Air Estimates, 1947–48

Part of Orders of the Day — Supply – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 17th March 1947.

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Photo of Sir Arthur Harvey Sir Arthur Harvey , Macclesfield 12:00 am, 17th March 1947

I appreciate that, but it does state that only 86 are employed, and I hope that everything will be done to bring in additional educational officers. I know that there are many men who are sceptical about joining because of the raw deal they had before the war. The right hon. Gentleman said that the cost of this educational service was £70,000, which seems a very small sum for a service which requires very high standards of technical knowledge. I should have thought that it would be necessary to spend more than that on technical and vocational training. I hope this matter will be examined in rather more detail.

I now turn to the item dealing with movements. This shows an increase of £2,734,000, and, as the personnel has been cut from 760,000 to 370,000, I do not really see how this increase is arrived at, and perhaps the Under-Secretary, at a later stage, will explain why there should be such a large increase in dealing with movements. Then, the right hon. Gentleman referred to the cost of clothing as being £5,271,000. That is a very high figure. I have no doubt that the figures were drawn up at a time when we had not reached the present economic crisis, and I am the first to agree that the R.A.F. uniform, and particularly that of the W.A.A.F.s needs smartening up, but, if the bulk of this money is to be spent on alteration and redesigning of the uniform, I suggest that it should wait another 12 months, because civilians are in desperate need of clothes, and I think that the requirements of a large Service, as a whole, should wait until we have got over the present crisis.

On the aircraft side, I see the Minister's difficulties, because he is faced with the dilemma of new types coming along which may very soon be out of date if accepted in great numbers, but what I would like to know is what is being done about types of aircraft other than fighters. The right hon. Gentleman referred to Meteors, and there is no doubt that, if in nothing else, we can beat the world in flying. We have seen that Group-Captain Donaldson's record has not been beaten, which is a great testimony to our fighters and pilots, but we would like to be told what types of machine the other squadrons will have. I have been out of the Service nearly 20 months, and I really know very little about it. We are told very little about this Service, and I think people want to know a little more about our fighting Services generally. What I want to ask now is whether the squadrons get sufficient flying time. The right hon. Gentleman has said that, owing to demobilisation, it has been difficult to get the machines into the air, but this is a very dangerous situation if our pilots are not getting a sufficient amount of flying to enable them to keep on the top line. I hope that everything will be done to see that our pilots get enough flying experience, because I think that, otherwise, the position would become really dangerous.

I now want to touch on the Colonies and Dominions, who participate in our air services to a considerable extent by sending officers and men to the Empire Training Schools and so on. Do the Dominions contribute towards the cost? I always feel that the Dominions should pay considerably more than they do for the benefit they get from our fighting Services. At the moment, we are a very poor nation, and I submit that we ought to get a bigger contribution from our Colonies, and particularly from the Dominions, who should pay more for sending their people over here for training. In this connection, I think it would be a good thing to have auxiliary squadrons formed in such places as Hong Kong, Ceylon and Singapore, which would be front line squadrons in those places. In the past, we have had to keep regular squadrons there, and it would be much cheaper to have these auxiliaries, which would also give the local man the chance of defending his own territory, which he has never had in the past. I am sure some squadrons could be formed in Hong Kong. Some attempt was made in Singapore to form a half-Regular, half-auxiliary squadron, but it did not go far enough, and I ask the Minister to explore that possibility.

Finally, I would like to congratulate the Minister on taking over such a fine Service, which has a tremendous tradition behind it. I believe that, given the right lead, that tradition will be maintained to such an extent that it will always be a Service which the public will honour with pride.