of the Air Cadet organisations we plan to make available 100 flying scholarships a year to boys who are attending schools at which there is no unit of the Air Training Corps or Royal Air Force Section of the Combined Cadet Force. Candidates for these scholarships will have to pass the same medical, educational and other tests as volunteers for aircrew. With permission, I will circulate further details of this scheme in the OFFICIAL REPORT.

I thank my right hon. Friend for that Answer, which I think is most encouraging. Will this new scheme in any way prejudice the existing scheme under which flying scholarships are awarded to members of the Air Cadet organisation?

No, Sir. I am glad that my hon. Friend has asked that question. The new scheme is independent of and additional to the existing one.

Does not my right hon. Friend agree that boys in the Air Cadet organisation who are really interested will carry on?

The object of this scheme is to catch boys in those schools where there is not a unit of the Air Training Corps or a Royal Air Force section of the Combined Cadet Force. There are schools which have not either of those facilities, and we think that there might well be boys in them who would like to join the Royal Air Force.

Following are the details:

It has been decided that 100 flying scholarships, similar to those at present awarded to members of the A.T.C. and the R.A.F. Section of the Combined Cadet Force, should be made available under certain conditions to boys who do not belong to either of those organisations. Each scholarship will entitle the holder to free tuition in flying up to the standard of the Pilot's "A" licence at a civil flying club. Tuition will not begin until the pupil is 17.
This new venture will not prejudice in any way the present scheme for the award of flying scholarships to members of the Air Cadet organisations. The number of scholarships available under this latter scheme is very much larger—it is at present 350—and boys who belong to Air Cadet organisations will consequently continue to have a very much better chance of obtaining an award than those who do not. Very broadly, the conditions which will require to be satisfied before an award can be made under the new scheme include the following:
  • (a) A candidate should be attending a school at which there is no unit of the Air Training Corps or R.A.F. Section of the Combined Cadet Force.
  • (b) He should be genuinely interested in the possibility of joining the R.A.F.
  • (c) He should have passed the medical, educational and other tests which are applied to volunteers for aircrew duties.
  • The new scheme is still being worked out in detail.

    Mirage Iv Aircraft


    asked the Secretary of State for Air if he will consider the purchase from Sud Aviation of a number of Mirage IV aircraft for service in the Royal Air Force.

    We have, of course, considered the Mirage IV project, but have 'concluded that there is no need for us to buy it.

    Tsr2 Aircraft


    asked the Secretary of State for Air what consultations he has had with the Minister of Aviation with a view to expediting the entry of the TSR2 aircraft into squadron service in the Royal Air Force.


    asked the Secretary of State for Air if he will take steps to expedite delivery of the TSR2 aircraft.

    Questions on development are, of course, for my right hon. Friend the Minister of Aviation, but I am in close touch with him about the progress of work on the TSR2.

    We and the firm are naturally doing all we can to bring this very advanced aircraft into service as soon as possible.

    Bearing in mind that the V-bomber force will be obsolete in the next two or three years, will the right hon. Gentleman give the House an assurance that the bringing into service of the TSR2 is regarded as a matter of urgency?

    As I reject the assumption on which the hon. Gentleman bases his supplementary question, I should not like anything that I say to appear to give credence to the views which he seems to hold on this matter. However, we shall do everything we can to introduce the TSR2 as soon as possible, but it is not related to the V-force, and, indeed, is not regarded as either a substitute for a V-bomber or a supplement to the V-force.

    Does not the right hon. Gentleman realise that it is about four years since we first heard about this aircraft in the Air Estimates? Will he either not talk about the aircraft or deliver it to the Royal Air Force? While we recognise that he has only part responsibility in this matter, is it not the case that often the Royal Air Force's change of mind about requirements is a factor in the delay in getting aircraft into service?

    With respect, I think that the hon. Gentleman misunderstands the position. The development of a modern aircraft takes anything from seven to ten years. Unless we can give the House some information on early trends in our thinking—and, as I say, it takes from seven to ten years before we can get the final result into service—we cannot be in a position to give hon. Members the information which they ought to have on which to base their judgments. I do not think that we should be taken to task because we have been talking about this aircraft for four years.

    The right hon. Gentleman was not in his present job then, but does he recall that when we began to argue about this aircraft it was said that it was better to go for it than to try to stretch the Blackburn Buccaneer to suit an R.A.F. rôle? It was then said that the TSR2 would be available in service in 1964. Is the right hon. Gentleman now saying that there is no chance of that?

    I am not saying anything about delivery dates on this subject. All that I have said is that we regard this aircraft as a good aircraft, that we shall press on with plans for its introduction and that we think that it is progressing satisfactorily.

    Is it not the case that the French already have in production the Mystere IV, which has a very similar performance to that of the TSR2?

    We think that the TSR2 is the only aircraft which will exactly fit our requirement in the time scale that we are considering.

    Transport Aircraft


    asked the Secretary of State for Air how many Belfast transport aircraft he expects to have in service in 1964.

    I am not prepared to forecast the detailed phasing of deliveries so far ahead.

    Is the right hon. Gentleman aware of the considerable disquiet which is felt about the introduction of the Belfast aircraft? Is it not the case that there have been second thoughts and that a larger form of Belfast aircraft is to be introduced in 1965 and 1966?

    Bearing in mind that aft present we have no strategic transport aircraft of real efficiency, is this not a serious situation, and will the Secretary of State give it careful consideration?

    The hon. Member is once again making a false assumption. It is quite untrue to say that we have no good freighter aircraft. We have some extremely good freighter aircraft, as the Kuwait operation proved the other day.

    Is my right hon. Friend aware that a number of his colleagues two or three years ago gave delivery dates which, it is now obvious, will not be fulfilled for various technical reasons? As there may be a gap of at least five years before Britain has this type of heavy aircraft, even with the dumping of supplies in different paints of the Commonwealth, will my right hon. Friend consider the matter to see whether we cannot borrow from the Americans at peppercorn rent suitable aircraft to see us through what must be difficult months and years ahead?

    According to my information, there is no aircraft that we could borrow in the time scale that would fill the bill far which the Belfast is required. I should also point out that the Bill for which it is required—that is to say, the freight which it is expected to carry—will also not be in general service for some time. [Interruption.] Although the right hon. Member for Belper (Mr. G. Brown) may consider this a cause for jest and laughter, it seems to me that it is an example of good planning, upon which hon. Members opposite so often pride themselves.

    Does the Secretary of State claim that it is good planning to have neither the things to carry nor the things with which to carry them?

    Good planning is to match the equipment and the aircraft at the appropriate time.


    asked the Secretary of State for Air if he will state all the types of aircraft available as strategic freighters and the maximum weight and size of equipment each can carry; what are his total requirements for future strategic freighter aircraft; and what steps he is taking to meet these.

    The Britannia, which has a door size of about 6ft. by 7ft., will carry 15 tons for 2,000 miles. The Hastings and the Beverley—and in future the Argosy—offer some freighting capability over the same range of between 2 and 4 tons. We shall later on need to be able to move bulkier loads too expensive to stockpile and for these we have ordered the Belfast. As I have said, the Belfast will be in service by the time these requirements arise.

    Does the Secretary of State claim that an aircraft that takes freight only through a door is really a freighter? Secondly, while one appreciates the right hon. Gentleman's concern in the distant future to have aircraft to match the equipment then coming forward, would it not be a good idea to have some strategic freighter capacity to move the equipment in the event of its being called upon to be moved within the next five years?

    We moved armoured cars to Kuwait. I would have thought that that showed that we had a freighter which worked.