HL Deb 18 November 1953 vol 184 cc361-3


My Lords, I beg to ask the Question which stands in my name on the Order Paper.

[The Question was as follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government whether it is proposed to make any changes in the conditions governing entry into the Royal Air Force College, Cranwell, in the light of experience gained since the College reopened in 1946.]


My Lords, cadets at present enter the Royal Air Force College at Cranwell at the age of 18, after reaching an appropriate educational standard and passing the Royal Air Force Selection Board. Thus, entry to Cranwell is mainly from boys whose parents are able to keep them at school until 18. This has limited the field of entry. There are younger boys undoubtedly capable of becoming good officers who have not stayed long enough at school to qualify for Cranwell. We are now introducing a Royal Air Force scholarship scheme to meet this situation. A boy who wishes to enter Cranwell under this scheme will be able to apply for a scholarship just before he reaches the age of 16. He will be required to pass certain tests of flying aptitude and a medical examination, and to appear before a special Selection Board which will include a headmaster. The amount of the scholarship will depend on the size of the net income, within a maximum of £1,500 a year, and the calculation of this will take into account other family commitments and the payment of income tax. Thus, the amount of the scholarship would be £30 a year where the net income is between £1,300 and £1,500 a year. For a net income of £900 to £1,100 it would be £40 a year. The maximum is £50 where the net income is under £700. Where a successful candidate is at a school which charges fees, the scholarship will include also an allowance for tuition fees up to a maximum of £100 per annum.

A boy who is selected under this scheme will stay on at school until he is 18 years old, and will be required to reach the educational standard for entry to the College. He is guaranteed a place at Cranwell, although naturally there will be a further medical examination before he enters the College and the reports from his headmaster must be satisfactory. We propose to award up to 60 of these scholarships each year. I have consulted representatives of the educational authorities throughout the United Kingdom, and I have been greatly encouraged by their reception of the scheme.

My Lords, this scheme is of the first importance to the Royal Air Force. We must secure that the young men who come to Cranwell are of the highest quality and that there are enough of them to fill all the vacancies. They will provide leadership of the Royal Air Force in the years to come. It is the duty of Her Majesty's Government to widen the opportunities for those who wish to make their careers in this great Service.


My Lords, I thank the Secretary of State for that full reply. I feel that there will be a general welcome for a scholarship scheme the object of which is to widen the opportunities for suitable airminded boys to qualify for a permanent career in the Royal Air Force. There are two questions I should like to put to the Secretary of State. First, am I right in understanding that the scholarship scheme is devoid of any element of discrimination; that the facilities proposed will be available to suitable boys at maintained schools on exactly the same terms as they are available to boys in other types of school? My second question is this. Can the Secretary of State give an assurance that a boy who is accepted for a scholarship under this scheme and who subsequently fulfils all the various requirements will be sure of entry into Cranwell? Is there any likelihood of such a boy being rejected, at the end of his qualifying period, on the ground that no vacancy exists at Cranwell?


My Lords, if I may answer the noble Lord's second question first, the answer is, No; there is not. Provided, as I said that the boy reaches the necessary medical and intellectual standard, and that his headmaster's reports are satisfactory, he will go into Cranwell without further examination; and those vacancies are reserved for boys who have the scholarships. In answer to the noble Lord's first question, there is no discrimination against boys coming from any school, whether it be under the State system of education or privately organised education: the scheme is designed for all boys coming from all schools. The only qualification is that the boy must be able to give an assurance to the Royal Air Force authorities that he can receive continued education from the age of 16 onwards. We have designed this scheme to fit into the educational system of the country as it is, and we have great hopes that it will serve the purpose for which we have designed it.


Can the Secretary of State say what happens in the unlikely event of a boy accepting a scholarship and afterwards wishing not to go to Cranwell?


The parents will be required to sign an undertaking on the boy's behalf that, provided he reaches the necessary medical and intellectual standard, he will go to Cranwell. We believe that the kind of parents whose boys want to go there will honour that undertaking, unless some force majeure, some unforeseen change in their circumstances, makes it impossible for them to send him. There must obviously be an element of credit, and we believe that the system will work.


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