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Volume 645: debated on Monday 2 October 1961

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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.