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Children (Education Allowances)

Volume 656: debated on Wednesday 28 March 1962

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asked the Secretary of State for Air what allowances and arrangements are available for Royal Air Force officers and other ranks to assist them to educate their children in this country whilst on overseas tours, and to avoid the problems arising from frequent changes of school.

Allowances are paid for children at boarding or at day schools, at the rates set out on page 17 of the Air Estimates. In addition, children are given one free passage every year to visit parents serving abroad.

I am sure that the Secretary of State realises that the education of children is a very important welfare and recruiting factor. Can he say how the Service allowances compare with similar allowances for personnel in the Foreign and Colonial Services? Are any steps taken not only to advise Service men about public and private school possibilities but also to bring to their attention the possibility of local education authority schools, some of which are boarding schools? My impression is that an airman is left very much to his own devices and that if he is in Singapore or Hong Kong and has no relatives in this country he finds the placing of his children in school a difficult matter. What help is the Air Ministry giving?

The Royal Air Force education branch can and does help, but we have found that, on the whole, parents have strong and decided views of their own about the education of their children. With regard to comparable rates paid by the Foreign Office, our rates are at present lower than theirs but I am, with my right hon. Friends the First Lord of the Admiralty and the Secretary of State for War, discussing with the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether there should be any change.

I understood the Minister to indicate that children who are attending school will be given the fare to visit their parents abroad once a year. Does that concession include children who are not attending school? If so, does it include the children of officers under 25?

That is a different question, and I will write to the hon. Gentleman about it.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that there are hon. Members on both sides of the House who are very anxious about the limited educational standards reached by some of these children? Will he undertake to consult the Minister of Education with a view to improving the facilities which are available when the children do not come back to this country for schooling?

I will gladly consult my right hon. Friend who will, naturally, be glad to receive any representations from my hon. Friend.

We wish the right hon. Gentleman well in his discussions with the Chancellor of the Exchequer on this matter. Will he make a statement to the House as soon as he is in a position to do so?

I have no doubt that a statement will be made, although it may be made by the Minister of Defence rather than by myself.