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Airwomen (Domestic Duties)

Volume 387: debated on Wednesday 3 March 1943

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asked the Secretary of State for Air whether he has examined the case of an airwoman who was directed by a commanding officer to report for duty as a domestic servant at the commanding officer's private address in Cardiff and was given 14 days' confinement to camp as punishment for refusing to carry out this order, the facts of which were reported to his Ministry by the hon. Member for Brecon and Radnor (Mr. Jackson); and whether he has any statement to make?

The hon. Member for Brecon and Radnor was asked to furnish particulars of the Service number of the airwoman referred to, the date on which the alleged incident took place, and the name of the unit. Further inquiries will be made if and when this information is received. On the general question which he raised, as to whether airwomen may be instructed to carry out domestic duties, the hon. Member was informed that under certain conditions such instructions may properly be given.

Will the Minister inform the House how it is possible that the commanding officer of the Cardiff Airport could summon this girl before him last Friday and apologise to her for having illegally "crimed" her, and ask her, or attempt to induce her, to get this Question postponed or not asked at ail in this House; and will he give an undertaking that there will be no molestation of this girl by that commanding officer until he has made some inquiries?

The hon. Member is purporting to give some of the information which I asked the hon. Member for Brecon and Radnor to give me some time ago. If I can have particulars of the date on which the incident took place and the name of the airwoman and the unit, of course investigations will be made, as I have already said in my original answer, and there is no question of any victimisation because such investigations are being undertaken.

How is it the Air Ministry cannot identify this person when the commanding officer of the Cardiff Airport is the person involved?

The reason is that when the hon. Member for Brecon and Radnor wrote to me he gave no particulars of the place or date, or the name of the airwoman. I wrote to him asking him to let me have those particulars, and I said I would then investigate the matter, but I have not yet received a reply to my letter.

Will the right hon. and gallant Gentleman give further consideration to the broader question involved, because surely it is paradoxical for a young girl to be directed from domestic service in private life into the Services and then directed to undertake private domestic service in the Services?

An R.A.F. officer can order a W.A.A.F. to undertake domestic work if he is entitled to the services of a batman under King's Regulations and if he is living in married quarters or some other official residence, provided that certain conditions are fulfilled and that the appropriate W.A.A.F. officer is given the opportunity of seeing that the airwoman's working conditions are satisfactory. I shall be glad to send to the hon. Lady a list of those conditions.

Is it not a fact that if that officer was in private life, he would have to get an older woman to do this work?

No, Sir. If the officer was a serving officer and entitled under certain conditions to live-in in official quarters or married quarters, he would not have the services of an older woman but of a male batman, and one of the objects here is to save man-power.

But does that apply in the case where the officer's residence is four miles away from the camp?