asked the Secretary of State for Air whether his attention has been drawn to the statement issued by the Rolls-Royce firm that unless more orders can be given to them for the construction of aircraft engines they will have to close down that branch of their business; whether he is aware that many other firms engaged in the manufacture of aircraft and air engines are in a similar position; whether the Air Ministry intend to do anything to prevent such a state of affairs; whether he has any information to show how long the aircraft industry as a whole can exist on the present basis in this country; and whether these matters are receiving, or will receive forthwith, the attention of the Committee of Imperial Defence?
My attention has been drawn to the statement mentioned by my Noble Friend, and I am sorry to say that there are a number of firms in the aircraft industry whose orders for aircraft are far below the production capacity of their works. Owing to the necessity for national economy, drastic reductions were effected this year in Air Estimates. Consequently, money is not at present available to permit of large orders for aircraft being placed by the Air Ministry. I cannot give any forecast of the kind asked for by the Noble Lord, but I appreciate the seriousness of the position in the industry and I can assure him that it is engaging the anxious consideration of the Air Council. As regards the last part of the question, the national capacity to pro duce an adequate supply of aircraft and engines in war time is an important aspect of the problem of national air defence, which is already under con sideration by the Committee of Imperial Defence.
Does not the right hon. Gentleman think that a most serious position may shortly arise if this and many other firms in the country are compelled to close down or go out of business altogether, and are the Air Ministry prepared to look upon this and do nothing whatever to help these firms?
asked the Secretary of State for Air what percentage of the total Vote for Air Services is expended upon the actual provision of machines, repairs, and personnel, respectively; how many pilots and observers are on the active list and actually operating to-day; and what is the total strength of other officers and men on the establishment of the Royal Air Force?
In regard to the first question, I assume that my Noble and gallant Friend desires some information which is not contained in the Air Estimates, but I am not clear what precisely it is. The main provision for Air Force pay will be found under Vote 1 of the Air Estimates, and the cost of the maintenance of Air personnel under Vote 2. The money expended upon the provision of aeroplanes and their equipment is shown under Votes 3 and 9. Provision for repairs is partly included under the latter Votes, but repairs; are also undertaken, to a large extent, by service personnel, and it would, therefore, be difficult to disentangle the cost of such repairs from the Personnel Votes. The answer to the second question is that, according to the latest returns available, there are 1,862 qualified pilots and 109 observers. As regards the last question, there are 958 non-flying officers. This figure is partly made up of ex-warrant officers and other specialist experts who came to the Royal Air Force during the War, and whom it has been necessary, for various reasons, to retain temporarily. This number, therefore, will in the future constantly decrease, and will be reduced by about 200 within the next few months. Thereafter it will decrease steadily until it shrinks to a total of 530, which consti- tutes the present establishment of the non-flying list. The number of other ranks is 25,887.