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Vote a. Number for Air Force Service

Part of Orders of the Day — Air Estimates, 1962–63 – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 12th March 1962.

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Photo of Mr Jon Rankin Mr Jon Rankin , Glasgow Govan 12:00 am, 12th March 1962

Not at all. The fact is, as the hon. Gentleman will realise on reflection, that those wages are not being paid for the production of commodities which are consumable. It is in that sense that the great part of this sum which we are voting today helps in the creation of the inflation that we all seek to modify or to prevent. It is not confined merely to this country; it is going on to an even greater extent in America. It is happening in Russia, in West Germany and in France; and it is creating the world inflation which makes our attempt to solve the problem even more difficult than it normally would be.

I notice another interesting thing. In paragraph 2 of the Memorandum, we are informed that although the total strength of the Air Force has been reduced, the provision for Royal Air Force pay and allowances has increased by about £600,000. That is to say, with a reduction of 94,000 personnel, the income of the remainder has increased by £600,000. I hope that the Under-Secretary is not tying himself to the principle that the greater the reduction in numbers the more we shall pay.

Page 6 of the Memorandum deals with the rôle of the Royal Air Force. In paragraph 13 we read that The Royal Air Force exists to deploy air power in defence of our national interests and in support of our friends and allies. In particular, it provides … The Memorandum then details eight different purposes to which the Royal Air Force is committed. Among these are: to provide strategic nuclear striking power, the strategic airlift of men and equipment, long-range striking power against submarines, and so on. I wonder whether this force, which is diminishing in personnel and has been reduced by 94,000 during the past year, will continue to carry out this wide variety of duties covering the entire world. It has no fewer than eight different kinds of duty to perform.

If it were to happen, as is not impossible, that even half of that number of tasks had to be undertaken at the same time, I wonder whether, with its smaller numbers and its lack of completely modernised aircraft, the Royal Air Force would be able to undertake them effectively.