asked the First Lord of the Admiralty why officers of the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve of less than three years' service, have in some cases been given command of squadrons of the Fleet Air Arm over the heads of Royal Naval officers of much longer general service and greater flying experience; and whether he will amend the promotion regulations of the Royal Navy to admit of these appointments being held by the officers best qualified by experience to do so?
In certain cases Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve officers of comparatively short service have been given command of squadrons either because they showed exceptional ability and powers of leadership, or in the case of training and second line squadrons, because their flying experience prior to joining the R.N.V.R. especially fitted them for such appointments. The Regulations allow naval officers to be appointed to command of squadrons of the Fleet Air Arm according to merit and irrespective of whether they have R.N., R.N.V.R., or R.N.R. status. Flying experience is not, of course, the sole criterion by which fitness to command an air squadron is assessed.
Does my hon. Friend recognise that there is a great deal of unrest about the discrimination and unfairness, in that men are not always chosen on their merits? This priority and discrimination seem to be rather difficult for some of these men to understand.
The tendency often is to accuse the Admiralty of not giving sufficient advantage to R.N.V.R. officers. In this case I can assure my hon. Friend that appointments are made on merit alone and that it is essential for the well being of the Service that that should be so.
Is it not a fact that a great many of these R.N.V.R. officers have no knowledge whatever of the tremendous amount of paper work involved, and the care, maintenance and organisation of men, and that in some cases they have only 300 or 400 hours' flying experience, which causes a great deal of discontent among regular naval officers?
I have no information as to any great discontent on the part of regular officers. Appointments are made on the advice of senior and experienced officers, and so far as I know the system is working perfectly well.