§ 16. Angela Smith (Basildon)
What steps he is taking to improve the retention of pilots in the RAF. 
§ The Minister for the Armed Forces (Mr. John Spellar)
The retention of pilots is a critical problem, not just for the RAF but for other armed forces around the world. Many pilots choose to leave the services at an early opportunity to pursue a second career with civil airlines. Improving pilot retention rates is therefore one of our highest priorities. Indeed, that was reflected in the announcement of the armed forces pay award for 2001, which, in addition to a 3.7 per cent. increase in basic salary for all ranks, will result in increases in flying pay. There will also be the introduction of a targeted financial retention incentive for RAF aircrew of up to £10,000 available for two years, linked to a commitment to continue serving. The scheme is an interim measure pending the outcome of the comprehensive review of aircrew retention that is being initiated.
§ Angela Smith
I thank my hon. Friend for that answer, and welcome the response that he gave earlier to my hon. Friend the Member for Bolton, South-East (Dr. Iddon). Retention levels decreased to an all-time low in 1996, and the measures that he has introduced are welcome. However, can he assure me that the matter will be kept under constant review, and that new measures will be introduced as times change and they become necessary?
§ Mr. Spellar
Yes, I can certainly give my hon. Friend that assurance. We are also in discussions with other NATO countries on sharing experiences of the issue. Additionally, we believe that some of the other measures that we have highlighted today, particularly those on accommodation, will help to assist with retention.