In an Air Force of large size a number of aircraft must always be unserviceable for short periods awaiting spares The current proportion is not, however, abnormal, and the supply of spares is improving. The Air Ministry is responsible for stating its requirements for equipment, including spares, and the Ministry of Aircraft Production for meeting them.
When my right hon. Friend says that the total number of aircraft grounded for lack of spares is not abnormal, does he mean that there has been no improvement over the enormous proportion of aircraft grounded for lack of spares six to 12 months ago?
No, Sit. It is true that the supply of spares has given some cause for anxiety in the past, but I am glad to assure the hon. Member that the position is improving.
asked the Secretary of State for Air whether he is aware that maintenance and repair instructions for air units are supplied, some by the Air Ministry and some by the Ministry of Aircraft Production; that this division of responsibility is resulting in contradictory instructions and to a large number of errors in the spare parts volume; and whether he will take steps to unify the instructions?
The Director of Servicing and Maintenance in my Department and the Director of Repair and Maintenance in the Ministry of Aircraft Production issue instructions within their respective spheres. They are in constant touch with each other and are fully aware of the need for co-ordination in order to avoid overlapping or conflicting instructions. The "spare parts volume" to which the hon. Member refers is presumably Technical Publication Vol. III. This is a schedule of components and spare parts based on information supplied by manufacturers. It is affected by design modifications and changes in manufacturing practice, and amendment lists are issued regularly to all concerned. I am in consultation with my right hon. Friend the Minister of Aircraft Production as to whether any further action is required.
asked the Secretary of State for Air whether he is aware that the Director of Repair and Maintenance under the Ministry of Aircraft Production is stationed in one town, that his technical staff are stationed in another town, that the Air Ministry organisation for the provision of spare parts is situated in a third town, and that the actual supply of spare parts is the function of a director of depots situated in a fourth town; that this system involves inordinate delays due to correspondence and other paper work; that important communications upon which the supply of equipment depends frequently take two or three months to make the complete circuit of reference; and whether he is prepared to consider proposals for a better arrangement?
I am aware that the dispersal to which the hon. Member refers is administratively inconvenient, but in the existing circumstances governing Government Department locations and accommodation this must be accepted as inevitable. Because it causes delay in the transit of correspondence, special arrangements for the delivery of urgent communications have been made. The supply of spare parts to the Royal Air Force is carried out by maintenance units under the control of a group commander whose headquarters are adjacent to those of the Air Officer Commanding-in-Chief, Maintenance Command; therefore I cannot agree that the arrangement must involve any considerable delay in the supply of equipment. If the hon. Member has any suggestions to make, my right hon. Friend the Minister of Aircraft Production and I will, of course, be glad to consider them.
Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that many of those who are responsible for administering this part of the machinery of supply are greatly concerned about the dispersal of the various Departments, and that delays amounting to three or four months in correspondence regularly occur?
I am aware that this dispersal, which is forced upon us by circumstances outside our control, does involve serious disadvantages. I am taking every possible step to minimise these disadvantages, and I am in consultation with the Minister of Aircraft Production now. I shall be very glad to receive any suggestions.