House Of Commons
Thursday, 20th March, 1941.
The House being met, the Clerk at the Table informed the House of the unavoidable absence, through indisposition, of Mr. SPEAKER from this Day's Sitting. Whereupon Sir DENNIS HERBERT, the CHAIRMAN of Ways and MEANS, proceeded to the Table, and, after Prayers, took the Chair as DEPUTY-SPEAKER, pursuant to the Standing Order.
Oral Answers To Questions
National War Effort
Advertisements For Personnel
asked the Minister of Labour whether his attention has been called to certain advertisements in the Press of nth March, of the Air Ministry and Aircraft Production Department, calling for candidates with certain qualifications, at a considerable salary, and from the age of 21 and 23 years, respectively; and why the services of the necessary candidates of military age are not allocated to the necessary Service department without advertising for them?
These advertisements are for civilian personnel. The method of advertisement is the most convenient way of discovering candidates with the necessary qualifications for these posts.
Is the Minister aware that he has not replied to the latter part of my Question? Does he not think it rather unfair to advertise for young men between the ages of 21 and 23 when much older men are making great sacrifices?
It depends on what you want.
Cinemas, Theatres And Music Halls (Employés)
asked the Minister of Labour whether, when he considers the reservation of usherettes and operators in cinemas, he will give the same facilities to theatres and music halls where the said usherettes and operators are employed?
The occupation of usherette is not reserved under the Schedule of Reserved Occupations, and no question of according it reservation has arisen. The occupations of chief projectionist and second projectionist are at present reserved at and above the age of 25; and men who are primarily following either of these occupations are reserved, whether they are employed in cinemas, theatres or music halls.
Can the Minister say whether a long course of training is required for usherettes?
No. Natural ability is all that is needed.
I am obliged.
asked the Minister of Labour whether he will consider the advisability of establishing an organisation in his Department to assist Allied Governments in England in obtaining information with regard to labour questions; and whether he will consult the Governments concerned on the subject?
The International Labour Branch of my Department already acts as an information centre for the Allied Governments on matters affecting the employment of their nationals in this country, including the social services and related questions. This information is supplied, either in response to requests from the Allied authorities, or on the initiative of the Branch when fresh developments on labour questions take place as the result of new legislation or regulations. This information service is being developed, and I do not consider it necessary to set up any new organisation for the purpose within my Department.
If my right hon. Friend found that further facilities which would be of assistance to the Allied Governments were required would he be good enough to consider the possibility of increasing such facilities?
I do not mind increasing facilities, but I am opposed to constantly seeing new organisations set up.
Is the right hon. Gentleman making full use of the machinery of the International Labour Organisation, which is not a new organisation?
I think so.
asked the Minister of Labour whether there is any discrimination at Employment Exchanges against coloured people in Great Britain; whether he is aware of the difficulties experienced by many such workers in their attempts to be of service to the nation at this time of crisis; and what particular steps he is taking to ease these difficulties?
No, Sir; nor am I aware that any abnormal difficulties of the kind indicated have arisen. If my hon. Friend has any particular case in mind, perhaps he will let me know, so that I can consider whether there is any action which I could usefully take.
Is it not a fact that in quite a number of these firms there is this discrimination, and should not the Government do everything they can to discourage it, first to increase the labour potential of the country, and secondly to help to remove this discrimination which should not exist in a great democracy?
The best way to discourage it is for the hon. Member to let me have the facts and let me deal with any individual case, and then it would be an example to the rest.
Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the facts have been sent to his Department?
asked the Minister of Labour whether he is aware that the raising of the age of reservation to 35 on 1st April of persons employed in the feature and documentary film industry will prevent this industry from functioning for the duration of the war; and whether, in view of the importance of having a portion of the film personnel employed for propaganda on our war effort at home and abroad, he will see what can be done to allow at least a part of this industry to continue?
Before a decision is reached this matter will be considered in all its bearings, including the importance of films from the propaganda point of view.
Will the right hon. Gentleman bear in mind the importance of this industry from the national war effort point of view? As the age limit is to be raised to 35 on 1st April, there is not much time left, and will he see to it that no precipitate action is taken?
The raising of the age limit to 35 on 1st April does not mean that men will be called up on 2nd April. After the age limit is raised there will be plenty of opportunity for review, but I must remind the hon. Member that preference cannot be given to this section or the other. I have to hold a correct balance.
Lighter Sheffield Trades
asked the Minister of Labour whether he will consider, in connection with the lighter Sheffield trades, the sending down of a technician from each of the Services, accompanied by an independent technician as chairman, to meet representatives of employers and workpeople in order to ascertain the best use which can be made of the trades concerned?
The possibility of making greater use of the lighter Sheffield trades from war production has recently been investigated by the Area Board for the East and West Ridings. This Board includes representatives of employers and workpeople as well as of all three Supply Departments and is, therefore, able to review from time to time all relevant information both as to local facilities and as to the needs of the Supply Departments. The Chairman of the Area Board is always prepared to meet local representatives of employers and workpeople, and I do not think that it would serve any useful purpose to carry out a further special investigation under an independent technician.
Labour Facilities, Newcastle-On-Tyne
asked the Minister of Transport whether, with a view to removing congestion in certain of our ports, he will consider the amount of accommodation and labour available in New-castle-on-Tyne?
I am fully alive to the facilities available on the Tyne, but my hon. Friend will realise that there are many considerations involved
Has the Ministry any specific information where private agreements—for instance, private railway agreements—interfere with the smooth working of these docks, and, if so, are they taking any specific action?
That is quite another question, and perhaps my hon. Friend will put it upon the Paper.
Publishers And Printers
asked the Minister of Labour whether, in revising the Schedule of Reserved Occupations, he will safeguard the position of publishers, printers, bookbinders and others concerned with the production of scientific works and educational text books, especially as the increasing export of such publications represents a definite propaganda value as well as substantial advantages in the matter of dollar exchange?
In revising the Schedule of Reserved Occupations, all relevant factors are taken into account, including the importance of the industry or occupation in relation to the export trade.
Arising out of that Reply, will my right hon. Friend bear in mind how important it is to ensure early publication of research results and of recent scientific experience likely to assist the war effort?
Consideration is given to every factor. A reserved occupation is not merely an age determination but a job determination as well, and these facts will be taken into consideration in any revision.
National Health Insurance
asked the Minister of Health whether he is aware of the difficulties arising, or likely to arise, out of the failure to increase the income limit for compulsory health insurance to £420 a year, as has been done for compulsory unemployment insurance, as many insured persons, owing to transference to administrative and similar positions, or from the receipt of overtime payments, are being forced to become voluntary contributors, entailing the loss of medical benefit and the payment of all contributions due under such conditions; and whether, as many of these insured persons are likely again to become ordinary workers with less than £250 per annum, so having to become compulsorily insured and causing difficulties for them and much trouble and expense for approved societies, he will raise the income limit at an early date?
My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland and I have this question under consideration and hope to be able to make a statement shortly.
Will the right hon. Gentleman remember in considering this matter that overtime payments are of a temporary character and fix the money qualification on basic wages?
The hon. Member will realise that there are long-term as well as short-term issues involved in this most important subject.
Old Age Pensions
asked the Minister of Health what representations have been made to extend the benefits of the Supplementary Old Age Pensions Act to the citizens of the Isle of Man?
I have been asked to reply. Following the passage of the Old Age and Widows' Pensions Act, 1940,corresponding legislation was passed in the Isle of Man.
Is it in operation to-day?
asked the Minister of Health whether, in view of the widespread hardship felt by old age pensioners who,by reason of enemy action, have had to leave their furniture in homes in more dangerous areas and seek shelter in relatively safer areas, and are now being refused supplemental pension allowance in respect of rent being paid for their old homes, resulting in these old people either selling off their furniture or returning to dangerous areas, he will consult with the Assistance Board with a view to reconsidering their present policy?
I would refer my hon. Friend to the reply to a similar Question by him on 23rd January, 1941, but I may add that while for the reasons then stated the Assistance Board cannot provide indefinitely for the rent of rooms no longer occupied, they are prepared to meet storage charges for furniture up to a reasonable amount.
Does not my right hon. Friend realise that thousands of old age pensioners will be facing the heartbreaking alternative of either staying in their evacuation area and starving or coming back to the bombed areas of London, from which they were sent, as aged and infirm people, by the London County Council?
My hon. Friend will realise that this additional provision has been made by the Board since he last raised the question and if I am asked what reasonable charges are, my reply is that we are thinking of about 5s. per week.
asked the Minister of Health whether his attention has been drawn to the case of a man fined 10s. for not carrying his identity card; and whether he will again consider the inclusion of a photograph and other passport details, so that it may be a more satisfactory proof of identity?
Proceedings have been instituted and penalties imposed in a number of cases for failure to produce an identity card within the period allowed under the National Registration Act and Regulations, though I am not aware to what particular case my hon. Friend refers. In reply to the latter part of the Question, I would refer my hon. Friend to the very full statement by my predecessor which was circulated in the OFFICIAL REPORT of 11th July last.
Is my right hon. Friend aware that it is generally conceded that the present identity card is a worthless article, and will he not consider the issuing of an identity card which includes a photograph, the date of birth and also the nationality of the holder?
Perhaps my hon. Friend will first look at the very long answer to which I have referred and then communicate with me.
Is my right hon. Friend aware that I know of the reply to which he makes reference, and that it is not accepted by the public as a whole, who take a very serious view of the matter of these identity cards?
How does the hon. Member know what the public think?
Could not some description at least of the holder be included?
That point was explained very fully in the answer to which I have referred. At the moment I am not able to add to that very full reply.
Would it not be a perfectly simple method of checking to make a person write his signature and compare it with the signature on the identity card?
Would it not be still simpler and more effective to have the person's thumb-print?
asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether his attention has been drawn to the fact that Section 30 of the Civil Defence Act, 1939, which purports to provide for the construction of shelters by landlords of flats, lays down no time limit, no method of deciding whether a shelter is satisfactory, and no penalty for non-compliance; and what action he proposes to take?
My attention has been drawn to various suggestions for the amendment of this Section, which has been criticised from the point of view of the landlord as well as from that of the tenant. 1 have carefully considered the question whether any effective Amendments of the Section could be made by Defence Regulation, but 1 am advised that any such Amendments could only be made by legislation. The matter is by no means free from difficulty, and I regret that I am not in a position to hold out any hope of legislation.
asked the Home Secretary whether he is aware some fire brigades are purchasing their motor accessories at trade prices, while other fire brigades pay nearly full retail prices; and whether, in view of the large purchases made by the fire services, he will secure that all fire brigades obtain the most economic prices?
I am aware that there is some disparity in the prices paid by the various fire authorities for motor accessories, and, as regards vehicles required for emergency fire brigade purposes, I am considering the possibility of arranging for the central purchase of such items as motor tyres, inner tubes and sparking plugs.
asked the Home Secretary whether he is aware that in some districts members of the Auxiliary Fire Service received increases in pay and an extra supply of uniforms at an earlier date to that on which regular members of the fire services received similar concessions; and whether he will take steps to avoid this anomaly in the future?
The concessions to which my hon. Friend refers applied to the Auxiliary Fire Service, whose conditions of service are settled nationally. Changes in the conditions of the Auxiliary Fire Service do not necessarily involve similar changes in the conditions of regular firemen, whose rates of pay and other conditions of service, including issues of uniform, are controlled by the responsible local fire authorities. It is for these authorities to review the rates of pay of their firemen as occasion may require.
Has this particular service a trade union which takes up these matters?
Yes, Sir, there is a fire brigades' union which has certain regulative relationships with the local authorities whose men belong to it.
asked the Home Secretary whether instructions have been given to local air-raid precautions authorities to have all gas masks inspected; and how many local authorities have completed, or are in process of completing, the inspection?
The answer to the first part of the Question is "Yes, Sir." It is not possible to give the exact number of local authorities which have completed the work, but the majority have now done so.
Will the right lion. Gentleman say that he attaches importance to the inspection of gas masks, to make sure that they will be able to fulfil the purpose for which they are intended, and, if so, would it not be desirable to draw the attention of the local authorities to the matter and to press them for information?
That has already been done.
asked the Home Secretary whether, in view of the fact that in 55 cases of detention under Regulation 18B he has not given effect to the recommendations of the Advisory Committees, he is still satisfied that the Advisory Committees are in all cases provided with adequate information before making their recommendations?
All the information which is available is put before the Advisory Committee, and if in a small proportion of cases I have taken a different view from the Committee, this is not because I have any information about the particular case which is not available to the Committee, but because on the same facts I have formed a different judgment as to the necessity of detention for the time being for purposes of national security.
May I ask whether in such cases the right hon. Gentleman acquaints the Committee with his decision and gives them any reason for it?
I acquaint them with my decision, but I do not give reasons.
Are any facts available to the right hon. Gentleman which are not in the previous instance made available to the Advisory Committees?
I have just answered that question in the negative.
Can the right hon. Gentleman say in how many of those 55 cases the subject has been recommended for release from detention and the recommendation turned down?
That, I think, was revealed in the White Paper. I cannot recall the exact number at the moment.
United States Citizens (Restrictions)
asked the Home Secretary whether, in view of the identical aims of the British and United States of America Governments in the present war, he will remove those restrictions upon American residents here which arise from their classification as aliens?
I entirely agree with my hon. Friend that the most liberal policy should be followed in granting exemption from the aliens restrictions to citizens of the United States, and steps have already been taken to this end.
Does that mean that the majority of Americans will no longer have to go every month to get a permit to ride a bicycle or to be out after midnight and so on? Is it not a fact that they have to get such permits every month, and could they not be issued on a permanent basis?
I have communicated with the chief constables and have asked them to administer the Regulations sympathetically in the case of Americans, unless there are reasons to the contrary. I think the House would agree that it would not do to assume that an American citizen should in every case be treated as though he were a British citizen.
Is it not now possible to treat American citizens as though they were British citizens?
As a matter of fact, we cannot treat every British citizen as above suspicion, and clearly it would be entirely wrong if I were to say that every one of a nation of 130,000,000 is above suspicion.
Does the right hon. Gentleman know that many Americans are not aware that they can apply for relaxation of these rules? In a case that I know of an American who made application was at once relieved of restrictions, although they had been in operation for many months.
I was not aware of that. I hope that after this hearty interchange of views they will all know.
Black-Out Offences (Penalties)
asked the Home Secretary whether, in view of the danger to the community from exposed lights during black-out, he will take steps where this occurs, after a first warning, to increase the penalties imposed; and, in the case of aliens, whether claiming diplomatic privilege or any other form of immunity, that they be interned?
In assessing the penalties for such offences it is the duty of the court to take account amongst other considerations of a previous warning, and there is no ground for thinking that the maximum penalties authorised by the existing law are insufficient. As regards the second part of the Question, I see no reason to differentiate between aliens and British subjects in this matter, and I should not hesitate to use such powers as I possess in any case where the circumstances and the interests of national security required action to be taken. As regards aliens entitled to diplomatic immunity, appropriate action would of course be taken through diplomatic channels.
Would the right hon. Gentleman in some way inform the police of the necessity of prosecuting not only the person who actually leaves the light on, but also those who permit it, and thus bring those who are really responsible to court?
That would depend on the facts of each case, but I will keep my hon. Friend's suggestion in mind.
But very often a poor charwoman is charged when it is the employés of a big company who are responsible.
I will certainly go into that point.
Has the right hon. Gentleman seen the reports in the Press about persons who have claimed diplomatic immunity in the case of a prosecution for showing lights, and where such persons are concerned, is he satisfied that he is already endowed with sufficient powers to prevent such breaches of the Regulations?
In those cases I think my proper course would be to take the matter up through the Foreign Office. I am very anxious that this law should be observed all the way round, but I am not sure that there are people who avoid the obligation and claim diplomatic immunity.
But is the right hon. Gentleman not aware that lights have been showing on diplomatic premises and that the persons responsible have declined to obey the requests of the police, and does he think that the somewhat cumbrous procedure of making representations to the Foreign Office is adequate to meet the urgency of the situation?
I will consider that. If diplomatic offices continued to abuse our hospitality, it would be very objectionable, and they would run the risk of an undiplomatic reply.
May I suggest that when the hon. Member observes a light of this description, he heaves a brick through the window?
Prisoners (Air Raids)
asked the Home Secretary whether in view of the arrangements that have been made in a women's prison for the benefit of women prisoners during an air raid, some special arrangement can be instituted, in similar circumstances, in men's prisons to mitigate the hardship of solitary confinement during the actual period of bombardment?
It would not be right to assume that the arrangement to which my hon. Friend refers in the first part of his Question would be appropriate in men's prisons. As I have explained, in reply to earlier Questions on the subject, there are objections to leaving cell doors open or attempting to congregate large numbers of prisoners in one place, and I think that the balance of advantage is in favour of maintaining the existing practice.
Would my right hon. Friend consider allowing two prisoners to share one cell during acute bombardment, especially in the case of juvenile prisoners, and would he bear in mind that in their case solitary confinement under such conditions often involves special strain?
My hon. Friend will appreciate that I cannot commit myself, but I will consider that suggestion.
Fire-Patrol Parties (Equipment Storage)
asked the Home Secretary whether he will authorise local authorities to supply debris material without charge to street fire-patrol parties for the purpose of providing temporary shelter and storage for their equipment?
I am not aware of a need for special storage arrangements for the purpose suggested by my hon. Friend.
Mercantile Marine (Pensions Scheme)
asked the Minister of Pensions whether the crews of barrage-balloon vessels come within the scope of the Mercantile Marine Scheme for pensions?
The crew of a British ship come within the scope of the War Pensions and Detention Allowances (Mercantile Marine, etc.) Scheme when employed or engaged in seagoing service, and this applies to balloon-barrage vessels.
Armed Forces (Pensions And Grants)
asked the Minister of Pensions why a disability pension was refused to Mr. D. B. Thomas, 2, Welch Terrace, Dafen, Llanelly, as, in November, 1939, this man was graded A 1 by a medical board, in August, 1940, he was discharged as permanently unfit for any form of military service; and whether he will reconsider his decision because, prior to enlistment, Mr. Thomas had been in regular employment, while since discharge he has been declared to be fit for light sedentary work only, and has failed to secure such employment?
Mr. Thomas had only a very few days' effective service. He was, in fact, admitted to hospital three days after being called up and was only discharged from treatment three weeks before his final discharge from service. I am advised that the condition which led to his invaliding could not have been affected by his service, and this judgment was confirmed by an independent medical specialist. In these circumstances I have no power to make any award.
Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that, whatever the number of days this man served, for many years previously he had followed an occupation requiring skill and also involving manual labour, and that since his discharge from the Army he has been declared to be fit only for the lightest kinds of work, which are very difficult to obtain? Does he not recognise that there is some obligation to young men who, before being taken into the Army, are able to do their normal work, and afterwards are declared to be unfit? And on the question of the final medical assessment, does the right hon. Gentleman not think that it is desirable for a specialist, before finally pronouncing on a case, to see the person involved and examine him?
Desiring to be definitely certain that my medical officers were right, I took advantage of that section of the scheme which allowed me to call in an independent medical specialist nominated by the Royal College of Physicians. His report was definitely that the man's ailment was not due to his service. That being so, the matter was settled.
Is it not now clear to the right hon. Gentleman that a very large number of individual pension cases will be put on the Order Paper unless some form of appeal against his decision is provided for, and will he consider that matter?
This case was the subject of an appeal.
No, to an independent medical specialist, who gave his verdict.
Does the right hon. Gentleman think that an independent opinion given merely on the basis of the papers, without the specialist having an opportunity of examining the man, is satisfactory?
These independent medical referees can, if they so desire, examine the men. We must bow to their judgment if they do not think it is necessary. There are circumstances in this case of which the hon. Member is evidently not aware, and I shall be glad if he will come and see the papers.
Does not the fault lie with the medical boards, which are not doing their job properly?
That is a matter for the War Office.
Owing to the importance of this case, I beg to give notice that I propose to raise the matter on the Adjournment at the first opportunity.
I shall be delighted.
"India At War"
asked the Secretary of State for India, why the publication, "India at War," describing the military and industrial activity and resources of India and praising the Indian Princes, omits any reference to the democratic life and activity of India; and whether, in order to advance democratic principles and as a contribution to the ultimate purpose of the war, he will withdraw this publication and add to it an adequate picture of Indian democratic political activity?
No, Sir. The purpose of this publication, which was prepared with the knowledge and approval of the India Office, is to describe the facts regarding the voluntary and ever-increasing contribution of every kind which the people, as well as the Princes, of India are making towards the common war effort both at home and on the field of battle.
While appreciating what the right hon. Gentleman has said, may I ask him whether he does not agree that it is unfortunate that so much reference is made to the Princes of India, who are autocrats in their own States, while very little reference is made to the representatives of the democrats, quite apart from the fact that there are some 3,000 political prisoners in gaol? Will he not agree that a comprehensive and objective document setting out the total life of India would be much more likely to be impressive?
The object of this document is not to set out the total life of India, which would require a very full document indeed, but to describe India's admirable effort to sustain the common cause on the field of battle and in the factories.
Does the right hon. Gentleman not agree that it is one-sided to refer to the Princes and make no reference to the democratic representatives?
There is plenty of reference to what the people of India are doing.
asked the President of the Board of Education whether, in conjunction with his experiments in the physical training of apprentices during their working hours, and the effects of this upon their output, he will, in co-operation with the Ministry of Food, experiment also with diets in order to ascertain effects upon output and health?
I will certainly bear the hon. Member's suggestion in mind.
I take it that the Minister agrees that in a modern age it is well worth while finding out the effects of diet upon health and output, and that this would be of scientific and economic importance?
That is the implication of the answer that I have given.
asked the President of the Board of Education whether he will ask one or two large education authorities to provide school meals on Oslo breakfast lines; and whether he has any information from experiments as to the value of this diet in turning existing food shortages to a positive advantage?
The attention of local education authorities has been drawn, in Circular 1520, of which I am sending the hon. Member a copy, to the possibility of providing meals on the lines of the Oslo breakfast, particularly where cooking facilities are not available. Several authorities have done so, or have provided lunches or snacks of this type for undernourished children. I am advised, however, that meals of this type are not less affected by existing food shortages than normal meals.
Does the Minister agree that if the principle of the Oslo breakfast were applied generally to school meals, considerable economies would be affected?
I doubt whether that would be the case.
Has that circular been sent to schools in Scotland?
I do not know about Scotland.
asked the President of the Board of Education whether he will keep in mind the necessity of consulting the local education authorities and the teaching profession respecting proposals of the officers of the Board of Education in regard to the development of post-war education?
Certainly, Sir. The provisional suggestions for the improvement of the educational system, which officers of my Department are engaged in preparing, are intended to serve as a basis for discussion with the other interests concerned.
While thanking the right hon. Gentleman for his reply, might I ask whether he is aware that there is a certain apprehension that proposals from the officers of the Board are considered, while proposals from the teaching profession are given second place?
I think my answer will dispel that apprehension.
asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer the net cost of giving an allowance of 5s. per week for children under 14 years of age in excess of two, in families below the Income Tax level?
I am afraid that there are no statistics which would enable me to answer my hon. Friend's Question. The gross cost of 5s. per week for children under 14 in excess of two, in all families, would be about £29,000,000 a year at the present time. These children include a large number in respect of whom an allowance is already being paid (by way, for example, of unemployment benefit or allowances, allowances to the dependants of men in the Fighting Services, children's allowances under contributory pensions, and so on). I am not in a position to estimate what the net cost would be if these classes were excluded, and if then the residue were restricted to families below the Income Tax level.
Will my right hon. and gallant Friend consider whether it is not worth while trying to obtain this information, with a view to reducing the amount paid in subsidies for food by that amount. and putting the money to this vital national purpose?
I have just said that the statistics are not vailable. It would require an enormous amount of labour to obtain them, which I do not think would be justified in time of war.
Broadcasting Policy (Artistes And Technicians)
7 and 45.
asked (1) the Minister of Labour whether, in view of his appeal to local authorities not to dismiss employés who, in pursuance of the right granted,to them by Parliament, have been exempted from military service on grounds of conscience, he will look into the cases of Mr. F. W. T. Atkin and Mr. J. Clapham, skilled technicians on the British Broadcasting Corporation, who have been dismissed for this reason; although, in Mr. Clapham's case, he was granted total exemption on condition he continued his work at the British Broadcasting Corporation;(2)asked the Prime Minister whether the Government have now looked into the matter of political discrimination by the British Broadcasting Corporation in regard to the employment of its artistes and technicians?
I will answer these two Questions together. The British Broadcasting Corporation have informed me that they have reconsidered the cases of those artistes who attended the People's Convention, and have decided that they shall not be debarred from giving performances on the broadcast in the normal way as opportunity arises. It is no part of the policy of His Majesty's Government to accord the special facilities of the microphone to persons whose words and actions are calculated to hamper the nation in its struggle for life. But the connection between this and musical and dramatic performances of all kinds, or the relation of such performances to political acts and opinions, are not apparent or worth while establishing.In regard to Question No. 7, the rights which have been granted in this war and the last to conscientious objectors are well-known, and are a definite part of British policy. Anything in the nature of persecution, victimisation, or man-hunting is odious to the British people. It is quite a different matter, however, to employ conscientious objectors in highly confidential and responsible technical work. This should be reserved for those who are fully in support of the national war effort. The decision in this case was for the British Broadcasting Corporation, but I cordially endorse it.
Arising out of that reply, part of which will give great satisfaction, might I ask whether we are to take it that a man who exercises the right given him by Parliament, and chooses to be a conscientious objector, will in future be allowed to broadcast music, or, if a technician employed in work not of a specially confidential nature, will be allowed to retain his employment?
If he were allowed to broadcast, it would be in his capacity as a musician, or a musical performer, and would not have any relation to his political or conscientious views. I think we should have to retain a certain amount of power in the selection of the music. Very spirited renderings of "Deutschland Uber Alles" would hardly be permissible.
Does the right hon. Gentleman appreciate that we are not asking that a person's music should be broadcast because he is not sympathetic to the national effort? But, in the case of these technicians, the tribunals have very often granted them exemption on condition that they remain at their jobs, yet it seems that, after that, they are dismissed by authorities deriving their authority from Parliament. Is not that extremely undesirable?
I think that, on the whole, I have stated the view of the vast majority of people in this country.
Arising out of the first part of the Answer, dealing with the removal of the ban upon those who attended a People's Convention, I would like to ask the Prime Minister whether the removal of the ban is also going to apply to such individuals as, for example, the conductor of the Scottish Orpheus Orchestra, who has also been banned with his choir from giving a concert over the radio because he has pacifist views?
I see no reason to suppose that the holding of pacifist views would make him play flat.
Is not the Prime Minister aware that evidently the Governors of the B.B.C. play flat, and will he give a direct answer to the question of whether it covers such cases as I have indicated?
My endeavour is to make them play up.
Golf Courses And Caddies
asked the Minister of Agriculture whether, as on Saturdays and Sundays at many golf courses a number of men and youths are still provided for carrying members' clubs as caddies, he will confer with the Minister of Labour with a view to these men being utilised for work on the land; and whether he will urge on county war agricultural committees throughout the country the necessity of utilising selected portions of golf courses for cultivation where the soil is favourable for a good output?
The answer to the first part of the Question is in the affirmative. As regards the second part, I have already taken the action suggested by my hon. Friend.
Is the Minister aware that a large number of golf committees in this country are suffering from a certain unawareness of the importance of the increase of food production throughout the country, and will he use that charm of manner that he has and try to educate them into making a greater war effort?
Requisites Assistance Scheme
asked the Minister of Agriculture whether, in view of the very small volume of business which has been transacted under the Agricultural Requisites Scheme since the outbreak of hostilities, he will consider steps to increase the volume of transactions, and, as a first step, consider a reduction in the interest charge to borrowers under this scheme?
No, Sir. The Agricultural Requisites Assistance Scheme was introduced to assist farmers who were unable to obtain credit from other sources. The fact that the total assistance given under the Scheme is small is no reason for thinking that it is not adequately fulfilling the purpose for which it was designed.
Is the Minister aware that the lack of success of this scheme, and indeed, of all schemes, is primarily due to the high charges made by banks, and why cannot they make a reduction from 5 percent. to 3 percent., as it is all-important that something should be done in the country without further delay?
There is the alternative reason, which, I think, is the true one, that banks are providing in the vast majority of cases the necessary credit, and those farmers who are able to get the necessary credit do so.
But my right hon. Friend will appreciate that the banks are still charging 5 percent., and that there is no possible excuse for that?
asked the Undersecretary of State for the Colonies whether, in view of the need for the teaching of the virtues of liberty and democracy, he contemplates taking steps to get such education into the schools in the Colonies; and whether he will consult the education authorities in the Colonies and the Ministry of Information in the matter, and consider combining such instruction with the teaching of the English tongue?
The Colonial peoples vary greatly in race, language, traditions and civilisation: and their educational systems must be framed with regard to these differences. But the virtues of liberty and democracy are fundamental conceptions which must underlie all British systems of education: and I assure my right hon. Friend that the atmosphere of instruction in the Colonies is infused with these ideas. The teaching of the English language is fostered as a general policy and is itself designed to unlock for the Colonial peoples, through the teaching of literature and history, the storehouse of those political ideas which are part and parcel of the British heritage. While, therefore, I entirely agree with the spirit of my right hon. Friend's inquiry, I feel that there is no need to take the specific steps which he indicates when the whole course of day-to-day administration in this sphere is set in the direction which he desires.
Would my hon. Friend ask the Secretary of State whether he would consider, in view of the importance of the matter at the present time, setting up a small Departmental Committee to consider how we can improve the teaching of both the virtues and liberty of democracy and of English to the coloured inhabitants of the Empire?
This matter is constantly receiving the attention of the Advisory Education Committee for the Colonies, and I think that in view of this question they will give further consideration to the point put by my right hon. Friend.
May I ask further that the Advisory Education Committee for the Colonies should be asked for a report on what can be done at the present time, and, secondly, whether it is possible to co-operate with the India Office in a similar manner?
I will bring that suggestion to the notice of my Noble Friend and to the Education Advisory Committee.
Aircraft Production (Factory Requisitioning)
asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Aircraft Production whether, in requisitioning factories which are already fully employed, he will make the fullest inquiries as to alternative accommodation, not only in the London district but also in the provinces, and especially in the North of England?
Yes, Sir. Every effort is made to find suitable alternative premises before factories in full operation are requisitioned.
Where these firms are in the provinces, will the organisations or firms in the provinces have an equal opportunity of carrying on the particular type of work?
We must place any of these dispersal schemes as near as possible to the place where the firm is which is being dispersed. We do this from the point of view of housing of the workers and other considerations.
Coal Industry (Production And Wages)
52 and 53.
asked the Secretary for Mines (1) whether he is aware that many collieries in Lancashire do not work a regular full week and the men played off are usually the fixed day-rate workers whose wages, when they fall below the regular week, compare unfavourably with other industries; and will he have inquiries made to see if this can be remedied;(2) whether he is aware that mine-workers are leaving the mines and going to munition works because they are sure of a full week's work; and will he consider the position so that all mineworkers can be guaranteed a six-day week?
The Government have lately had under review the national requirements in coal during the coming half-year, including not merely current consumption but adequate reserves against the contingencies of next winter. This review shows the vital need for a substantial increase in the present rate of production in all areas, and in collaboration with my colleagues I am consulting both sides of the industry as to how this increased production can best be secured. In this connection full consideration is being given to the questions raised by my hon. Friend.
While thanking my hon. Friend for his Reply, may I impress upon him the low rate of wages paid to many of the day wage workers, who for a five-days' week do not get more than £2 10s.? If a day is taken off, think what it means when other industries are paying higher wages and they should desire to go where better wages are being paid. I trust that my hon. Friend will give consideration to that fact.
I assure my hon. Friend that consideration of these points has already been begun.
Does my hon. Friend, in asking and pressing miners to come back to the mines from industries in respect of which orders have been issued by the Government, expect them to be able to go back to the mines without the assurance of a guaranteed week?
My hon. Friend has put the same point in another way; that is not being lost sight of.
Household Waste (Collection, Wandsworth)
asked the Minister of Supply whether he is aware that, on 14th March, an employer in Balham High Road, who has a catering licence for over 50 workpeople, requested the borough Council of Wandsworth to collect from his canteen kitchen waste up to 10 cwts. per month, but was informed by an official of the corporation that their salvage arrangements did not include the collection of kitchen waste; that housewives and women's organisations in Wandsworth are now urging the corporation to organise a general collecting scheme to cover each district in the borough; and whether he will take immediate action to implement this insistent demand?
I have made inquiries, but I am informed that the Wandsworth Borough Council cannot trace having received any request to collect kitchen waste from the canteen to which the hon. Member refers. If such a request had been received, the applicant would have been put in touch immediately with a waste food contractor. The Salvage Department of the Ministry of Supply is in communication with the Wandsworth Borough Council in regard to the collection of kitchen waste and the provision of plant for the processing of this material for pig and poultry feeding.
Is the Minister aware that in the Borough of Wandsworth there are miles and miles of streets and thousands of houses where no attempt whatever is is being made as yet to collect kitchen waste, and that kitchen waste is even today being deposited in dustbins or burned in kitchen fires?
We are arranging for the erection of a processing plant for this material in this borough.
British Council (Staff)
asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs the total number of staff employed by the British Council; the amount of grant from Exchequer funds; and what other sources of revenue are available to this Council?
The Council's staff in this country consists of 46 senior and 122 junior officers. Abroad, there are eight administrative officers and 157 officers acting as directors of Institutes and teachers of English. These figures do not include the clerical and secretarial staff, for which exact figures are not available. In the current financial year the amount of grant from Exchequer funds is £497,000. Other sources of revenue available to the Council consist of an anonymous donation of £15,000, other donations amounting to £1,000 and banking interest amounting to £300.
Is this grant carried on the Foreign Office Vote?
Can the right hon. Gentleman say how these members of staff, who have been appointed to other countries which have been overrun or occupied by the enemy, are now employed?
They are being employed in different capacities.
Chinese Seamen (Wages)
(for Mr. R. Morgan)asked the Minister of Shipping the prewar sea wage of Chinese seamen paid by the Anglo-Saxon Shipping Company and the Alfred Holt Company, respectively; what are the corresponding wages at the present time; and whether, in view of the low pre-war wages paid by some shipping companies to these Chinese seamen, he will not, for negotiation purposes, include the war risk payment which has nothing to do with wages in the increased amount which these men are now receiving?
I have been asked to reply. Some of the crews have been engaged at sterling rates and some at dollar rates. In the case of the Anglo-Saxon Company, the pre-war and present day basic rates are £3 15s. and £5 15s., respectively. In the case of Holts the rates are 31 and 75 Hong Kong dollars, respectively. In addition the former company pays a bonus of £5 and the latter a bonus varying from £3 to £5 a month for voyages in certain specified zones. It is reasonable that in any discussions regarding wages under present conditions, the Companies would have regard to both the basic rate and the special allowances.
British Army (Commissions)
asked the Secretary of State for War what schools were counted as public schools in the figures given of the percentage of total commissions from infantry officer training units, for the period 27th September to 27th December, 1940, coming from this source?
Fifty-two schools in this country and a few Dominions schools were regarded as public schools for the purpose of calculating the percentage to which my hon. Friend refers, and I will circulate in the OFFICIAL REPORT a full list of the former. My hon. Friend will appreciate that, as the commissions considered for this purpose were taken at random, the list should in no way be regarded as exhausting the number of public schools from which officers are drawn.
Following is the list of public schools:
- Alleyn's, Dulwich.
- Blundell's, Tiverton.
- Downside, Bath.
- Gresham's, Holt.
- King William's, Isle of Man.
- Leys, Cambridge.
- Mill Hill.
- St. John's, Leatherhead.
- St. Lawrence, Ramsgate.
- St. Paul's.
(for Mr. R. Morgan) asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether His Majesty's Government associates itself with the declaration of President Roosevelt in favour of all-out aid for China, so far as we can render it at the present time?
His Majesty's Government have noted with sympathy and interest President Roosevelt's recent statement on the subject of China. As I informed my hon. Friend the member for Kidderminister (Sir J. Wardlaw-Milne) on 30th January last, it is the policy of His Majesty's Government to maintain the closest contact with the United States Government in all matters of common interest.
Can the right hon. Gentleman say what is the position with regard to the Burma Road?
I should want notice of that question.
Business Of The House
May I ask the Prime Minister whether he will state the forthcoming Business of the House?
The Business will be as follows: —On the first Sitting Day—Consideration of Lords Amendments to the War Damage Bill; Second Reading of the Public Works Loans Bill and Committee stage of the necessary Money Resolution; Second Reading of the Isle of Man (Detention) Bill; Consideration of Lords Amendments to the Land Drainage (Scotland) Bill, and Motion to approve the Sulphuric Acid (Charges) (No. 1) Order. On the second Sitting Day—Second Reading of the National Service Bill and Committee stage of the necessary Money Resolution. On the third Sitting Day —The Adjournment of the House will be moved, and a Debate will take place on the Concentration of Industry. The Chancellor of the Exchequer will open his Budget before Easter. The actual date will be announced, probably in Secret Session, on the next Sitting Day.
Does the Prime Minister remember that after the last Budget it was suggested that there should be a general discussion before the next Budget was opened in order that the House and the Chancellor might consider the general financial situation? Are we to understand that before the opening of the Budget there will be such a financial discussion?
I should have thought that that was totally opposed to our practice. The Government take the responsibility of framing the Budget, and the House discusses it.
But the Chancellor himself said that a free discussion on the financial position—at least, I think the House thought he said so—would be welcomed by the Government.
Part of the Chancellor's duties is to put himself into touch with the formation of opinion generally, but that is quite a different thing from setting up a precedent for the establishment of a discussion in the House before the Chancellor makes his Budget speech. Such a course would be extremely undesirable when he cannot really take any part himself, and when anything he said or did not say might be misinterpreted.
Will the Prime Minister say whether the House will have an opportunity of discussing the scope of the Government's proposals for assistance to local authorities whose rateable value has been seriously impaired by enemy action?
Certainly, some time will be found in the course of the Session for a discussion on such an important matter as that, but I do not make any pledge. There are many Parliamentary occasions when the matter could be raised.
With regard to the concentration of production and industry, in view of the fact that the proposals are far-reaching and that a large number of Members would like to take part in the Debate, will my right hon. Friend consider giving a second day for the Debate?
We shall have to get on with the business, as 31st March is an important point in the Parliamentary year. I am not sure that it would be possible to do as the hon. Member suggests, but the Government are always anxious to endeavour to meet the wishes of the House.
Will my right hon. Friend consider increasing the length of the Sittings in order to bring it more into consonance with the position in pre-war days?
I am told that actually the Business has been finished every day, but certainly I think we might consider the matter as time goes on in order that the Debates may become more full.
Will the Prime Minister consider an extension of the Sitting on the third Sitting Day, when the concentration of industry is debated, and will he say whether that Debate is to take place in public or in secret?
I should like to ascertain a little more what is the opinion of the House about the length of the Sittings, but in regard to the Debate taking place in secret or in public, I should have thought that obviously it would be taken in public.
Notices Of Motions
May I ask you, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, whether you can now give the House any information as to the facilities available to Members for obtaining copies of Motions for which no day has been fixed?
Since the hon. Member drew my attention to this point a few days ago, I have made inquiries. The present system was decided on as a result of the Second Report, paragraph 9, of the Select Committee on Publications and Debates Reports, 1939–40, Command Paper 133. On 25th June, 1940, Mr. Speaker had a conference with the Whips of the three parties, and it was then decided to adopt the present system. Mr. Speaker gave the necessary instructions and made an announcement to the House on 26th June. The Order Book circulated on Saturday mornings contains full references to all early-day Motions, and files of the Votes and Notices of Motions are kept in the Library and elsewhere. In addition, a special complete file of early-day Motions, showing the terms of the Motions and all names added or withdrawn, is kept in the Table Office at the back of the Chair, and can be referred to there by any Member. I think the House may be grateful to the hon. Member for asking this Question, because, although I cannot comply with his request under the circumstances I have stated, it will perhaps be useful to hon. Members to have their attention drawn to the facts which I have just stated as to where this information may be obtained. It may perhaps be unknown to a large number of Members where the Table Office at the back of the Chair is. They will find that it is the first room on the right-hand side on going out behind the Chair.
Privilege (Newspaper Statement)
I desire to call your attention, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, to a matter which appears to involve a question of a breach of Privilege. I may say that I raise this matter with the deepest regret and reluctance, but I feel it is my duty to the House to do so. It has reference to certain remarks made by the hon. Member for East Aberdeen (Mr. Boothby) in Scotland during the course of the last few days. The particular passage to which I refer is taken from the "Aberdeen Press and Journal" of 17th March. It reads as follows:
I think he is chairman of the association—"After the meeting, Mr. Boothby said to a 'Press and Journal' representative: 'I am in course of preparing a confidential memorandum which contains the full story which could not be put before the Select Committee or any one else at the present time. I propose to hand a copy of this memorandum to Colonel Duff'"—
I submit to you, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, that that is treating the Select Committee of this House with contempt. The hon. Member for East Aberdeen had the fullest opportunity of presenting the full facts to the Select Committee. He now discloses that he deliberately did not do so, but he is prepared to disclose those facts to the chairman of his local association. I ask for your Ruling."' and as soon as the facts can be revealed, I will gladly appeal to the judgment of the constituency as a whole '."
My attention had been drawn to this question shortly before the Sitting, and I have had some opportunity of considering it. As I understand it, there appeared in the newspaper in question a statement, or allegation, that the hon. Member for East Aberdeen (Mr. Boothby) made a statement to a Press representative, which the hon. Member for East Wolverhampton (Mr. Mander) has just read. It is clear to me—and this is the only point which I have to decide— that there is at least a prima facie case of a breach of Privilege on the part of the hon. Member for East Aberdeen if this statement in the newspaper is correct. In those circumstances, it will be for the House to take such action as they think fit, which must, of course, involve in the first instance ascertaining what the hon. Member for East Aberdeen has to say, whether he admits that he did make that statement or whether he denies that he made the statement alleged and in that case any explanation he desires to make.
I beg to move,
I move that Motion, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, in consequence of the Ruling which you have given that there is a prima facie case of a breach of Privilege."That the House do take into consideration on the next Sitting Day the statement which has just been made to the House, and that the hon. Member for East Aberdeen (Mr. Boothby) be ordered to be in his place on that occasion."
I wish to put a point to you, Sir. It appears to me that if the House takes this action, it assumes that a Member has committed a breach of Privilege purely upon the statement, at present unsupported, of a third party. Therefore, it seems to me—and I most respectfully submit it to you—that if it would be in order, it would be more proper that the House should call before it the person who has published the statement to justify his statement, before calling upon the hon. Member concerned.
May I point out that the procedure proposed is the usual procedure that has been followed in dozens of cases in the past? Obviously, the first person whose views should be heard on the subject is the hon. Member for East Aberdeen himself, and if—I am not, of course, attempting to prophesy the course of the Debate—if he states that the statement in the newspaper is false, then the point raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Gravesend (Sir I. Albery) will arise, and the House will have to decide whether it will require the attendance of the proprietor of the newspaper at the Bar of the House.
I have nothing like the Parliamentary experience of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Horsham (Earl Winterton), but it seems to me that if that is in fact the procedure of the House, it means that any person outside at any time can state that a Member of the House had made some statement and the Member has then to be involved in what is, after all, a quite exceptional and highly unusual procedure. In such cases I should think there must be some other procedure that could be followed. For instance, the hon. Member's attention will now have been drawn to this matter, and it seems to me that in the ordinary way he should have the opportunity to attend in his place in the House and repudiate that statement without being expressly called.
The hon. Member scarcely seems to have followed the statement which I made with very great care. I referred to the point that the first question was what the hon. Member for East Aberdeen had to say—I am not sure of the exact words I used, but I intimated that it might be possible that the hon. Member for East Aberdeen would deny the statement. If the House took the course which has now been suggested, it would certainly not in any way prejudge the hon. Member, but it would merely give him an opportunity, which I agree he should have, which is also his duty, of giving the House information in regard to a statement which has been published in a newspaper.
Having heard what you, Sir, have just said, I still respectfully submit that it has been stated in this House that a prima facie case exists against the hon. Member. It seems to me that before this House is prepared to state even that, the hon. Member should be given the opportunity, without being ordered, to attend this House.
I must again correct the hon. Member. I stated that If the hon. Member for East Aberdeen had said what it is alleged he said then there would be a prima facie case, but I am not for one moment assuming that what is stated in the newspaper is correct.
May I point out that there is notorious pressure upon space in newspapers and particularly on the newspaper concerned, as I well know, representing a neighbouring constituency? Therefore, there would be nothing to prevent the hon. Member for East Aberdeen, when he attends, from coming armed with a statement, if necessary corroborative of his own, from the newspaper concerned of what he actually did say. That may dispose of the matter.
I understand that it will still be open to the hon. Member for East Aberdeen, if he so wishes, to correct the statement in the newspaper before Monday—because if the many statements which are attributed to Members from time to time are to be made the basis of complaint in Parliament, we shall find ourselves in this position on many occasions. The hon. Member for East Aberdeen may, in my submission, if he so wishes, correct the statement in the newspaper, and if that correction removes the suspicion, then the matter will not arise. Do I take it, Sir, that that is in accordance with your view, and that if the hon. Member corrects the report in the newspaper, the matter will not arise?
Whatever the hon. Member for East Aberdeen may do in the meantime, he will have to attend this House.
Is it not the invariable practice of this House that, when a reflection of any kind is being made by one hon. Member on another, notice should be given to the hon. Member in question so that he can be in his place and meet any charges or reflections which may be made upon him? I should like to know whether notice was given to the hon. Member for East Aberdeen so that he could be in his place to-day and not be put in the invidious position of having to be summoned and ordered to attend the House, as if it were being taken for granted and assumed that there might be charges for him to meet.
Is it not also a fact that if a Member desires to raise a question, which in his opinion constitutes a breach of Privilege, he must raise it at the earliest possible opportunity? Is it not a fact that if my hon. Friend desired to raise the matter later, he would be too late to do so, and that he has to raise it on the first day?
Is not that a hypothetical point? It would be quite possible to telephone or telegraph the hon. Member for East Aberdeen. I should like to know whether that has been done.
That is a matter on which I cannot give any answer; but so far as it is raised as a point of Order, it would be entirely outside any question of order. The hon. Member who raised the question has raised it in a perfectly proper way, and I venture to hope that I have dealt with it in a perfectly proper way. I should like to repeat, for the information of the House generally, that this Motion which has been made should not be regarded as in any way prejudging the hon. Member for East Aberdeen. It is merely the proper, usual and customary course in cases of this kind, and enables the House to obtain the information which they think they are entitled to have from the hon. Member for East Aberdeen—information which he is entitled to give to the House in his own words.
When a question of this kind has to be brought before the House, as has been said, it has to be done at the earliest possible moment to be in order. It had to be done to-day. I received a communication on the subject yesterday, and I at once brought the question to the attention of the authorities, and certain consultations have been going on. I was not the only hon. Member interested in the matter, and it was only decided—I think I am entitled to say this—a very short time ago that the task of raising this matter should fall upon me. It had to be done to-day or not at all, and I venture to say that in the circumstances I had no opportunity of communicating with the hon. Member for East Aberdeen. The case was clearly stated to me, and it was explained that no action would be taken until the hon. Member was here.
The point which was made by the hon. Member for Gravesend (Sir I. Albery) is a point of substance. There are statements appearing in the Press from time to time which are so telescoped—
Technically the hon. Member has exhausted his right to speak.
May I suggest to the Prime Minister, in view of the fact that the hon. Member for East Aberdeen did not have the usual notice to attend when this matter was raised, that in the circumstances it might be better to substitute the word "invited" for the word "ordered" to attend, since the word "ordered" leads the public to believe that the hon. Member has been prejudged?
I moved the Motion in the proper form, which I am bound to do on the Rulings of Mr. Deputy-Speaker.
It is true that it is essential that this matter should be raised today for the purpose of being in order, but it is not essential that the House should come to a decision on the point to-day. Is not the simplest procedure, therefore, that we should postpone this Motion until the next Sitting Day, so as to give the hon. Member concerned an opportunity of writing to Mr. Speaker, and perhaps blowing up a whole mare's nest? If it is in order to do so, I would like to move that the Debate be adjourned.
What we are proposing to do is to postpone the matter until the next Sitting Day.
We are, in fact, summoning to attend that Sitting the hon. Member, who may be engaged on other work, and travel in these days is not too easy. I suggest that the matter could easily be resolved through the medium of the post and that that would be far better than the extremely formal procedure which is now proposed.
On a point of Order. I hesitate to bring up a matter which has unpleasant recollections for me, but may I point out that I brought exactly the same kind of charge against an hon. Member in a former Parliament and that exactly the same procedure as that now proposed was followed in that case? It is the procedure which is constantly followed. In the case to which I refer, the hon. Member came to the House and made a statement in regard to whether or not he had really said what he was supposed to have said.
Did you give him notice?
No, I did not, because I could not. It was physically impossible to do so.
Question put, and agreed to.
"That this House will take the said Complaint into consideration upon the next Sitting Day." —[The Prime Minister.]
"That Mr. Boothby do attend in his place upon the next Sitting Day"—[The Prime Minister.']
Land Drainage (Scotland) Bill
Order [19th March], "That the Lords Amendments be printed," read, and discharged.
Ninth Report from the Select Committee, brought up, and read; to be upon the Table, and to be printed. [No. 70.]
Tenth Report from the Select Committee brought up, and read; to be upon the Table, and to be printed. [No. 71.]
Orders Of The Day
Consolidated Fund (No 2) Bill
Considered in Committee, and reported, without Amendment.
Order for Third Reading read.
I beg to move, "That the Bill be now read the Third time."I thought it would be helpful to the House if, at the beginning of the Debate, I were to give hon. Members some information in regard to the registration of women for war service and the very important questions connected therewith. I am sorry that my right hon. Friend the Minister of Labour and National Service is unable to be in his place at the moment but I hope he will find it possible to be here later in the Debate. The House, I know, appreciates the great pressure under which my right hon. Friend is working at present. I will do my best to put his policy before the House although I know that hon. Members would rather have heard it from my right hon. Friend's own lips. I believe that all hon. Members recognise the immense burden which must fall upon the shoulders of a Minister of Labour in war-time, when he is entrusted with the task of mobilising the whole resources in man-power and woman-power of a great nation with all the complexities of our civilisation. Only those who have worked closely at this problem, however, can appreciate to the full its magnitude. Not only does it encroach in some degree on the work of every Department of State, but it involves the most difficult of all problems, namely, problems of human relationships. The Minister has had, in this task, the assistance of a staff, of which I think one can rightly say that there is no better in the whole Government machine. It is a standing wonder to me how they have succeeded in putting into effect a whole series of new policies, as bold and as far-reaching as any civil servants have ever had to put into operation. Thanks to the highly efficient machine built up in past years by the patient work of my right hon. Friend's predecessors, the Department's organisation has had enough resilience to enable it to respond to all the demands made upon it. I would take this opportunity of paying my tribute to a Civil Service which, however much we may criticise it with a view to making it even better, is already the finest in the world. I am very glad that the opportunity has arisen of debating this vital question of woman-power, and I am sure that we are all grateful to the lady Members of of the House for having raised it. I assure them that the Government will listen with the greatest care to all that they have to say on the subject and will take advantage of the great experience which they possess in regard to these special problems. No doubt the Debate will range over a large number of the Departments of State, and if there are any special problems relating to Departments other than the Ministry of Labour I have no doubt that some of my hon. and right hon. Friends will be prepared at a later stage to answer for those Departments. As far as the Ministry of Labour is concerned, I assure the House that if there are any points in relation to our policy on which further information is required or on which criticism is offered, we shall do our best to deal with them. The House is probably aware that my right hon. Friend has appointed to help him in his work a committee of women. The duty of that committee is to advise the Minister regarding the registration of women and the best means of securing their services in the national war effort. It is a very strong committee and includes my hon. Friends the Members for West Fulham (Dr. Summer-skill) and Wallsend (Miss Ward). It is a businesslike committee and it has a businesslike job to do, and its appointment may well prove to be a landmark in the social history of the country. I am no feminist myself—
You will be by the end of the war.
I believe that the life of men and women is a companionship and not in any sense a rivalry. I have discovered that women are not only not inferior to men but are superior to them in many respects. They are much more law-abiding than men, as our criminal statistics show, or at least they are not so often found out. They are more patient, more faithful and no less courageous than men, as many occasions in this war have shown. It is, however, clear that women are more individualistic and perhaps less easily used to discipline than men, and perhaps that is why the Minister said last week that it was a very difficult and delicate subject to