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Orders Of The Day

Volume 387: debated on Wednesday 24 March 1943

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Nurses Bill

Order for Second Reading read.

I beg to move, "That the Bill be now read a Second time."

In rising to move the Second Reading of this Bill, I do not think that it will be necessary for me to detain the House long, not because the Bill is unimportant, but because I think that Members who have read it will agree that the subject with which it deals has been discussed very fully in official and unofficial reports over a long period of time. Indeed, there are hon. Members in the House who were members of that very strong Committee who sat under the Earl of Athlone, and they will remember that most of the items which are dealt with in this Bill were the subject of recommendations by that Committee; and I hope that Members will agree that the terms of the Bill itself are reasonably clear to the lay mind.

The main objects of the Bill are three—to secure that assistant nurses should be given a recognised status and placed on a roll under the control of the General Nursing Council; to secure also that the public should be protected from unqualified persons representing themselves as nurses; and to this end it is proposed that agencies for the supply of nurses, commonly known as "Nurses' Co-operations," should be controlled by a system of licensing and inspection.

There are one or two subsidiary points to which I will come later, but it is true to say that the contents of the Bill are broadly in line with the Interim Report of the Athlone Committee. If Members who possess a copy of the Report will look at Part VI of the Report, beginning on page 64, they will find the whole case set out. I should also like to point out that the Bill is broadly, although not entirely, in line with the Report of the Nursing Reconstruction Committee of the Royal College of Nursing, over which Lord Horder is presiding.

And now a word or two about the present situation. All who know about it will agree with the reports that have dealt with it, namely, that the position is most unsatisfactory. There is nothing in the Nurses Registration Act, 1919, to prevent a person from calling herself a nurse or practising nursing without training or qualification. The result of that is that the public and the patients may be, and indeed are, misled. There are many thousands of nurses who are called assistant nurses at the present time, but the phrase "assistant nurse" has no accepted meaning whatever. It describes a great variety of people, some with training, some without, some capable, some not capable. At the moment there are about 16,000 assistant nurses in hospitals doing useful work, and in addition there are a great number doing private work, mainly through the agencies which are dealt with later in the Bill.

One word about the agencies. They differ. Many of them are of the highest repute, others not so high, and there is another section much less scrupulous, which employ a large number of assistant nurses with small qualifications and send them out to patients at high fees without any indication that they are not qualified to give expert attention. Some of them have actually circularised student nurses who have just passed or even failed to pass the examination, offering them high pay. That is the background against which I am entitled to say that the sick may find themselves treated at considerable expense by nurses with little or no qualification, and so the status of the profession may be undermined.

The Athlone Committee in the paragraphs to which I have drawn attention clearly gave two sides to the picture. On one side they called attention to the need for a certain class of nurses who might be admirable nurses under supervision, though not able to reach the high standard set up under the Nurses Registration Act, 1919, which is the foundation of the present State Register. On the other, they drew attention to the need to eliminate from the profession those who might have been dismissed from hospitals or who proved unsuitable or unwilling to continue training. I need not add that the danger of having such people sent out as nurses to attend people in their own homes is, in war-time, greatly increased.

Let me then call the attention of the House to the main points of the Bill. Part I contains six Clauses. It provides for the establishment of a Roll of assistant nurses for the sick to be kept by the General Nursing Council. The House will remember that the Council is responsible for all matters affecting the State register under the Act of 1919. It provides for the making of rules subject to the approval of the Minister of Health, and those rules will cover such matters as the training required, its duration and the institutions in which it can be given. They also provide a basis for removal from the register if necessary and for the conduct of the necessary examination. Provision will also be made for those engaged in bona fide practice before the Measure comes into force, if they have the necessary knowledge and experience. The provisions in this Bill thus broadly follow similar provisions in the Nurses Registration Act, 1919, making these additions to the duties of the General Nursing Council.

In Clause 3 we provide for the formation of a Committee of the General Nursing Council. It is to be composed—as hon. Members will see in the first Schedule to the Bill—of 11 members, six appointed by the General Nursing Council and five—since there is as yet no roll of assistant nurses—for the first period by the Minister of Health. That is to say, I am to appoint five of these members after consultation with the appropriate persons and bodies. All matters wholly or mainly concerning assistant nurses will be reported on by this Committee before the General Nursing Council takes action. I need not trouble the House with Clause 4, except to say that it deals with the necessary fees. Clause 5 provides an assurance of appeal to the High Court against removal from the Roll and to the Minister of Health against refusal to approve an institution.

Clause 6 is very important. It restricts the use of the title "nurse," and it does so in order to protect the public and the nursing profession against unqualified persons operating in this field. Now there is an important issue here which I have had to decide. Hon. Members who have followed the various reports on this subject will know that those representing the Royal College of Nursing would have liked a closed profession. But a definition of "nurse" is very hard to reach, and I have not found myself able to accept the view of the Royal College. I have taken the course proposed in Clause 6, which provides that no person other than a registered nurse or enrolled assistant nurse may use the name or title of nurse. There are certain exceptions to which I will come. The chief abuse at the present time, as I see it, consists in leading the general public to believe that a person is qualified for nursing, when, in fact, she has little or no qualifications, with consequent danger to health and even to life in cases in which, if fuller knowledge had been available to those concerned, such danger might have been avoided. The Clause will secure the object of making it clear to the general public that a person who calls herself a nurse has, in fact, certain nursing qualifications. If, then, private persons choose to employ someone else to look after them, they know that the risk is theirs and that there is no blame either on the profession or on Parliament.

There are certain exceptions to this provision. It is obvious that a children's nurse, the traditional "nannie," has a traditional right to the use of the name "nurse," and I propose to retain it for her provided that she does not use it in circumstances such as to suggest that she is something other than a children's nurse, that is to say, use it in a form which might lead people to believe that she is a sick nurse as well as a children's nurse.

Will my right hon. Friend forgive me if I venture to interrupt him? This Clause 6 raises the only point about which I have had any representations, having taken the precaution or rather rendered the service of submitting the Bill to interested people in my area. The inquiry which comes to me is whether the security given by this Clause is real. Is it not still open to agencies to employ people who are not nurses under some other designation? There seems to be doubt on that point.

I think the doubt can be resolved when I take action in making the regulations, for which proviso (b) to sub-section (1) arranges. It is clear to all those familiar with this problem, and there are many such in this House, that I must take steps to safeguard the rights of mental nurses, tuberculosis nurses, and other nurses of that kind but I want to make it clear that it is my intention to keep exceptions to the minimum. Unless I do so, the restriction of the title would be quite useless, but I have taken power to deal with the matter by regulation because we shall need to consider with all concerned just how far we ought to go to safeguard the rights of those whose rights ought to be safeguarded. I did think, however, that the term "children's nurse" was of such universal application that it ought to be mentioned specifically in the Bill.

The question which has just been raised is one which worries a certain number of hon. Members, namely, whether this definition of "nurse" is not too narrow and whether it will not be possible to get round it by the use of such terms as "nursing sister" or something like that. One remembers the difficulty about the use of "dental practitioner" instead of "dentist" and so on. Is the Minister satisfied that this Clause really meets the case?

My hon. and learned Friend may take it for granted that if I had not thought this was necessary, I would not have introduced it, but, naturally, before the Committee stage of the Bill I will have a very close look, with my advisers, at the point which has been raised to see whether we can make it any clearer and secure that what we intend to do is actually done.

Will the right hon. Gentleman bear in mind, when he is looking into this question, which is a very serious one, the position of Roman Catholic sisters—nuns engaged in nursing—who are gravely concerned, and will he see that they are not excluded?

I am much obliged to my hon. and gallant Friend for reminding me of that point.

The next thing to which I call the attention of the House is Part II of the Bill, which concerns the control of agencies. I need hardly say that the different factors in this question hang closely together. Without the control of agencies for the supply of nurses, it would be useless to restrict the title of "nurse" or to provide a roll of assistant nurses. The Bill provides that anyone who carries on an agency for the supply of nurses shall supply only registered nurses, and enrolled assistant nurses, certified mid-wives and such other classes of persons as may be prescribed. This will mean, in practice, that these agencies will no longer be able to supply unqualified persons. The Bill lays down that the agency which supplies the nurse should inform the patient of the qualifications of the nurse supplied and I understand this is already the practice of the most reputable agencies. The Bill also provides that in each case the selection of the persons to be supplied by the agency to a patient must be made by, or under the supervision of, a registered nurse or a registered medical practitioner in order to secure that a properly qualified person should be in charge of the arrangements on the nursing side. The Bill proposes to make all these agencies subject to licence and inspection by the councils of counties and county boroughs, or, in the City of London, by the Common Council, and it deals with licensing procedure and enforcement, in common form.

In addition, I have taken advantage of the opportunity to do two other things. Clause 13 gives the General Nursing Council what it has not now power to do, namely to make rules governing the training and qualification of sister tutors employed by training schools for the training of student nurses. There is no power to do that now, and I am asking for that power. At present in the training institutions there is a course for training sister tutors, but no standard is laid down, and all those concerned in this matter are agreed that there ought to be such a standard.

In Clause 15 provision is made for the establishment of a new list of nurses by the General Nursing Council. That will be open to nurses who could have applied for admission as existing nurses under the Nurses' Registration Act, 1919, but did not do so for various reasons. Some were abroad, some expected to get married and not to continue nursing, and others were advised by the matron of the day not to register, there being at that time not the same unanimity about registration as there is now. These people are doing invaluable work, and we are proposing to set up a list.

I hope I have made clear the main purposes and outline of the Bill and that the House will give it a Second Reading.

May I congratulate the Minister on his clear exposition of the Bill and on taking another step to clear up certain matters connected with the medical and nursing professions which have wanted clearing up for a long time? I rise to give the Bill, which is the final blow at Sairey Gamp, more or less general support and to make one or two suggestions of a critical nature into which the Minister may look later. The first thing that I think is worth noting is that local authorities have been consulted with the draft of this Bill and have approved it in principle, as has, also, the Royal College of Nurses, to which most nurses belong. I think it is well that that point should be made clear, so that it may be realised that this Bill has not suddenly come "out of the blue," without those intimately connected having an opportunity of considering its provisions. The Bill gives recognition to an excellent and deserving body of people who up to now have had to do the disagreeable part of nursing, who have been most concerned with the chronic cases, have done all the drudgery, and have had little or no recognition. It also clears a bottleneck in that it enables a better flow of nurses to come forward and, by no means least, ensures a better scale of remuneration. I would like to quote a brief passage from the Athlone Report, which has been copied in the Rushcliffe Report:

"It is essential, however, to make it clear that we contemplate that, whatever scales of salaries may be ultimately established, they should show a marked improvement over the scales at present in operation, and should approximate to those in force in other comparable spheres of employment."
What is puzzling to many of us is that callings like nursing, concerned with the highest duties of life, have been paid below what is a decent living wage.

I do not think the general scale of the remuneration of the nursing profession comes within the scope of this Bill.

I am only referring to assistant nurses, who are among the worst paid and treated. However, I understand that because of the heavy demands being made upon the nursing profession just now—and we hope they will not be heavier, but they may be—the need for raising the standard of assistant nurses will be realised. It is incorrect to say that this Bill means lowering the standard of nurses. Let us look at the definition of "assistant nurses" as given in the Report. It states:

"Category A.—Those possessing a certificate of two years' training as an assistant nurse given by a local authority, e.g., that given by the Essex County Council."
The Essex County Council has probably done more in the way of training assistant nurses than any other local authority. Others have followed their example, but I think Essex deserves the chief credit. The definition goes on:
"Category B.—Those in training for such a certificate.
Category C.—Those who have had at least two years' training in a training school approved by the General Nursing Council.
Category D.—Those who have worked two years on nursing duties at a hospital under the supervision of trained nursing staff.
Category E.—Others employed in nursing in a hospital or an institution."
I think that is what the Minister means when he talks about assistant nurses. The Royal College of Nurses would make it a closed profession. The point was put to me that this Bill purported to do that. It does not. What it does do is to restrict the use of the term "nurse" so that those people who go about in various kinds of uniform and are engaged at high prices which are not at all commensurate with their qualifications will not find things so easy in the future. People who come on the list will have to satisfy certain authorities that they are competent to carry out nursing which will be helpful and efficient. The Bill also breaks down to a great extent a good deal of the snobbery which has pervaded the profession. More than that I will not say now, as I see that you, Mr. Speaker, are rising in your Chair. But that in itself is well worth while.

The Minister indicates that a Committee will be set up, as stated in the First Schedule as follows:
"The Committee shall consist of six persons appointed by the Council and five representatives of assistant nurses."
I think there is a danger here that the assistant nurses may get a raw deal from the General Nursing Council, and I hope the Minister will look into this point again, as they are placed in a minority. I do not put this point of view forward solely on my own initiative; I have also had the advice of people intimately connected with the profession, who see possible dangers here. The other important thing which the Bill does is to place the licensing on a national basis, apart from the conditions which apply in localities at the present time. That in itself is a good thing. Moreover the Bill will prevent unqualified persons from calling themselves nurses. I wonder whether the Minister would think it worth while considering if something can be done to guard against extortionate charges. That is a danger that obtains now. For instance, would it be possible to have a fixed tariff and to have it deposited with the local authorities, so as to prevent charges from going up to fancy levels?

With regard to an agency that has its licence revoked, what is to prevent that agency from going over the border into the area of another local authority and setting up a business there? I think the Minister ought to look into the question whether steps can be taken to safeguard against this. In the case of agencies wanting to set up a business, perhaps there could be some provision regarding the giving of assurances that they have not been in business somewhere else or, if they have been, the reasons they went out of business and want to start afresh. Probably this could be done if the Minister were himself more or less the central agent, so that everything would be reported to him and he would have available the reasons agencies have closed down. I mention this because in other connections and in other organisations that sort of thing is happening at the present time, and bodies which have fallen out of favour because they have broken the rules established by one local authority move from London to Essex, or vice versa, and again carry on practices that have been found undesirable.

Having made those remarks, I have great pleasure in congratulating the right hon. Gentleman on the introduction of the Bill, which is a step in the right direction and which comes at a time when it looks as if we may very much need the assistance of these people. What must be re- membered is that examinations do not always tell everything. The difficulty which assistant nurses very often have in obtaining higher certificates arises from the fact of their having left school at a very much earlier age; but they possess qualities which are very essential in nursing and which are brought out in the practice of if. No doubt the precautions provided in the Bill will lead to a certain weeding out, but at the same time there are provisions to safeguard those who have some vested rights and who have proved themselves efficient in the calling. I think one may feel that all necessary precautions are taken in the Bill, subject to a review of the one or two points I have raised, and that the House may well give the Bill a welcome.

I expect we shall not want to give a great deal of time to the discussion of this Bill, because probably it will get fairly general support, but I think there are one or two observations that may usefully be offered. First of all, the Minister is to be congratulated on having implemented the Report of the Royal College of Nursing so very rapidly. It is rather a custom in this country to favour the unqualified practitioner. I do not know whether it is our natural proclivity for betting which encourages people to go to quacks rather than to registered and well known men, but undoubtedly, particularly in the health services, there is every reason why trained and qualified practitioners should be recognised by the State, so that ordinary people may know whether they are dealing with properly qualified men. In this Bill the Minister has gone a very long way to close the nursing profession, in fact if not in actual words in the Bill, but I hope he will watch the situation and that if he finds that a prohibition upon the use of titles is not sufficient, he will be prepared later on to come to the House with additional suggestions.

There has been rather substantial opposition to the proposals of the Royal College of Nursing, although that opposition, perhaps because the time was not sufficient, has not come out into the open against the Second Reading of the Bill. The opposition seems to be based mainly upon fears of dilution. It would seem that fears on that ground are more or less baseless. First of all, there is an enormous demand for nurses. The assist- ant nurses are in fact there, and no new set of people is being brought into the calling. There is also the probability of a universal medical service coming into being in the course of months, let us hope—[Interruption]—and that will undoubtedly increase the demand for nurses and assistant nurses. I say months, but it is open to other hon. Members to put their own time on it. There is also, of course, the third fact that it is not unknown for a nurse to get married and it is highly probable that gradually a large number of these assistant nurses will get married. Consequently, I do not think the fear of dilution need be very great.

I have received and possibly other hon. Members have also, a memorandum from the British College of Nurses, Ltd., which contains some very detailed criticisms of the Report of Lord Horder's Committee. I need, I think, refer only to two paragraphs in that memorandum. In one paragraph they say that the suggestions for the education of semi-trained assistant nurses would degrade the standards of nursing education and could only result in depreciating nursing as a profession for educated women. I should imagine the result would be entirely opposite to what is suggested in that criticism. Later on in the memorandum it is stated that the proposal that the assistant nurse should have all the economic privileges of the registered nurse could only have the result of eliminating the registered nurse from the body politic as it would prevent educated women from entering the nurses' training schools. I am sure that criticism is based entirely on a misapprehension. So long as there are higher educational qualifications available, so long will the great bulk of the women do their very best to achieve them. I think that probably the best answer to this series of criticisms is that of the 22 recommendations which Lord Horder's Committee made, the British College of Nurses, Ltd., has disagreed with 21 of them and agreed with one only. That probably is a fair measure of the value of those criticisms.

There will probably be some Amendments which some of us may wish to put down on the Committee stage. I would like to make only two observations on the details of the Bill at the present time. One is that I think it a great pity that the fee annually for assistant nurses should be only 2s. 6d. I know it is the fee for a registered nurse, but in this world we tend to value things according to what we pay for them, and I should have thought that some higher fee would give a better sense of the value of registration than a mere half-crown. Another point is with regard to the disciplinary control of assistant nurses. I have some experience of the working of a domestic disciplinary committee, and I hope it will be found possible for some legal advice, possibly a legal chairman or assessor, to be placed at the disposal of the Committee. I can imagine some difficult question arising where such help would be useful.

I believe the Bill will go a long way towards putting the nursing profession in a very sound position, and it should be implemented by all those who employ nurses seeing that they get the best possible conditions of service. I hope the General Nursing Council will not keep these assistant nurses in a sort of concentration camp. They ought to be encouraged by every possible means to take the training and to pass the examinations which will put them on the full register as registered nurses, and one hopes that the new grade will be received by the General Nursing Council in that spirit so that the whole profession can be welded together.

I am sure everyone who is interested in the question of health and the care of the sick will welcome anything that tends to make the service one that can be reliable. One fact that we have to face is that we have assistant nurses. They are here, and, if it were not for them, the problem with regard to nursing man-power would be just that degree more serious that it is. There are those who say we ought not to have assistant nurses at all. We have not got assistant doctors; why should be have assistant nurses? Are there any sick people who should be cared for by those not having the highest qualifications? As one intimately connected with administration, I have to admit that we owe a great deal to the Cinderella of the nursing profession, the assistant nurse. Let us examine her as we find her. The nurse who has failed in her examination often becomes an assistant nurse. There is the nurse who started training and did not get on with it, probably broke off with it and came back as assistant nurse. There is still the V.A.D. of the last war, and there are those who just found themselves in a hospital or institution where they could be made assistant nurses. We have those varied types, and up to now nothing has been done to lay down any minimum standard that the assistant nurse should have, so that all those who are seriously interested must welcome the opportunity of controlling them. I also think that one must pay some attention to the criticism of the State registered nurse and the suggestion in the Bill of putting these assistant nurses on the roll. You can give them what title you like, but, if you put them on the roll, which of course is only another name for a register, under the General Nursing Council they will be State registered nurses. There are some people who favour placing them on a register directly compiled by the Ministry of Health or the Ministry of Labour.

I do not know that I would favour anything that would attempt to stigmatise a section of people, and I believe the qualities of nursing are not necessarily found in the intellectual capacity to pass an examination. Something more than intellect is wanted in nursing and something more than physical strength. There are human qualities. Nurses would not remain nurses unless they had a deep sympathy and interest in their work. Patience, perseverance and care are wanted and the tenderness of dealing with difficult subjects. This is the profession that we praise. We call them angels and treat them like menials. I am deeply interested in the nurses but more interested in the patients, and I want to be assured that, when the Minister's regulations come to be considered, assistant nurses are to be given a specific type of work to do. In the main, assistant nurses are employed by local authorities—not many of them by private hospitals—and in the main they are employed on what is called chronic work. The chronic case is very much misunderstood. It is a comprehensive term in which there are the aged and the senile, as well as cases of real sickness of long duration which require careful nursing, such as rheumatoid and other arthritis, etc. I want to be assured that the position of assistant nurse may be covered by regulation. I do not want to see a section of the sick nursed through varying phases by nurses who are not qualified to do it, so that the qualification of the assistant nurse should be sufficient to justify a nurse doing specific types of work. I think the community owes it to the nurse to secure her against the possibility of the grave situation in which she has found herself up to now, and it is a healthy sign that the Government themselves are turning their attention to the economic position of the nursing profession.

There are one or two other matters in the Bill which are long overdue and upon which every congratulation ought to be given to the Government. Those not familiar with the question will be very interested to know what has happened in regard to nursing agencies. Some of them call themselves co-operationists, but they are a long way from being anything in the nature of co-operative. They are merely employment agencies, and what they do is to farm out nurses. We have had nurses in a hospital with which I am connected, and as soon as they have gone on to the State register they have gone into the co-operative because they have been able to get higher wages. These agencies have held local authorities to ransom. Quite recently the London County Council called into conference representatives of the whole of the Home Counties health authorities to deal with the claims that were being made by these agencies for, I will not say too high salaries, but such salaries as made it almost impossible for us to compare them with our ordinary staffs. I am very pleased that the Bill proposes to control them, and, in controlling them, it will give the health authorities of the local councils the right of inspection and licensing, so that in the event of anything happening which would justify their removal they would not be able to continue. I hope the Minister will give some consideration to the point that, if they are removed in one county, they will not be able to set up in another.

Another point is the indiscriminate use of the title "nurse." Anyone can call herself a nurse at present; it does not matter whether she has had any training or experience. This applies to men as well as to women. The loose and indiscriminate use of the title "nurse" means that the public can be deceived, and the importance of the work done by nurses is such that such a deception is worse than a material one. We ought to take steps to see that the public cannot be imposed upon by someone not qualified to do the job.

I put a question to the Minister a few weeks ago and was disappointed with the answer, but I find that my question is answered in the Bill. I have always had very deep sympathy for nurses who have been through their training, passed their theoretical and practical examinations and actually got their training school certificates but are not on the register because they did not apply in time when the register was first formed. The Minister has done a generous thing which will not injure anybody. It will not injure the rest of the State registered nurses, but it will help these nurses to get on the register. They have exactly the same qualifications, they have their training school certificates and they have done all that has been required of them except the technical matter of having their names put on the State register. This Bill will make them State registered nurses, and to that extent the Minister has done a useful piece of work.

My last point is in connection with male nurses. Why should we secure the patient against the untrained nurse when the untrained nurse is a woman and not secure the patient against the untrained nurse who is a man? The male nurse can be trained. He can reach the standard which is required and pass every examination which is set, but he can never become a State registered nurse. There is no place on the general register for him. Why not? The argument that is advanced is that a man cannot be put on the register because male nurses do not study certain subjects which are taken by female nurses. There is no reason why he should not study these subjects. There are, however, different qualifications in the nursing profession. There are nurses who get their training school certificates and others who get their midwifery certificates. There are others, too, who get their "T.B." and those who get their "fever." All nurses are not exactly the same standard. Why should we not, therefore, say to the man that, provided he reaches the standard which is required for the particular type of work he does, he will be put on the register? I would ask the Minister to reconsider his attitude on this point. The number is not large, but there is a special type of work which can be done by male nurses.

The Bill in general is a good Bill. What we can do to tidy up what has been a very untidy profession in the past deserves the encouragement and support of all right-thinking people. I would like to see the nursing profession a real profession. The difficulties of nursing, because of the complexity of medical treatment, become more and more varied. We have a type of woman now nursing who is doing work much more difficult than the work that was done 20 years ago. We have nurses taking risks that were unthought of years ago. We have such an advance in medicine, which depends so largely on the nurse, that I am glad that steps are being taken to bring her to her rightful place in this co-operative service. One may have the cleverest surgeon to perform an operation and a good medical man to make the diagnosis, but the patient relies on one who is doing not only the day-to-day work but the hour-to-hour work in the ward. The sisters and nurses who are doing that work are deserving not only of protection but of recognition, so that they can have their rightful place in the most humane service to which we can put our hands.

The hon. Member for South Tottenham (Mr. Messer) has given us, as he always does, the benefit of a wide experience in these matters to which I can lay no sort of claim. The subject of this Bill, however, is one in which every one of us must take a real personal interest. I suppose that we owe our very survival in the first instance to nurses, and I imagine that there are few of us who reach any considerable age without adding to the debt which we owe to the nursing profession. Certainly great strides have been made in our consideration of it in the last 100 years. Reference has been made to Sairey Gamp, who flourished about 100 years ago. Since her day we have had, fortunately for us, the Lady of the Lamp, and from that time the public have always been willing to accord some sort of halo to the nursing profession. But even ministering angels want something more solid than a halo as a basis for life, and I welcome this Bill because it goes a good way to provide that something. It means a real advance in status for a great number of nurses, and from the public point of view, which is even more important, it assures the qualifications which nurses shall possess. About 100 years ago Praed told us that among his many preoccupations he wrote "Hints to Noble Lords—and Nurses," though I always suspected he put in "Nurses" merely for the sake of a convenient rhyme. That shows in what a desultory manner nurses were expected to pick up their education in those days. This Bill will put them on a better basis while providing for proper examinations to be passed. That will be an excellent thing for the nursing profession. A Bill of this sort, however we look at it, must mean a certain restriction of liberty. For that reason it should be carefully and closely scrutinised by this House. My opinion is that the Bill will stand up to such a scrutiny. In a Bill of this sort we have to safeguard the rights of existing practitioners, as has been done in charters granted to other professions. Here again I think that the Bill stands well up to examination.

I should like to ask for enlightenment on one or two small points. I take it that all voluntary hospitals are included in the description in Clause 11, Sub-section (1), but I should like to know what is the position of cottage hospitals under this Clause. In Clause 14 it is indicated that the approval of Parliament has to be sought for the rules and regulations made. In war-time delay is dangerous and must be avoided, but this is really a peacetime Measure, and I do not think there is any great hurry about it. Therefore, I should be much happier if the rules made did not come into force until after the 40 days during which Parliament may express its opinion had expired. I wonder whether the Minister will consider an Amendment on those lines. In the First Schedule it is laid down that the first members of the Committee are to hold office for three years or such longer period as the Minister may from time to time determine. Should there not be a maximum time? It may not be considered necessary, but I should have thought that a maximum of five years might be desirable. With these small criticisms I welcome the Bill and hope that the House will give it a Second Reading.

May I join with those who have offered congratulations to the Minister upon sub- mitting this Bill to the House? The nursing profession is one which calls for many and varied attainments from its members. On the one hand, there may be required highly skilled and technical knowledge. On the other hand, what may be required from nurses is a kindly, sympathetic attendant with some training but with few if any paper qualifications. The Inter-Departmental Committee of 1939, the Athlone Committee, for the first time formally recognised the second grade of assistant nurse—less highly trained than the State registered nurse, but at the same time undertaking important and necessary nursing duties. The Bill gives recognition to the assistant nurse and for that reason is to be warmly welcomed. I agree that just as the General Nursing Council is the appropriate body for the register of duly qualified nurses, so it should keep the roll—that is the distinction—of the assistant nurses. I do not consider, however, that the General Nursing Council is the appropriate body to prescribe the training, its duration, the institutions at which training should be given, and the conduct of examinations. My alarm at that provision in the Bill is enhanced by the Minister's suggestion that the profession wish to keep it a closed one.

The problems associated with assistant nurses are those affecting public hospitals and institutions under the control of county councils and county borough councils. In the main it is a problem of providing for the nursing of the chronic sick. If I may, I will quote from the admirable summary of the P.E.P. Report dealing with the Health Services issued in 1939:
"To-day the public hospitals provide nearly three-quarters of the available hospital beds, including most of those for infectious diseases, tuberculosis and maternity, and they deal with the bulk of the chronic cases."
I am aware that the Hospital Year Book gives a list of hospitals which admit chronic cases, but most of those hospitals are small, and some of them are restrictive as to the type of cases they will take. Some indicate that they will not accept chronic cases of cancer, or senile cases. These voluntary institutions cannot in any way be compared with an institution like Fir Vale, administered by the county borough of Sheffield, where there are more than 1,000 bed-ridden or, to use an expressive North-country term, "bed- fast," cases. Fir Vale has 250 assistant nurses, and they have to deal with men and women suffering from rheumatoid arthritis, diabetes and acute carcinoma and senile cases. That is typical of conditions in many other large public hospitals under the control of county councils or county boroughs. Voluntary hospitals will not keep the chronic cases. That is not a matter of reproach to the voluntary hospitals, whose job is a curative one, but the chronic cases turned out from voluntary hospitals have to go somewhere and they find their way to the municipal hospitals, and assistant nurses are administering to their needs.

I submit with respect that the General Nursing Council have no knowledge of these problems. As far as I can gather from the scanty published information, all the nurse members are retired matrons or matrons actively associated with voluntary hospitals. While official recognition is given in the Bill to assistant nurses, I submit that it is vitally important that the training and other conditions for assistant nurses should be prescribed by those who have some knowledge of the problems of nursing the chronic sick. I wish I were able to give to the. House some picture of the conditions in an incurable cancer ward—the sloughings from the wounds, the horrible stench, the problems of looking after the doubly incontinent, and so on. I am glad that at long last some official recognition is given to those men and women who so cheerfully undertake those very unpleasant duties, but I am more than anxious that their conditions should not be worsened by having on the proposed assistant nurses' committee a majority of people who have absolutely no knowledge at all or practical experience of the problem of the public hospitals. May I therefore respectfully submit to the Minister that he should consider withdrawing the Clauses placing responsibility on the General Nursing Council and take power under a new Clause himself to appoint six members, and see that he appoints women who have had some practical experience of the work of a chronic hospital?

In regard to the Clauses designed to bring what are known as Nurses' Co-operations under a system of licensing and inspection, while I readily acknowledge that the proposals in the Bill may have the effect of preventing one of the most glaring evils, the supplying of a person as a nurse whose only qualifications are that she has a birth certificate and has been vaccinated, I am sorry to say that the proposals fall far short of what is really required. I have here an advertisement which appeared in the "Nursing Mirror" of 20th March. I am not going to discuss salaries, in view of the Ruling of Mr. Speaker. The advertisement says:
"Vacancies regularly occur in London, Middlesex and provincial county hospitals and nursing homes at these weekly salaries: Assistant Nurses £2 9s. to £2 12. 6d. per week——."

By reading out a list of salaries the hon. Member is obviously opening the Debate very wide to a discussion of salaries.

With respect, the point I was going to make is a simple one. It is that these relatively high salaries as compared with the salaries paid in the hospitals attract nurses from the hospitals to the "co-ops," to the detriment of the public hospitals. What happens is that a matron of a hospital which is short of staff——

I think the hon. member really must leave this point, because if under the procedure we are not allowed to discuss salaries and we begin discussing the attracting of people from one part of a profession to another by means of salaries, it opens the whole subject of salaries.

I bow to your Ruling, Sir, and will only say in a general way that partly-trained or trained nurses are supplied by the "co-ops" to hospitals and at rates far higher than those which the hospitals pay, and the difference between what the nurse gets and what is paid by the hospital is a rake-off for the nursing "co-ops." The Bill provides for the inspection of the "co-ops" by the local authorities. In many cases the place consists of one room with one person and a telephone. While I admit there is some improvement, in effect this Bill legalises a racket. I suggest to the Minister that he should withdraw these Clauses and place upon the medical officers of health in county boroughs and counties the responsibility for keeping a register of nurses or midwives available for relief work or for private practice. I would com- pare the methods of the "co-ops" with the truly noble work performed, often under miserable conditions, by district nursing associations, both in the towns and in the rural areas. How can we ever have a comprehensive medical and nursing service while the nursing "co-ops" remain exploiting the needs of the suffering? I hope the hon. Lady the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister, with her wide knowledge and sympathetic understanding of these difficult questions, will appreciate that I have tried to help, and I should again like to express my thanks to the Minister for his speech and for the Bill. The Minister has the opportunity of producing a real charter for assistant nurses, but in all seriousness, and speaking from my experience first as an appointed Poor Law guardian in 1929–30 and as chairman until recently of a public assistance committee under a county borough council, I would warn him that if the General Nursing Council dominates by a majority the assistant nurses committee, restrictive conditions may be prescribed which will hamper recruitment and may make more difficult the task of those who have to administer institutions providing for the care of the unfortunate suffering men and women who are the chronic sick of this country.

The speech of the hon. Member for the Park Division (Mr. Burden) is one which leaves me in some little difficulty, because while he warmly welcomed the Bill, he first asked the Minister to withdraw the whole of Part I and substitute something different and then asked him to withdraw the whole of Part II and put something entirely different there.

Apart from that, I think he is undoubtedly in general agreement with the principles of the Bill. I do not share his fears arising from the General Nursing Council being the body responsible for the enrolment of assistant nurses. I recognise that he has made a good case for his contention that the work done by many of the assistant nurses is completely different from that of the State registered nurses, but, on the other hand, much of the work is interlocked with the work of the State registered nurses, and therefore I feel that it is in the interests of both sec- tions of the profession that one body should be the registering authority.

I particularly think that is desirable, because I hope that the enrolled nurses will in many instances advance to be State registered nurses, and if there is one body in control of registration it is more likely we shall achieve that end. I, too, want to join in the welcome which has been given to the Bill, because I feel that it is an essential preliminary step in the creation of a national health service that can be safely undertaken even in a time of war. I am surprised that any body of nurses should oppose the provisions of the Bill. I believe it can only improve the status, both of the State registered nurse and of the enrolled assistant nurse.

Let us recognise the facts. The first is that there is work for the assistant nurse to do, and the second is that our health and hospital services could not carry on without her assistance. If that is so, it follows that we should take steps to ensure that the assistant nurse is properly trained for her own special work and that, when she is properly trained, she shall be confined to that work. That is not to say that the assistant nurse should be prevented from undertaking additional training which will enable her to become State registered. Indeed, the work that has been done in Essex shows that, under a proper scheme of training of assistant nurses, many recruits to the State Register may emerge. I believe that the development of the Essex plan should prove a useful ladder by which assistant nurses may advance to the highest ranks of the profession.

I am glad that the provisions of Part II for the control of the ages of supply nurses have received such a general welcome, because I believe they will go a long way, not only to stop the drain upon student nurses who are liable to succumb to the financial inducements which the agencies can offer to partially trained nurses but also that it will provide that the public, when engaging the services of a nurse, will be safeguarded in that people will know that the qualifications of the nurse supplied are such as will enable her to perform the particular task for which she is engaged. There is one point, however, on which I am not quite clear, and that is whether these proposals fully cover the position of the enrolled assistant nurse who is practising on her own. I feel that she should be under the same obligation as an agency to disclose her qualifications to the person who engages her services. I hope that the Minister, in drawing up his Regulations, will consider this point and will make it incumbent upon the enrolled assistant nurse to make it quite clear that that is her capacity.

I think the Bill does all that is reasonably practical to improve the status of the nursing profession. I have sympathy with the view of the Royal College of Nursing that nursing should be made a closed profession, but how we can achieve that aim in a more practical manner than is at present proposed I have yet to be convinced. I only hope that the Minister will carefully watch the working of the Bill when it becomes law, and that if any loopholes are driven through it he will take steps to close them, as I feel sure it is his intention to do, so that there may be no loopholes by which those who are not qualified can attempt to nurse for gain. In conclusion, I repeat that I believe the Bill is an essential step in the creation of a national health service. I hope that the Minister will be helped to place it quickly upon the Statute Book and that he will go on with these preliminary steps so that we may, at an early date—although I shall not express the optimism of the hon. Gentleman who thought one could be created in the space of a few months—build up a national health service that is worthy of the people of this country.

Like other hon. Members, I rise to support the Second Reading of the Bill, but I wish to offer one or two criticisms at the same time or to emphasise one or two that have already been made. I do not agree with the hon. Member who has just spoken that this Bill could not have been stronger or more complete in its protection of the nursing profession than it is in its present form. Where the Minister stands on the question of a State service is rather dubious at the present time. Speaking as a member of a local authority very much concerned in this matter, I am doubtful—and I do not say this offensively—about which way the cat is jumping, whether still supporting to a great extent the voluntary hospitals or willing to do the sensible thing and recognise that the future must lie with the services of local authorities and in State hands—not that I want to run down the voluntary hospitals. They have done valuable work in the past, and a good many of them are still doing so. As I have said before in this House, I believe it was necessary for the voluntary hospitals to do their great work. Local authorities with powers in the matter did not exercise those powers for a great many years. I hope that we shall continue to move in the direction of a real State medical service.

The Bill is good, but more timid than it need be. It could go further. The hon. Member who preceded me described this as the preliminary step to a State medical service.

A national service. I beg the hon. Member's pardon. It is a preliminary step, but it is too timid a step. It could have been a much greater step. I entirely agree with the hon. Member that even during the war great strides can be made along the line to a national service. One provision of the Bill allows special exemption from restrictions in favour of children's nurses. It may be made also in other cases, but I do not know about this. Children's nurses are apparently still to be allowed to be called nurses. A great deal of misconception is met with in regard to these people whom the Minister described as nannies and who are often thought of as nurses fully qualified to do almost anything in the nursing profession. I urge upon the Minister the importance of finding some other term to describe these people. It must be chosen so that people will be less confused than they are on this subject. I have not thought much about such a term, but I will coin a phrase. Perhaps they could be called "children's nurses" instead of the generic term "nurses," which apparently is still to be allowed. I shall not be very critical about the other exceptions until I hear what they are. We are not at all certain about this matter.

I entirely agree with that suggestion. "Student nurse" describes them. I do not want anybody to be called a nurse who is not a fully qualified person.

The word "student" qualifies it, and I think that is sufficient. The hon. Member for North Camberwell (Mr. Ammon), who spoke earlier on this matter, mentioned a point which I would like to stress. He talked about what are called the nurses' agencies. The hon. Member for the Park Division of Sheffield (Mr. Burden) described another term which is very familiar to me, namely, the "co-ops." He mentioned that when a person who is not allowed by one authority to practise within its area may still be able to practise in the area of some other authority. There ought to be one central place where it is possible to know whether a person has been disqualified from practising in some other place before that person is allowed to start up in a new situation. I do not want to enter into the financial aspect of this matter, but a point occurs to me. If these persons are disqualified, they are probably almost bankrupt. I think bankrupts have to be notified everywhere. In this case it might be so too.

Another point mentioned by the same two hon. Members with regard to the "co-ops." requires to be stressed. It is that their charges should be published. The local authority should know what the "co-ops." propose to charge. It may be argued that this is a private matter between the patient, the nurse and the agency, but I do not think the present situation should be allowed to continue. We ought to know what it is permissible for the "co-ops." to charge and what they are legally entitled to charge, and everybody should be able to receive equal treatment for that charge. A further point which I want to emphasise was made about the nurse leaving voluntary or publicly-controlled hospitals to work for these "co-ops.," presumably for a bigger amount. I do not think it always works out that the nurse gets paid as well or treated as well after the change. In the expressive phrase used by the hon. Member for the Park Division, a phrase which is being used all over the world now, it is a racket and a most undesirable racket, with profits for those who organise and run these places to the great detriment, in the long run, of the nurses involved.

Although I think that assistant nurses have not been treated in the Rushcliffe Report as they deserved to be treated, I welcome the Bill, and I hope that the Minister and his advisers will go a little further on the Committee stage and make the Bill a much quicker step towards a national service.

So much has been said about the Bill, about which there is really so little to be said in opposition, that I do not wish to take up too much time. But at the same time, having been a member of the Athlone Committee, which presented at the beginning of 1939 an Interim Report—I am afraid the only Report it will have made—I am bound to say on behalf of that Committee how much we must welcome the fact that the Minister of Health and his predecessor have taken up that Interim Report and have brought this measure of actual legislation before the House. It is a very difficult job to deal with. Certainly it is an enormous subject, requiring, as it does, treatment in so many ways of the nursing profession. I think none of us are divided about the tremendous gap there was between the actual conditions of nursing and what was required in the way of the decencies of nursing. At the same time the demands on the services of the nurses were being increased day by day, year by year, and it was almost impossible to fulfil the demands that were required—quite impossible to fill the demands required—by the existing numbers of nurses on the register.

Let me just run over the reasons for the increased demands. It was not simply that the nurses were already overworked, that the hospitals were already understaffed, but there were six factors in addition to that to account for the increased demand. First of all, the voluntary hospitals had increased for some time past by 1,500 beds a year. That meant to say that so many extra nurses were required every year in order to staff them. Secondly, after the Local Government Act, 1929, which was the main factor in transferring hospitals and infirmaries of the guardians to county and county borough councils, the nursing staff for these had to be tremendously increased. In the last 10 years it had increased from 9,000 to nearly 14,000. That is a great strain on the other requirements of the nursing profession; yet it did not fully meet the needs of these vastly improved municipal hospitals. Thirdly, there was an increased public demand for hospital treatment of acute sickness. That requires extra nurses if anything does. Fourthly, there was the increased public demand for domiciliary nursing. I was glad to hear the hon. Member for the Park Division of Sheffield (Mr. Burden) mention the wonderful work, the extraordinarily valuable work, done even in the villages by nurses of the nursing associations, not simply in nursing but in the widest sense by entering into every house and family, becoming a personal friend of the family and the neighbourhood—an immense factor in all cases of sickness, and a great deal of other troubles as well, and to a large extent helping to fill in now, in war-time, gaps made by the depletion of the medical service.

I find over and over again in the country, where the ordinary panel patients, for instance, cannot get hold of their doctor who lives five miles off, and is doing or trying to do the work of two other doctors as well, they run round to the nurse, who manages to hold the fort until two or three days afterwards, when the doctor can come and look after the patient. Meantime it may be that they have got well, which is a very good thing for the humiliation of the medical profession and for the benefit of the patients themselves. Then there is the constant need for fresh development. The new treatment of heart cases requires, say, three nurses for a single case. The X-ray and deep therapy treatments require extra care. Then there are the recent efforts in the hospitals to reduce the nurses' hours of work to a decent figure. What is proposed is a 96-hour fortnight; but to bring that in means an increase of some 20 to 30 per cent. in the establishment of many hospitals. All this means that on the whole, whereas 9,000 a year applicants have been sitting for the final examination, requiring 12,000 entrants for training (allowing for those who cannot get through their courses), another 8,000 a year are required—20,000 entrants instead of 12,000 as at present.

Where are you to get your increase? We should all like to fill up these demands and extra demands by fully trained State registered nurses. That is the ideal of what we might call the diehards of the nursing profession, people who have the highest possible ideals for their profession and desire to see nothing else. But it is impossible to get that number. It is hoped that the general influence of the present movement for youth will help in getting nursing understood more and more, as I think it is being understood more and more in the schools, especially in the secondary schools, as offering a future for those who decide to follow that profession. All of us regard the work of the volunteer aid detachments of the Nursing Reserve in this war as invaluable, not only in bringing home to the public generally the very great value of these half-trained, if I may so describe them, or partly-trained nurses, even in the great exigencies of war, but also in bringing home to the public the fact that nursing is a fine profession for women to go into, one that gives them a value in the event of our being able to carry out all the different proposals which are now made.

In order to fill the gap, what can we do? We must make use of the assistant nurses. I think it was the hon. Member for the Park Division who explored the possibility of other names for the assistant nurse. We were constantly doing it on the Athlone Committee. I personally suggested that they should be called aids, as being quite distinct from nursing. That would have passed the highbrows of the nursing profession, but I am afraid the public would not have called them that, as they are called nurses and are nurses for ordinary purposes. These partly-trained people are doing good work in the chronic wards of the municipal institutions. I think it is a very good thing that they should be called nurses. Perhaps we could add some kind of adjective to show that there is a difference. It is not enough simply to have a name. They will be enrolled instead of being registered. We shall have so many registered nurses and so many enrolled nurses, and I believe the public will realise the difference and when applying for a nurse will ask either for an enrolled nurse or a registered nurse. They will not say "full nurse" or "assistant nurse," but they will know what the distinction means.

I do not quite understand what the hon. Member for Mile End (Mr. Frankel) meant about children's nurses, because there is a definite provision in this Bill to allow children's nurses to carry on their work and title. People will shorten the title, and you cannot help it; but the official title is there, and I suppose they must put it on the brass plate outside the door, not that they are nurses, but children's nurses, though I have never seen a children's nurse put out a brass plate. If they apply for a post, they must do so in the proper form. I was particularly glad, therefore, that, in addition to the main part of the Bill bringing in the assistant nurses, provision is made by which they shall carry on their practice under the best auspices of the General Nursing Council, who I hope will rise to the great possibilities there of training these women and giving them such training as is possible and—a very important point—making a proper ladder by which they can, without undue demands upon them, proceed from the position of the assistant nurse to the fully trained State registered nurse. We do not want them to have to go through a very long ordeal. At the same time we want them to show that they are worthy to be considered fully trained State registered nurses. That will be left to the General Nursing Council.

As we found on the Athlone Committee, there are many women splendidly suited for nursing who can never get through examinations and never get through the higher training for the higher positions and consequently will never be able to aspire to the position of a State registered nurse. There are others who can get through perfectly well with proper training, and I hope that will be allowed and the way eased for them. There is a little tendency for these bodies when they have power assigned to them to introduce so many forms, ceremonies, courses, examinations, lectures in order to avoid any possible infraction or deterioration of their regulations that they make it really unduly hard for people to get into their profession or get up the ladder. I hope that will be avoided.

I am sorry to interrupt the hon. Member, but is he suggesting that wherever people cannot pass examinations things should be made easier for them? Is that to apply also to the medical profession?

I am afraid you would rule me out of Order, Mr. Speaker, if I were to go into the hon. Member's point about the medical profession, but I know she only wants to have a dig at the medical profession as usual. On the subject of the nursing profession, what I would suggest is that the course or examination and the provisions required by the General Nursing Council shall not be confined to Latin and Greek, so to speak, and to what are called the higher requirements of paper work, but that they shall allow a great deal of latitude for assistant nurses to prove their qualification for the State register.

I am so glad that in this Bill the Minister has taken the opportunity to deal with the agencies. There is really a great deal of scandal attaching to the agencies. I am not going to infringe on your Ruling, Sir, in supplying the details, though there are many interesting details which one could supply on that subject. On the other hand here you are dealing with the question of distribution. It is just the same thing as the matter of the small traders. You have to have the distributing agencies. The ordinary nurse has no idea as to how if she wants to engage in private practice she is to get suitable employment. In that and in assisting her to choose between different employers, agencies are doing a very useful and necessary work. We have to see that they do that work properly and do not get undue reward for it at the expense of the individual members of the nursing profession. I think there is a good deal to be said for this Part II. I have not yet quite summed up in my head as to how it will work out.

What will be the powers as regards applications for the licence? The hon. Member for the Park Division was speaking on that subject. I have an idea that there is sufficient provision; the licensing authority may refuse to grant such a licence. I do not know what the grounds will be. It says something with regard to their being unsuitable. It seems to me this is on a par with regard to legislation which was passed eight years ago dealing with nursing homes. There was a similar scandal attaching to nursing homes, which otherwise did a great deal of good work. We put through a Bill requiring the supervision, registration and inspection of nursing homes, and giving powers to county and county borough councils. I presume that similar machinery will be used in the case of these agencies. Good work was done in improving the position of the nursing homes, and I am sure that similar improvement would result among these agencies. We may require some alteration or amendment later on.

Finally, we come to the sister tutors. I hope that some attention will be given to the very minor Amendment which has been suggested—I do not know whether it has been suggested yet in this Debate, but it has been suggested outside—that there should be male "brother tutors"—we had better call them teaching nurses. You will need proper rules for them. The matter was brought home to me recently by a distinguished colleague who has gone from this House to the upper House, Lord Keyes, and by a surgeon-commander, retired, of the Navy, in connection with sick berth stewards in the Navy and corresponding men in the Army. The point was whether arrangements could be made to admit them in the full role of State registered nurses. I do not think that the negotiations have completely terminated, but I expect the Admiralty think that their provision for sick berth stewards is sufficient to qualify such men to be registered, while the Ministry of Health do not think that it is sufficient, because these men have not had the training, especially in regard to women and children, that is required in civil life. These men who come from the Services, however, at the age of 45 or so, can do useful work in civil life.

As to whether nursing should be a closed profession or not, the medical profession is not, and we do not want it to be, closed. Anyone can practise the profession and take fees—and people do so—as long as he does not hold himself out to be qualified according to the law. But the two professions which we have dealt with recently, the midwifery profession and the dental profession, are closed.

I do not think we can go into those professions. This Bill deals with nursing. We are getting very wide if we go into the question of other professions.

I bow to your Ruling, Sir. That might come up on an Amendment later on. I will only say that the nursing profession should be as free, as open, as liberal, and yet as precise, as conditions necessitate. Subject to those considerations, I think that this Bill will be a material help to the hospitals and to the country.

I would not have intervened but for the fact that I was a member of the Athlone Committee. After that Committee had sat for a considerable time I was amazed to find what was happening in our hospitals, in relation to the nursing profession. This Bill is a very necessary Measure, and every Member who has spoken to-day has supported it. But I feel, in spite of the provisions of the Bill, that the Government, the General Nursing Council and the hospital authorities will have to probe still deeper into the problem. This is the only profession that I know of for which a young person leaving school may have to work in an office as a clerk or in a factory as an artisan until she is 17 or 18 before she can start on her new career as a nurse. I would like to know of any other profession or occupation where that practice prevails. It seems to me that the Government and the General Nursing Council will not settle this problem until they find means of putting the girl on the road towards nursing straight from school. How that is to be done I do not know, but administration can do many things in spite of the law. I do not want to be too critical of the General Nursing Council, but they gave our Committee the impression that if they could have their way no girl would be allowed to enter the nursing profession unless she had passed through a secondary school. The Board of Education representative told them flatly that there were not enough girls passing through secondary schools to supply the requirements of nursing after meeting the demands of the teaching and other professions. I trust that the right hon. Gentleman will be very careful about this point. He will not secure the necessary number of nurses, even with this Bill, until he bends his mind to the question of enrolling girls from the elementary schools. That was clear to the Athlone Committee. A remarkable thing that transpires in this country—I do not know whether it is the case in any other country—is that the person who does the most humanitarian, the most necessary, and indeed the most dangerous task often gets the least remuneration for his labour. The competition of other vocations and the conditions of employment of this profession are such that you will not get the necessary number of nurses until something is done to alter those conditions for the better. Another point that arose—and I speak with a little knowledge of this— was, why on earth do they erect these huge buildings called nurses' homes? What sense is there in a girl being compelled to live in a nurses' home when her own home is within a mile or two of the hospital where she is in training? I studied this problem a little in America; they do not do those things there. Why should it be allowed here?

In many towns the nurses' home is used only for those student nurses who come from a long distance away, and the nurses live out.

Yes, but that is not the practice in every town. In the probationary period they are expected to live in the nurses' home even if their own homes are quite near. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will bear in mind the very important fact that a girl should be allowed to go home, or, at any rate, to lodge with relations if she likes, instead of living in one of these big nurses' institutions. I come now to the problem of examinations. We found that the General Nursing Council in establishing a standard of examination never took note of the law of supply and demand. If, for instance, you require 30,000 doctors—I appeal to the hon. Member for St. Albans (Sir F. Fremantle) on this—what is the use of setting a standard of examination under which only 10,000 can ever hope to pass? The standard of examination must always relate itself to the law of supply and demand. When the last war ended it was very much easier for an ex-Service man to pass through a university than would have been the case if he had never been in the Services. I know the right hon. Gentleman does not take any notice of what I say. [Interruption.] He looks in that direction, and I suppose that where he looks he listens.

Why should I? Nearly everybody else has thrown bouquets at the right hon. Gentleman. I want to raise another point with the right hon. Gentleman in connection with the General Nursing Council. I understand that he will draw up regulations for the Council from this time forward. I have reason for referring to this, because the General Nursing Council the other day passed an extraordinary and amazing regulation, in which they arrogated to themselves the right to determine when a girl was ready to sit for examination whether she should be allowed to do so. I called the attention of the right hon. Gentleman to this fact; he made representations to the Council, and then they modified it a little. I do not know much about the General Medical Council, but I do not think that, with all its power—and it is one of the most powerful trade unions in the country; it can even bring Coalition Governments to their knees—it lays it down whether a student shall sit for an examination. It can say whether he shall be registered when he has passed the examination——

The hon. Member does not seem to know the difference between the British Medical Association and the General Medical Council. The General Medical Council is not a trade union.

I do not think we need argue the point as to which section of the medical profession is a trade union. We should keep to the Bill.

I rose on the point that one is a statutory body and the other is not a statutory body.

I rose on the point that we should keep to the Bill. It is not relevant to the Bill which section is a trade union and which is not.

I was saying that the discussion on both sides should keep to the Bill.

I ask the right hon. Gentleman to watch the point to which I referred. It seems a little unfair that these girls should study for examination and then be told that they cannot sit. We ought, however, to have this problem of nurses in proper perspective. It must not be assumed that, because there is a shortage of nurses, the number is decreasing. Inded, it is increasing. The flow of probationers into the profession is increasing annually. The point is that the demand is increasing more than the supply. I hope that the Bill will do a great deal to settle the problem of providing the hospitals with an adequate supply of nurses. After sitting on that Committee for 15 months, I was very impressed with the work done by these women. There is no sufficient tribute that we can pay to them for what they do in looking after the sick. In wishing this Bill well, I trust that the nurses may get a better deal because the Bill has passed into law, and I hope above all that, in dealing with hospitals, nurses and doctors, we shall not forget the patients in respect of whom everything we do must in the end apply.

On this occasion we may congratulate ourselves that there is a Measure before the House which is agreeable to, and considered useful by, every hon. Member who has spoken here to-day. The subject of the assistant nurse has been discussed on many occasions. When the Civil Nursing Reserve was formed at the beginning of the present war there were three sections in that Reserve, and there are still—the trained nurse, that is, the State registered nurse with her full training, the assistant nurse and the nursing auxiliary. The assistant nurse is with us in hospitals and in the Civil Nursing Reserve; we hear of her work in various ways up and down the country, but never before has she been defined. Having had a good deal to do with the Civil Nursing Reserve and seen a good deal of work in the hospitals, I agree with many hon. Members that some assistant nurses are excellent nurses. They have a real aptitude for nursing. They may not have had the aptitude for the training in mathematics or chemistry or something else sufficient to pass examinations, but one cannot dispute their real gift for nursing, and they are doing this good work. But there may be others who may call themselves assistant nurses, because there is no regulation as to the name, but yet are not suitable persons and are entirely without any form of training at all. As the hon. Gentleman the Member for Westhoughton (Mr. Rhys Davies) said, we have to consider and defend the patient who may apply for someone to nurse him and find that it is someone entirely without any skill whatsoever. Therefore, the necessity which was put forward by the Athlone Committee of defining and enrolling assistant nurses has been in the minds of many of us for some time.

I would like to make it clear that it is not that at this moment we are going to recruit assistant nurses. I want to recruit, and we are doing it, many more girls who can come in and take the full training as State registered nurses, but we also want to organise assistant nurses who are working now and to find out which organisations ought to have a title under the new regulation and which ought not. I want to make that clear, because some people have thought that this Bill has been brought forward owing to the difficulty of staffing our hospitals and that we want to lower the standard of nursing and to have assistant nurses. It is nothing of the kind. I want to see the status kept up. It is a very proud thing that the standard of British State registered nurses is the highest in the whole world. Such a nurse can get appointments all over the world because she is known to have had that high standard of training. I do not want her to come down, but there are many people who could assist in hospitals and in sick nursing and who can help the highly trained State registered nurse and who are doing so at the present time. These are the assistant nurses we want to enrol and put under the new scheme, so that those who do not come up to that standard may no longer be employed for doing work for which they are not fitted.

The hon. Member for North Camberwell (Mr. Ammon), in welcoming the Bill, asked questions on some points about the machinery for the Nurses Co-operatives. These details have been worked out pretty successfully for nursing homes and other institutions of various kinds. If the hon. Member will look at the particular Clause in the Bill, he will see that it is drawn sufficiently widely in order that the local authorities may be able to satisfy themselves on the work that is being done and how it is being carried on by the agencies. We find, and I quote the words:
"Subject…to such conditions as they may think fit for securing the proper conduct of the agency."
If there are further points—and the hon. Member for the Park Division of Sheffield (Mr. Burden) also spoke on arrangements for these co-operatives—no doubt when we come to the Committee stage we can make the position clear. The fact, as the hon. Member said, is that the co-operative might have to inform the licensing authority what its tariff was; any other schemes that it had would probably come under the licensing arrangements. These points are details, and any difficulty can probably be dealt with on the Committee stage.

The chief point about which I was concerned was, that if, for any reason, a licence is taken away by one authority, it would be possible to go over the border into another authority and set up business again at once.

We have already noted that point. I had something to do with a similar case of licensing when piloting a Bill on child adoption through this House. We tried to guard against this particular idea. The hon. Member for Putney (Mr. Linstead), in welcoming the Bill, also asked whether the General Nursing Council had any legal advice. I am informed that the General Nursing Council has legal advice, so that that should also be available for dealing with the assistant nurses. I do not agree with the hon. Gentleman that the fee of 2s. 6d. is not sufficient. He pointed out that if the fee were larger, the enrolment would be more popular and that it would look as though it were something of greater importance. But it has been a good arrangement with regard to State registered nurses, and I think we ought to keep it the same. The General Nursing Council, in being asked to undertake this work in addition to the State registration, will have the weight of its influence, as the hon. Member for Sunderland (Mr. Storey) has pointed out, to urge whenever possible that a nurse should take her full training. Their desire is that as many nurses as possible should take that training, and by having the assistant nurses' roll and the State register of nurses under the same authority we shall get more cohesion. Personally, I do not want there to be any idea that the assistant nurse is outside the nursing profession. Suggestions were made that the enrolment should be under the authority of the Ministry of Labour or Ministry of Health. I want the assistant nurse to be what the title declares her to be—a nurse assisting the fully trained nurse, and I think that keeping the matter under the same authority of the General Nursing Council will give both the nurse and the public a clear idea of her duties.

In spite of the rather stern remarks that fell from the hon. Member for the Park Division of Sheffield on the subject of the General Nursing Council, we ought to give this scheme a fair trial. I do not think that there need be any grounds for the fear that he has for the appointment on the Assistant Nurses Committee of a certain number of members from the General Nursing Council. If he remembers how the General Nursing Council is appointed, perhaps some of his fear will be put at rest. He also feared that the examination might be too difficult and that there might be too many regulations for assistant nurses, but I do not think that that will be so. The idea is clear as to what work she should be asked to undertake, and it is not to be up to the full standard of the State-registered nurse. But the enrolment of the assistant nurse is important so that persons without any training at all should not be doing some of the work they are doing at this time.

The hon. Member for Mile End (Mr. Frankel) felt rather upset about the children's nurse being allowed to call herself a nurse. I do not believe that it will make the slightest difference, if the hon. Member for Mile End or anyone in this House or the Government said that a children's nurse was not to be called a nurse, because she would still be called a nurse. The old tradition and common sense would still remain, and no law or regulation would prevent a nurse looking after children being called a nurse. We want to stop anybody without training as a sick nurse from advertising herself as a nurse to obtain employment.

There is the category of sick children's nurses, and that really is a class of nurses.

Would it not be a mistake to suggest that children's nurses have no special skill? Apart altogether from the sicknesses of children, it has become a very specialised training to bring up children in the proper way, and many of these girls have taken such training.

There are, of course, training and examinations for nursery nurses as well. There are some children's nurses who have not passed examinations and who have not been to college who are doing extremely good work, as we have found. The actual definition goes as far as possible in the Bill, although the hon. Member for Mile End thinks that my right hon. Friend was rather timid in not actually trying to get rid of the old-fashioned idea of the children's nurse. But I think most hon. Members will be glad that that description is to remain. The hon. Member for Westhoughton spoke of nurses' homes and of training and of various other things to do with the nursing profession. I was interested in his description of his work on the Athlone Committee, but these are subjects which it would not be in Order for me to go into at the moment. The enrolment of the assistant nurse, the necessity for the Nurses Co-operatives to be licensed and other minor points are what we have to deal with to-day.

Although there has been this criticism—and I agree with much of it—on the subject of the nurses' co-operatives, do not let us forget that there are a good many which are doing extremely good work and are very particular. Among these I believe that there will be a very warm welcome for this Bill. They have selected their nurses carefully and have told patients to whom they send nurses the standard of their training. I think that they will welcome this provision, which will give more knowledge to the person who receives into his or her home a nurse to look after any member of the family during illness. It will give a chance to more people to be enrolled definitely as part of the nursing profession, which we all hold as one of the finest professions for women, who have been doing a job during the years of war which may not be spectacular but which, I believe, is second to none.

Can the hon. Lady deal with the point as to whether the male nurse will continue to be known as a nurse, and will there be an opportunity of his being registered so that he can be a nurse?

I am sorry I forgot that point. There is a supplementary register for male nurses, and in connection with that I would tell the hon. Member for St. Albans (Sir F. Fremantle) that there could be male "sister tutors"—brother tutors, perhaps! We only know of one, and we will look after his interests, and if he has any other brothers we will try to look after their interests, too.

I think that in the Bill under the heading of "sister tutors" the word "persons" appears, and the word "sister" is not used in the terms of this Bill.

Question, "That the Bill be now read a Second time," put, and agreed to.

Bill read a Second time.

Bill committed to a Committee of the Whole House for the next Sitting Day.—[ Captain McEwen.]

Housing (Agricultural Population) (Scotland) Bill

Order for Second Reading read.

I beg to move, "That the Bill be now read a Second time."

This simple Bill to which I ask the House to give a Second Reading is to extend for five years the time within which local authorities may give grants to individuals who are prepared to erect houses for agricultural workers, small holders and other persons of similar economic condition in the Highlands of Scotland. Part 2 of the Act of 1938 enabled local authorities to give such grants only for five years—a period that expires on 13th July next. The amount of the grant and the ways in which a grant may be earned are explained in paragraph 2 of the Financial Memorandum. Since the Act of 1938 came into operation 381 houses have been completed with grants. Some of the houses which have been approved are under construction. It was expected that a great deal more would be done with the help of the Act, but war conditions have greatly hindered progress. Therefore, it is necessary to extend the operation of the grants system for another five years.

Clause 1, Sub-section (1), extends the time within which applications for assistance under the Act of 1938 may be made to local authorities by five years, from July, 1943, to July, 1948. Clause 1, Subsection (2), provides for the substitution of the new limit of date for the former limit in any scheme made by a local authority under the Act of 1938. Clause 2, Sub-section (2), is merely an application Clause.

Can my hon. Friend explain what is meant by the words:

"Subject to the provisions of any amending scheme, after the passing of this Act, by a local authority."

In the administration of any of these Acts of Parliament which enable local authorities to make grants to individuals they are subject to the preparation of a scheme by the local authority and approved by the Secretary of State, and, consequently, local authorities may desire to amend any of their existing schemes. As my hon. Friend well knows, we leave a certain amount of power to the local authorities. They may not desire to give the maximum grant; they may desire to have a varying system of grants, so we do not infringe upon their rights at all so far as this amending Bill is concerned.

The grants to which I have referred are not to exceed either one-half of the cost of the house, or £160 in the case of a three-apartment house, and £200 in the case of a larger house. In every case of a grant-aided house it must be to replace a house that is unfit for habitation and has been dealt with as such by the local authority under the Housing (Scotland) Act, 1930. The houses that are to be replaced by new houses are confined to houses, bothies, chaumers, etc., occupied by agricultural workers on farms, or owner-occupied farms not exceeding 50 acres in extent or entered in the valuation roll at a gross annual value not exceeding £50, or of houses occupied by statutory small tenants or land holders, or houses in the Highlands and Islands occupied by cottars and squatters. A tenant who builds with the consent of the owner or land holder, or a statutory small tenant who is entitled to compensation at outgoing, may receive a grant from the local authority, and if compensation becomes payable in some cases, so much of the value of the house as is attributable to the grant paid is to be taken into account and deducted. The benefit of the grant will remain with the next tenant or land holder.

Part II of the Act of 1938 operates where schemes are adopted by local authorities and approved by the Secretary of State. This scheme lays down the conditions subject to which a grant may be given, and a copy is sent to every applicant so that he may understand clearly what the conditions of grant are and whether he is in a position to obtain assist- ance provided by the Act we are seeking to extend. The 33 county councils in Scotland, except Bute, have schemes, so have the Town Councils of Glasgow, Edinburgh and Dunfermline. The idea behind the grant is that it is for new houses to replace unfit houses situated on a farm or holding in circumstances where it is essential that the house should be near a farm or building, in cases where an agricultural worker must be near his job on the farm, where accommodation suitable to the requirements of the workers employed is not available in the locality, and where it is impracticable for the local authority to provide such accommodation under the scheme for the provision of housing accommodation for the agricultural population of the locality. Under the terms of Section 8 of Part II of the Act the Government contribute a substantial part of the grant by way of annual payments to local authorities for 40 years, representing three-quarters of the grant, except in the case of the Highlands and Islands where small holders and occupants of that kind are concerned, when the Exchequer assistance amounts to seven-eighths of the grant. That, briefly, explains the purpose of this simple and short Bill.

My hon. Friend the Under-Secretary has just dealt so admirably with the purpose and scope of this Bill that the purpose which I wish to fulfil is rendered very simple indeed. Most of us, I am sure, remember the Act which this Bill seeks to extend for another live years and the hopes that were then engendered of dealing very effectively with the bad houses to which the Act of 1938 was intended to apply. I am sure we regret that all those houses have not been dealt with up to the present time, but hopes rise in our breasts again that before 1948 that purpose will be completely fulfilled, so far as present standards are concerned. It may be that when that time comes our ideas with regard to housing may have undergone a change for the better, and we may feel the necessity for continuing further provision of this kind for the benefit of the agricultural population. When we consider the benefit that has accrued, I am sure we are grateful that there has been such provision on the Statute Book, and I am sure we shall all be ready to agree that the provisions be continued for another five years, or as long as may be necessary.

When we look at the terms of the provision that is made we see what appears to be a very small burden indeed is laid upon the local authorities and that a greater burden proportionately is laid upon the shoulders of the National Exchequer. But we must not allow ourselves to be led away with the idea that that small monetary burden, as it appears, is not something of considerable consequence to the local authorities who have to make provision for it, because in many of the areas to which these provisions apply a penny rate brings in a very small amount. The result is that a small burden of this kind is one that cannot be lightly undertaken. I am sure that the Scottish Office and my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State must be gratified at the way local authorities have, in the main, applied themselves to the use of the powers that have been available under the 1938 Act, and I am sure that it is the desire of all of us who wish to wipe out the bad conditions that still remain that those responsible on local authorities will bend their energies to continuing the job so removing what is, and has been for many years, a reproach to our native land.

I was interested to hear my hon. Friend the Member for Linlithgow (Mr. Mathers) praise this Bill and the way in which my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary presented it to the House, because I recall vividly the Debate on the Second Reading when the original Bill was passed. On that occasion my two hon. Friends most vigorously opposed Part II of the Act, which is the very Part we are now asked to extend. Indeed, they went so far as to move an Amendment and walked into the Lobby in support of it. It is a great pleasure to know that time has modified their opposition and that experience and responsibility have changed the opinion of even so stubborn a Scotsman as my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary. Here is a case of sinners repenting, and I am sure we are all very happy about it. My hon. Friend the Member for Linlithgow said he hoped the Bill would go on for longer than five years and that local authorities would avail themselves of this Act to the full.

But I am bound to ask why this Bill has been brought before the House today. Why does my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary want power to extend it for another five years? The only reason he gave us was that since the Act was passed in 1938, and with the intervention of the war, few houses have been built and it was necessary, therefore, to extend the operation of the grant system for another five years. I cannot follow that reasoning at all. If my hon. Friend wants this power extended, clearly he must have a plan in mind, and I want to ask what is the plan. Why does he ask the House for the extension of a power which he does not particularly like himself? The only answer I can offer is that he must feel that this Act is valuable and that something is going to be done with it. But even then, I am not happy about the answer, because when the Bill was before the House in 1938 it was pointed out by many hon. Members, and more particularly by the right hon. Gentleman who is now Secretary of State for Air, that the grant given under Part II was not big enough. The right hon. Gentleman asked for its increase, at that time in 1938, by 25 per cent. He showed that the cost of building a house of this type in a country district in Scotland was £465; he said it was impossible for owners at that time to build houses costing that amount with a grant that ranged only from £160 to £200 per house; and therefore, he asked for a 25 per cent. increase. If that grant was insufficient then, how absolutely valueless must it be now, when the cost of such a house would be double £465. I do not know whether my right hon. Friend the Minister of Health has published the prices he is to pay for the houses under his rural scheme, but I should be surprised if it is possible to build any house, under the Scottish or the English scheme of rural housing, for less than £900 at the present time. Therefore, unless the Under-Secretary intends substantially to increase the grant under that Act, he is asking the House for something that is ridiculous. In these circumstances, I must assume that the grant is going to be increased. I must assume that, and unless my hon. Friend wants me to sit down so that he may counteract that view, I go on the assumption that the grant is to be substantially increased.

The assumption is wrong. It is clear to anyone who reads this very simple Bill that it merely changes a date.

I am not talking about what is in the Bill. I am asking my hon. Friend for what purpose he wants the Bill. I say he can only ask for it in order to undertake new construction in the future. Obviously this is a post-war Measure. I say that the Act, which was of such little value in 1938 that since then only 300 odd houses have been built under it, is valueless to-day, when houses cost double, unless it is to be accompanied by a substantial increase in the grant to private owners.

I must recall to the House what the Act was intended originally to do and what was its origin. Why was it brought along? The Act of 1938 is composed of three parts. Part 1, with which it would be out of Order to deal to-day, gives power to local authorities themselves to build houses in the countryside. Part II gives local authorities power to give grants to private individuals, landowners, to build houses. Part III contains miscellaneous provisions. It is with Part II that we are now concerned. How did Part II come about? It was the result of the Report, in 1937, of the Committee on Rural Housing in Scotland, among the recommendations of which there appeared:
"We recommend that in order to expedite the provision of dwellings of a suitable health standard for agricultural workers, it should be open to County Councils for a period of five years, if they are satisfied that a tied house is radically unfit and must be replaced by a new house on the farm, to give the landowner assistance to replace the tied house."
That recommendation was adopted by the Government of the day and by the House, and the Act followed. Why did the Committee make that recommendation? I submit it is essential for the House to remember the reasons to-day, because those reasons apply even more in this year than they did in 1937. The Committee set out very plainly what they had found as a result of their inquiries. They said:
"There is no general shortage of farm servants' houses on farms, but all witnesses who appeared before us agreed that a very large number indeed of these houses were unfit.… The National Farmers' Union informed us that the reconstruction or replacement of defective farm houses was an urgent necessity in every county in Scotland."
Is not that a most pregnant sentence? In 1938 the Committee said that it was an urgent necessity; how much more important is it in 1943, when agricultural production is vital to the nation?
"No appreciable number of farm cottages has been built since the war"—
that is, the last war—
"and until 1926 little or nothing was done to maintain farm cottages in good repair or improve them. Appendix II shows that in the three parishes surveyed, which we have no reason to believe are exceptional, 40 per cent. of the farm workers' houses were damp, 35 per cent. had no sanitary conveniences whatsoever, and 14 per cent. were beyond repair,"
I commend those figures to the House. They are most damaging and startling figures. I invite the House to reflect that that was the position six years ago, and to-day it is worse. I am speaking now as the representative of a rural constituency, pleading the case of my constituents.

Largely rural. The report continues:

"About 70 per cent. of the farm workers' cottages had major defects.… The main defects of farm servants' houses are dampness, absence of water and sanitary conveniences, no storage or larder accommodation, insufficient lighting, defective grates, no drainage, ashpits too near the house, cement or brick floors."
The report concludes:
"We recognise that in urban slums there may be individual houses which are as bad as, if not worse than, any farm servants' cottages, but we are satisfied that in general no section of the population is compelled to live in such consistently bad housing conditions as are farm servants."
That is the platform upon which I stand. I am examining the Bill on behalf of those who are, in the opinion of that Committee, more badly housed than any other section of the population in this country. That was so in 1937? How much worse is it to-day?

The hon. Gentleman has said that this Bill will not produce any houses. He has damned it, and now he welcomes it.

If the hon. Gentleman will listen a moment or two, he will see where I stand. So far as the Bill is a contribution to the housing position, I welcome it, but I ask the Under-Secretary, realising that these were the conditions in 1937, knowing that practically nothing has been done since then, and appreciating that the conditions to-day are, and after the war will be, infinitely worse, I ask him what is his programme? I think the House should be told before it gives this Bill a Second Reading.

If I had attempted to do such a thing, undoubtedly I would have been out of Order. It was not that I was afraid to do so.

I must remind the hon. Member for East Fife (Mr. Henderson Stewart) that the sole question before the House is whether the Act shall be extended for five years.

Further to that point of Order, Mr. Deputy-Speaker. This is a Bill prolonging the Act of 1938. Are we not entitled to regret that something was not included in the 1938 Act? Is it not virtually a Second Reading of that Act over again?

With great respect to you, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, and while, of course, I accept your statement, may I remind you that Part II of the 1938 Act states:

"A local authority may, and if so required by the Department shall, submit to the Department a scheme or schemes for assisting the provision of housing accommodation in new houses.… On approval by the Department of any scheme so submitted a local authority may, in accordance therewith, give assistance, etc."
The operative Section of that part of the Act is Section 4 (3, a), which states:
"No assistance under this Section shall be given in respect of any house unless the application for assistance is made by the local authority within five years after the passing of this Act."
My hon. Friend the Under-Secretary is inviting us to extend the Act for a further five years. This would permit of the full application of Part II. Therefore, with the greatest respect, I feel that I should be in Order in discussing Part II of the Act. It is concerned substantially with the building of hew houses for farm servants on the farms.

Surely, when my hon. Friend asks us to extend these powers for five years, he has something in his mind. What is it? It is not a question of his being afraid to deal with this matter. Am I to understand that he has no plan at all? How many houses is it proposed to build under this extended Act? On the basis of the Report of the Committee from which I quoted, I have worked out that Scotland will want something in the region of 270,000 new houses in its agricultural areas after the war—27,000 new houses a year. Has the Under-Secretary any plans under this Bill to meet that immense problem? What is it intended to do? How many houses does he fancy he can build under this special authority? Surely, we shall be told that before this Bill is given a Second Reading. It is not enough for the House to say that because something was not fully satisfactory before the war, we must extend it. The hon. Member for Bridgeton (Mr. Maxton) is quite right; up to now the thing has been a comparative failure, and if it has been a comparative failure, why should we extend the Measure? Surely, it must be because changes are to be made in the grants and because there is to be a big programme. I do not feel disposed, very readily, at any rate, to give a Second Reading to the Bill without having information along those lines.

May I ask my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary a further question? In considering the application of this Bill when it becomes an Act, will he not consider changing the prerequisite of Part II? The prerequisite, as he explained, is that the house must first be demolished before another house can be built in its place. Would it not be Wise to remove that condition? Why stand in the way of building new houses wherever they may be built in the countryside? I wonder if the Scottish Office has taken a leaf out of the book of the Ministry of Health in London. The other day the right hon. Gentleman made a most urgent plea, almost in the nature of an instruction, to English local authorities. I hope we are not going to be behind an English Department. He reminded them that it took 20 years to build 4,000,000 houses after the last war and said that there were in all about 300,000 families living in houses which had already been, or would have been but for the war, condemned as slums. He said we must learn from that bitter experience and do the preliminary work which must be done now and not, as in the old days, leave it to the return of peace. Planning and thinking, however, were not enough. There must be action. He intended to inform local authorities that they need not wait for the result of the Ministry's full investigation or for a pronouncement by the Government. He was suggesting to local authorities that there were almost certain to be sites which ought to be used. In England the Department is pressing local authorities to make their post-war plans now in detail and to make all the preparations. Is anything like that being done in Scotland? If it is, I am not aware of it.

I do not exaggerate the importance of this little Measure, but I think it would be a small contribution. At any rate, the Under-Secretary appears to think it is of some value. I admire the vigorous fight that the hon. Members for Dumbarton Burghs (Mr. Kirkwood) and Gorbals (Mr. Buchanan) make for the better housing of their constituents. I have brought to the notice of the Secretary of State equally pressing cases on behalf of the people in my part of the world. They are living now in such houses that the women find life intolerable, the men's spirits are broken, war production is affected and the morale of the whole countryside is undermined. If you could give these people good houses, it would be worth 10 Beveridge Reports to these ploughmen of the countryside. I beg that the Government shall not only take powers but indicate clearly what they intend to do.

I rise on behalf of my friends and myself to support the view which the hon. Member has so ably put, and I hope we shall have his company when we go into the Lobby against the Second Reading. I think that is the obvious logical conclusion of his speech.

I asked for justification of the Bill. If the Under-Secretary cannot justify the Bill better than he did, I shall certainly vote against the Measure. I expect the other Under-Secretary will have some justification to offer.

Certainly he cannot look any more sheepish and uncomfortable than the other Under-Secretary did, because I am certain that he does not like a little bit of it. I think it reflects great credit on the discretion of the Secretary of State that he has found himself unable to appear on this occasion. Indeed, I am very interested to note that there is not a single Scottish Labour Member, except two gentlemen on the Front Bench, who are rather hostages to fortune. This is a bad Measure, and the Act was a bad Measure, bad in principle and bad in practice. It was opposed very strenuously on the Second Reading and in Committee, but on the same plea that the hon. Member is making now, that it might give us a few houses and somewhat relieve the position in the rural districts, the House gave it a Third Reading without opposition if I remember rightly. But it has not fulfilled that hope. It has done nothing to relieve the situation in the rural districts. If it was no inducement, either to the owners of houses or to the counties, to go ahead energetically in the pre-war period, certainly, with conditions precisely the same, it will not stimulate the building of a single house. I am glad to see the hon. Member who was largely responsible for piloting it through when he was Under-Secretary. I am sure that, if he spoke on it now, he would stand in a white sheet, because I believe him to be an honest man, and tell us that he has to admit that in retrospect the Act has actually produced nothing.

I am not prepared to accept this sort of thing as housing legislation. From the earliest days when I came into the House, the housing problem of Scotland has been an over-riding curse. There have always been Ministers, whatever their political complexion, prepared to put us off with some makeshift which would not cope with the situation at all. Now they have the war as an excuse, but it is not an adequate excuse. I am not prepared to accept the view that we have to sit still and wait until the end of the war—someone may see the end in sight; I do not—and then get all the wonderful things that are forecast for us, while no single step is being taken to make even the post-war visions take anything like concrete form. I gather that we now have a Council of State. If one reads the newspapers, one is led to believe that there is complete unity among all Scottish Members. These paragraphs appear regularly. There is a Council of State composed of ex-Secretaries of State in consultation with the present Secretary of State. Secretaries of State—Conservative, Liberal and Labour—are sitting together and pooling their best brains and getting complete agreement. About what? "That we would all like to see a better Scotland," and they say how fine and harmonious they all are. Then something concrete requires to be done and the Labour Under-Secretary for Scotland comes forward with a Measure that was produced by a Conservative Government and that he condemned as being reactionary even for that Conservative Government. It is not treating either his job or this House or Scotland in the way that each of them deserves to be treated.

We are told in the Explanatory Memorandum to the Bill that
"owing to the shortage of building labour and materials, it is unlikely that many applications for assistance under the Act will be granted between now and the end of the war."
I do not believe this story about shortage of labour and materials. I think that it is an excuse. It was true up to a point when there was great constructive work going on in the extension of factories and aerodromes and the erection of big works necessary for the equipment and maintenance of the Services. In knocking round the West of Scotland at least I find large numbers, not of big builders, but of men who have been effective builders and have done work in the localities in an efficient way, worried about where they will be in the months not very far ahead. At this moment they are under-employed, running round doing little repairs and things of that description. I am sure that the material position is not half as bad as the Secretary of State and the Ministry of Works try to make out. I also do not believe that there has been any real expenditure of brain in exploring how far alternative methods and materials—materials that are in good supply—can be used. I think that very easily an organisation could be developed that could start giving us a decent trickle of houses now, a trickle that could increase into a stream as the general situation might become easier, a stream that would be ready to become a flood when hostilities are concluded. Then for the first time Scotland would be getting into a position to begin to tackle the housing problem in an effective way.

I do not know how other Members from industrial cities are concerned. This Bill attempts to cope only with the rural position. I represent an industrial constituency, but I have many friends and contacts in rural areas, and I get letters from serving soldiers asking me to use my influence to get them houses. Imagine a soldier writing to me from the Middle East or from some other scene of operations asking that I should endeavour to get him a house because he and his wife and five children are living in a single room, and when he comes home on leave the two older children have to leave the house so that room can be found for him. That is disgraceful. I have had a letter from a tuberculosis mother who wants an additional room so that the children do not have to sleep in the same apartment as herself. These are only two samples picked out of hundreds.

This Bill does not refer to houses which require additional rooms but to houses which have three rooms.

They are the new ones, and they are to take the place of houses which are occupied by agricultural workers on farms, owner-occupiers of small farms, statutory small tenants, small landholders, and so on, who are to-day living in unsatisfactory conditions and not in three rooms. The Bill is an attempt to get in rural Scotland a certain standard of decent housing to replace a whole lot of insanitary, insufficient accommodation that is now overcrowded. We are opposing the Measure and will vote for its rejection in the Lobby because, on the experience of the Act that this Bill is extending, the provisions are not sufficient to produce houses and the provisions in existing conditions are still inadequate to cope with the situation. I was citing these cases merely to indicate to Members for English constituencies something of the nature of the horrible position in which Scottish housing, rural and urban, is in and has been in and will continue to be in unless we can force the Government to produce something better than the legislation which is proposed to-day.

Unlike the hon. Member for Bridgeton (Mr. Maxton) and in a measure the hon. Member for East Fife (Mr. Henderson Stewart), I do not rise to oppose the Measure. I hope, however, that the Under-Secretary will take note of several of the points which have been made by these two hon. Members. The hon. Member for East Fife made an ingenious speech, full of debating points, and I hope he will forgive me if I say that I think he rather overdid it. He arraigned the Scottish Office, as we all should if we thought there had been a dereliction of duty or a neglect of the affairs they had in hand. The hon. Member, as far as I caught the gist of his speech, complained, as did the hon. Member for Bridgeton, that the Bill merely maintains the status quo so far as Scottish housing problems are concerned. Of course it does. While I should be the last man to advocate the maintenance of the status quo, I do not see, having regard to house building difficulties at the moment, how the Scottish Office can do otherwise than they are doing.

Will the hon. Member tell me how many houses have been built on his estate?

None at all. The existing legislation had been in operation for only just over a year, I think, before the outbreak of the war. I had obtained estimates for two houses under the Act of 1938 and they came more or less to the figure quoted by the hon. Member for East Fife, £460. I hope the hon. Member will take that as a token of my own good faith and intentions in the matter.

That is an interruption which is rather unworthy of my hon. Friend. There were no houses because of the difficulties imposed by the war. I will admit right away that the amount of the estimate did rather astonish me, even in those days. The right hon. Member for Wakefield (Mr. Greenwood) said some four or five weeks ago that pounds, shillings and pence are only symbols now, a statement for which he was taken to task in the admirable wireless speech of the Prime Minister on Sunday. While I do not agree that pounds, shillings and pence are merely symbols, I will say, and I think the hon. Member for Bridgeton must agree with me, that the war has entirely altered our ideas of monetary values. The ideas current before 3rd September, 1939, no longer exist. Therefore we have to approach this problem—I see that your eye is upon me, Mr. Speaker, and I realise from what your predecessor said that I shall not be entitled to speak upon all that was omitted from the Act of 1938, but since the Debate has taken a somewhat wider turn, I thought you might perhaps allow me to comment briefly upon the remarks made by the hon. Member for Bridgeton and the hon. Member for East Fife, and I was merely backing up in part what has been said by the hon. Member for East Fife in calling attention to the deplorable state of housing in rural Scotland. Perhaps in my own constituency, the county in which I have lived all my life, conditions are not so bad, though heaven knows they are bad enough, as in some other parts of the country, especially in the kind of mixed constituency which my hon. Friend represents. I sincerely hope that my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary, when he comes to reply, will be able to lift the curtain a little in regard to the Government's intentions for the future. A lot has been said about landlords' difficulties, and I was very glad to hear the applause which came from such an unexpected quarter. When I heard my hon. Friend the Member for Bridgeton applauding I said to myself, "This is a case of Saul being among the prophets."

If ever I applauded the landowners of Scotland, it must have been in a fit of very serious mental aberration.

I do not think anyone in this House can accuse the hon. Member for Bridgeton of ever being in that condition; but perhaps I have been overstating it. It was when the hon. Member for East Fife was calling attention to the sums which landowners would be required to pay—£460 in times of peace had gone up to £900 or £1,000 to-day; that caused my hon. Friend to applaud. I now understand why. It was because he knew that owing to the ridiculous ramshackle structure we still support, it was impossible for housing conditions to be put right by landlords. But this is only by the way. Despite the advice and comments and criticisms which have come from both the hon. Member for East Fife and the hon. Member for Bridgeton, I still think the Government have a right to bring in this Bill to ask us to prolong an existing Act of Parliament, but I sincerely hope that it is merely an earnest of what they intend to do in the future, and that landowners will be put in a position to deal with the wants of the biggest section of the agricultural community. There are three sections——

I was about to rise, because I thought the hon. Member was going into the whole question of agricultural policy.

No, Sir, with very great respect, I was going to say that of the three sections of the agricultural community, who are all affected by this Bill, upon the landlords, who are the smallest category, will fall the greatest financial burden. The other two sections are the tenant farmers and the agricultural workers, the last-named being the biggest and by far the most deserving section—I hope that will satisfy the hon. Member for Bridgeton—and they have to live under the appalling conditions which were outlined, though only mildly outlined, by the hon. Member for East Fife and the hon. Member for Bridgeton. Of course, the hon. Member for Bridgeton does not speak at first hand of the rural areas. He knows what the conditions are in Bridgeton, and they are just as bad in the rural areas.

I think it would be better if the hon. Member addressed me and not the hon. Member for Bridgeton.

With great respect, I did not mean to give the impression that I was not addressing you, Sir. It was because of his asides that I turned to him. I was saying that among the three sections in agriculture the entire financial burden of this Bill falls upon the landlords. I want to see in Scotland a fair adjustment among these three sections of the community. Although in the last few months rural matters have been discussed from time to time, and the Noble Lord the Member for Horsham (Earl Winterton) has drawn attention to landlords' liabilities and obligations, we do not often hear anything said about landlords, and I think it is imperative that the Under-Secretary should keep this question very much under consideration. Let me say, speaking solely so far as Scotland is concerned, that the landlord is a rentier, and I hope that I shall not be guilty of an unparliamentary expression when I say that is a term which stinks in the nostrils of the community, but we have been told by spokesmen of the Labour party that it would not be their immediate intention if they were installed in office to do away with him.

Therefore we have to visualise a state of affairs obtaining after the war in which the landlords will still be responsible for their estates and will have to continue to assume the obligations which they have had up to now. That is the point I want to impress upon the Under-Secretary, and that is the point which I thought won applause from the hon. Member for Bridgeton, though no doubt I was wrong. We all agree that the deplorable state of rural housing in Scotland is in no way met by the prolongation of the Act, and if the Under-Secretary can lift the curtain even an inch and tell us that the Government are really awake to the conditions of rural housing, I am sure that will meet with general approval.

After the entertaining and penetrating speech of my hon. Friend, very little more remains to be said on that side of the subject. I want to ask two questions, one of which was mentioned by the hon. Member for East Fife (Mr. Henderson Stewart). Speaking for a constituency which is at any rate 50 per cent. rural, I would like to know whether we in Scotland, where housing is so much worse, are to get comparable treatment with England on this burning question and, if not, why not? As to the second question, the Under-Secretary of State will remember that not very long ago he paid a visit to Fenwick to inspect some pre-fabricated houses, which I think he commended for the countryside. Is anything further to be done about that matter? Those are points which need answering, because it is clear from the Bill that we shall not get any houses in the rural areas of Scotland in the next three years. It is a little difficult to see why Parliamentary time should be taken up in introducing the Bill at all, except almost as a matter of form. I would remind the Minister that we have not yet had a statement on this matter. I have to bring a deputation to the Secretary of State next week because of the appalling conditions of squatters in Kilmarnock. Are not we to have some clear-cut policy? We need a little more than an explanation of the Bill—which is, after all, on the cover—and a little more indication of what the policy is in Scotland. If the Minister will tell us that, we shall be a little more enlightened about the Bill.

I should like to associate myself with the remarks that have been made about the inadequacy of this Measure. What we want is houses, but it is evident that Scotland has arrived at the most deplorable condition to be found in any part of Britain. We recognise the efforts of the Secretary of State for Scotland and his very admirable Joint Under-Secretaries, but the result has been totally inadequate. I would welcome some suggestion from the Joint Under-Secretary of State who is to reply that he will call a committee together to see how far the small builders in Scotland can help to relieve this dreadful situation. I have in my possession a letter written by a soldier. He mentions a case in which 15 people are living in one small house—a wife and four children in each of three rooms. It is now 1943, and there is no sign that we are about to improve that state of affairs. We all recognise the difficulties, but really if we have come to a point where, after three years of war, this situation is going from bad to worse, we are no friends of the Government if we merely say that this state of affairs is inevitable. It is disgraceful.

I am sorry to interrupt the hon. Gentleman, but this is not a Bill under which the general housing conditions of Scotland can be discussed.

If it is not a Bill under which the general housing conditions of Scotland can be discussed, all I can say is that it is a very great pity that the Bill has not been produced in a form that would allow us to bring before this House the dreadful housing conditions under which our Scottish citizens are living.

I do not know how far I may—in fact I dare not—traverse the wide open spaces of Debate which we have so far witnessed, and I must stick to the somewhat narrow road which we are continuing in this Bill into the bigger future. The remark for which I was most grateful to my hon. Friend the Member for Galloway (Mr. McKie) was his reference to the fact that he appreciates my difficulties. There are certain difficulties in replying, because we have covered a great deal of ground in this Debate and I fear that I might be out of Order if I attempted to reply to some of the observations which have been made.

At the start let us not be confused about this Measure. It is nothing but a war-time Measure, carrying on for a specific period, a limited thing. There has been some confusion. I do not think it is fair to compare a limited Measure of this nature to the big plans that are being made or are under way. Whether I dare go beyond that point I do not know, but I would first like to refer to the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Linlithgow (Mr. Mathers) who clearly recognised the limited nature of the Measure and gave it a welcome. He did not expect tremendous things from it, because he recognised those limitations. Even my hon. Friend the Member for East Fife (Mr. Stewart) welcomed the Bill at one stage of his remarks. I was not sure whether he was welcoming it or repelling it on the whole, but at one stage he recognised that the Bill made a limited contribution. I take it that something is better than nothing. [Interruption.] Perhaps the hon. Member for Bridgeton (Mr. Maxton), who interrupted me, is one who would rather have no loaf at all, than a slice of bread, even though it should only be a thin slice. That seems to me to be illogical and does not at all square with the view that housing conditions are deplorable.

My position is this. This legislation creates the illusion that something is being done for Scotland, therefore we should be better without it.

Something is being done for Scottish rural housing in this Bill. The figure given of houses completed is 381 but that does not cover the whole picture. Apart from the houses completed, there are 201 under construction at the present moment. A total of 691 houses approved indicates the progress that would have been made had not the war supervened. They would be completed but for problems connected with building materials and labour. We should have received quite a useful amount of help from this Measure and I therefore submit that even if the Measure is not on a large scale it is of some help. It is carrying us on until we can do the really big thing. There is a rural housing advisory committee which is investigating housing matters including rural housing, and things like alternative building materials, methods of construction and so on, in association with the Burt Committee. In fact, there is a great deal of preparation going on for the big progress which we desire to see and into which I hope the narrow path that we are traversing to-day will broaden.

Perhaps the hon. Member for East Fife will forgive me if I say that I was in some difficulty at times in following precisely what he wanted in the Bill, until, finally, he said that he would oppose it unless he received a satisfactory reply. I think that if he examines the OFFICIAL REPORT he will see that his statements were sometimes mutually contradictory. Therefore I have some difficulty in replying to him. When he twitted my hon. Friend with having changed the opinions which he held in peace-time, I wondered whether there was any hon. Member in this House who could put his hand on his heart and say that he has not experienced any change of opinion, in regard to any single thing, since he came into this House.

I am very glad. I bow in all humility and repeat that I am very glad to hear it. Another point raised by my hon. Friend was whether the grant was to be increased. That was replied to and the answer is, "No." To increase it under war-time conditions might prove to be two-edged. While we desire to get all the improved houses we can under war-time conditions, we do not want to raise false hopes which we know cannot be met. If an increase of grant were held out, we might get such a flood of demands that we could not possibly meet them and the Measure would become a dead letter in operation. What the future may hold is another matter and what the housing committee may recommend on this point I do not know. Neither would it be proper for me to anticipate. Therefore no hope can be held out of an increase in the grant now.

I apologise for interrupting but I think everyone knows that the 1938 Act was, more or less, a failure because of the inadequacy of the grant. Surely if the powers are being extended, the grant must also be extended because it is quite impossible for people to build houses at to-day's costs on the existing grant. That is where I find myself in agreement with the hon. Member for East Fife (Mr. Henderson Stewart). Is it definite Government policy that the grant remains as it stands?

I would point out the powers we are seeking to have extended in this Bill, are due to expire. Therefore, the immediate need is to carry forward these powers. What happens when these powers are renewed, is a matter for consideration. I am not closing the door on this matter at all, but I am not prepared to commit my right hon. Friend. I merely say that what my hon. Friend has said, together with what other hon. Members have said, will be noted in relation to the efficacy of the Measure. My hon. Friend the Member for East Fife concentrated mainly on the point, and expressed a desire which we all share, that we should tackle this problem of rural housing in real earnest. Let me assure him that despite anything that has been said by the hon. Member for Bridgeton my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State and the rest of us most earnestly desire that the blots in rural housing—do not let us pretend it is all bad, for it is not—shall be wiped out. We are very sincere and very keen about that. After all, the hon. Member for Bridgeton recognised that there may be, what could be called slums in the country as well as in the cities and towns. I can assure him that, taking that long-term view, we shall not rest in the matter.

I do not agree with hon. Members who say that this Measure has been a complete failure in the past. It has brought relief to quite a number of homes in the sense of improved conditions, and if it is not as great as we think it should be, let us remember that this is all assistance given to private owners and that owners of many other houses will have improved them without that grant. Let us not imagine that no house is being improved save with this particular assistance. The hon. Member for Bridgeton opposes the Bill on principle. It is difficult to see, as I said earlier, how he squares that point of view with his denunciation of the housing conditions in our countryside. It would certainly have been my own view, and I have taken a good deal of interest in housing, on the back benches as well as in office, that the housing position is such that I would do almost anything to get houses for the people. Whether that is a right principle or a wrong one, I have seen so much deplorable housing that it has weighed with me most deeply. Therefore, I beg of the hon. Member not to despise even this Measure. I suggest that here are some people who are going to be helped by this limited Bill.

We do not pretend that it will stimulate housing. In wartime there are profound limitations. I venture to suggest that if we were in the piping days of peace my right hon. Friend might be bringing forward a different Measure.

Yes, the original Act, but I am dealing with the limited sphere of this particular Bill. I should not be in Order, I think, in discussing the whole Act. My hon. Friend the Member for Galloway stressed what I have already mentioned, the problem of the building difficulties. The hon. Member for Dumfries (Sir H. Fildes) shared the anxiety of the House that our rural housing problems should be tackled earnestly and vigorously at the earliest possible moment. That is certainly the determination of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State. The hon. Member for Kilmarnock (Mr. K. Lindsay) asked me whether we were receiving comparable treatment with England. I am not quite sure what he had in mind specifically on that point.

I simply had in mind the announced programme of house-building in England.

I am obliged to my hon. Friend, because there we are in some difficulty, as the allocation of that housing to Scotland does not come within the scope of this Bill.

All I want to know is whether this is part of the greater attack on the problem. No reference was made to that point so far as I know?

No, Sir; this is specifically a wartime Measure. The really big plans are being thought out. This is something we are doing under wartime conditions.

The Housing Advisory Committee is going into these plans and preparing them. It has been announced that a large number of houses are required. I can assure the hon. Member that a great deal is being done on that subject. The second point my hon. Friend raised was the question of alternative building materials and forms of building. I will just repeat was I said earlier that the Burt Committee, which is a United Kingdom Committee, is sitting on this subject and investigating all sorts of alternative materials and construction, including pre-fabrication.

Yes, Sir. I have endeavoured to deal with most of the points raised. I trust I have satisfied the hon. Member for East Fife that we are not being slackers in this matter. I do not dare hope that the hon. Member for Bridgeton will reconsider his position, though I trust that he will, because we desire, if we possibly can, to have this Measure, although it is limited, passed without a Division.

The Joint Under-Secretary for Scotland has given to the House a most convincing case why we should reject this apology for a Bill which could be termed a "Crumbs for Lazarus" Bill. As I understand, it is a continuation of a Bill which was originally introduced, as the hon. Member for Bridgeton (Mr. Maxton) has observed, in 1938. Now the hon. Gentleman comes along with a puny infant and asks this House to administer some oxygen to keep it alive because, as he states most candidly, if we do give the Bill a Second Reading the most this House and Scotland can expect is some sort of committee. The Bill is for the housing of the rural population in Scotland. Yet the Joint Under-Secretary for Scotland cannot

Division No. 10.


Adamson, W. M. (Cannock)Bennett, Sir P. F. B. (Edgbaston)Cary, R. A.
Agnew, Comdr. P. G.Blair, Sir R.Cazalet, Col. V. A.
Albery, Sir IrvingBoles, Lt.-Col. D. C.Chapman, A. (Rutherglen)
Allen, Col. J. Sandeman (B'k'd., W.)Bower, Norman (Harrow)Clarry, Sir Reginald
Apsley, LadyBower, Comdr. R. T. (Cleveland)Cobb, Captain E. C.
Assheton, R.Bowles, F. G.Cocks, F. S.
Astor, Hon. W. W. (Fulham E.)Bracken, Rt. Hon. B.Colegate, W. A.
Baillie, Sir A. W. M.Brass, Capt. Sir W.Cooke, J. D. (Hammersmith, S.)
Barr, J.Brocklebank, Sir C. E. R.Craven-Ellis, W.
Barstow, P. G.Brooke, H. (Lewisham)Crowder, Capt. J. F. E.
Baxter, A. BeverleyBrown, Brig-Gen. H. C. (Newbury)Culverwell, C. T.
Beattie, F. (Cathcart)Burden, T. W.Daggar, G.
Beaumont, Maj. Ht. R. E. B. (P'ts'h)Cadogan, Major Sir E.Davidson, Viscountess (H'm'l H'mst'd)
Beechman, N. A.Campbell, Sir E. T. (Bromley)Davies, Major Sir G. F. (Yeevil)
Beit, Sir A. L.Campbell, J. D. (Antrim)Denman, Hon. R. D.

promise a single brick, to bring a single house to those people in Scotland.

I said that materials and labour were limited, not that they were non-existent.

The fault of the Joint Under-Secretary is that he has no vision, but he is backed by a docile bloc from across the Border—I include the hon. Member for Bridgeton (Mr. Maxton)—who are ready to assent to any proposal which comes from Edinburgh. If the hon. Member for Bridgeton will have a Division, I will gladly tell with him.

I am obliged to the hon. Member. It is high time that hon. Members from Scotland took a little more notice of their English colleagues, and had a little more flesh and blood and guts in them. I suppose that the big battalions behind the Under-Secretary will give the Bill its Second Reading. If the hon. Member would only consult Members from just over the Border—I will not mention England——

I am going to sit down. But I wish that the Scottish people and the Press of Scotland would realise how they are served in this House. So long as we have Bills like the Rural Depopulation Bill—which is what it amounts to—which I call the "Crumbs for Lazarus Bill," Scotland is going to be as badly served in future.

Question put, "That the Bill be now read a Second time."

The House divided: Ayes, 235; Noes, 9.

Dobbie, W.Kirby, B. V.Schuster, Sir G. E.
Donner, Squadron-Leader P. W.Knox, Major-General Sir A. W. F.Scott, Donald (Wansbeck)
Duckworth, Arthur (Shrewsbury)Lawson, J. J.Scott, Lord William (Ro'b'h & Selk'k)
Dugdale, John (W. Bromwich)Leach, W.Selley, H. R.
Edmondson, Major Sir J.Leighton, Major B. E. P.Smiles, Lt.-Col. Sir W. D.
Edwards, Rt. Hon. Sir C. (Bedwellty)Leonard, W.Smith, Bracewell (Dulwich)
Emmott, C. E. G. C.Liddall, W. S.Smith, E. (Stoke)
Erskine-Hill, A. G.Linstead, H. N.Smith, E. P. (Ashford)
Etherton, RalphLipson, D. L.Smith, Sir R. W. (Aberdeen)
Evans, D. O. (Cardigan)Lloyd, C. E. (Dudley)Snadden, W. McN.
Fermoy, LordLloyd, Major E. G. R. (Renfrew, E.)Somerset, T.
Foot, D. M.Locker-Lampion, Commander O. S.Somervell, Rt. Hon. Sir D. B.
Frankel, D.Loftus, P. C.Sorensen, R. W.
Fraser, Lt.-Col. Sir Ian (Lonsdale)Lucas, Major Sir J. M.Southby, Comdr. Sir A. R. J.
Fraser, T. (Hamilton)Mabane, W.Spearman, A. C. M.
Furness, Major S. N.McCallum, Major D.Storey, S.
Galbraith, Comdr. T. D.McCorquodale, Malcolm S.Strauss, G. R. (Lambeth, N.)
Garro Jones, G. M.Macdonald, Captain Peter (I. of W.)Strauss, H. G. (Norwich)
Gates, Major E. E.McEntee, V. La T.Strickland, Capt. W. F.
George, Megan Lloyd (Anglesey)Mack, J. D.Stuart, Rt. Hon. J. (Moray and Nairn)
Gibbins, J.McKie, J. H.Summers, G. S.
Gledhill, G.Makins, Brig-Gen. Sir E.Sutcliffe, H.
Glyn, Sir R. G. C.Mander, G. le M.Sykes, Maj.-Gen. Rt. Hon. Sir F. H.
Goldie, N. B.Martin, J. H.Tasker, Sir R. I.
Gower, Sir R. V.Mathers, G.Tate, Mavis C.
Graham, Captain A. C. (Wirral)Mayhew, Lt.-Col. J.Taylor, H. B. (Mansfield)
Greene, W. P. C. (Worcester)Mellor, Sir J. S. P.Thomas, I. (Keighley)
Grenfell, D. R.Molson, A. H. E.Thomas, J. P. L. (Hereford)
Gridley, Sir A. B.Morgan, R. H. (Stourbridge)Thomas, Dr. W. S. Russell (S'th'm'tn)
Griffiths, J. (Llanelly)Morris-Jones, Sir HenryThorne, W.
Grigg, Sir E. W. M. (Altrincham)Morrison, Major J. G. (Salisbury)Thorneycroft, Major G. E. P. (Stafford)
Guest, Dr. L. Haden (Islington, N.)Mort, D. L.Thorneycroft, H. (Clayton)
Gunston, Major Sir D. W.Nall, Sir J.Tinker, J. J.
Hacking, Rt. Hon. Sir D. H.Naylor, T. E.Touche, G. C.
Hammersley, S. S.Neven-Spence, Major B. H. H.Tufnell, Lieut.-Comdr. R. L.
Hardie, AgnesNicholson, Captain G. (Farnham)Walkden, A. G. (Bristol, S.)
Harris, Rt. Hon. Sir P. A.Nicolson, Hon. H. G. (Leicester, W.)Walkden, E. (Doncaster)
Hely-Hutchinson, M. R.Nunn, W.Walker, J.
Henderson, A. (Kingswinford)Oldfield, W. H.Ward, Irene M. B. (Wallsend)
Henderson, J. J. Craik (Leeds, N.E.)O'Neill, Rt. Hon. Sir H.Wardlaw-Milne, Sir J. S.
Hewlett, T. H.Peake, Rt. Hon. O.Waterhouse, Capt. C.
Hill, Prof. A. V.Pearson, A.Watkins, F. C.
Hinchingbrooke, ViscountPerkins, W. R. D.Watson, W. McL.
Hogg, Hon. Q. McG.Peters, Dr. S. J.Watt, Lt.-Col. G. S. H. (Richmond)
Holdsworth, H.Petherick, Major M.Webbe, Sir W. Harold
Horabin, T. L.Pethick-Lawrence, Rt. Hon. F. W.Wedderburn, H. J. S.
Horsbrugh, FlorencePickthorn, K. W. M.Westwood, J.
Hughes, R. M.Pownall, Lt.-Col. Sir AsshetonWhite, Sir Dymoke (Fareham)
Hume, Sir G. H.Price, M. P.White, H. (Derby, N.E.)
Hunter, T.Procter, Major H. A.Whiteley, Rt. Hon. W. (Blaydon)
Hutchinson, G. C. (Ilford)Pym, L. R.Wickham, Lt.-Col. E. T. R.
James, Wing-Com. A. (Well'borough)Radford, E. A.Williams, Sir H. G. (Croydon, S.)
Jarvis, Sir J. J.Raikes, Flight-Lieut. H. V. A. M.Williams, Rt. Hon. T. (Don Valley)
Jeffreys, Gen. Sir G. D.Reed, A. C. (Exeter)Willink, H. U.
Jenkins, Sir W. (Neath)Reed, Sir H. S. (Aylesbury)Windsor-Clive, Lt.-Col. G.
Jennings, R.Reid, Capt. A. Cunningham (St. M.)Woodburn, A.
Jewson, P. W.Reid, W. Allan (Derby)Woods, G. S. (Finsbury)
John, W.Rickards, G. W.Wootton-Davies, J. H.
Johnston, Rt. Hon. T. (Stl'g & C'km'n)Riley, B.Wragg, H.
Jones, L. (Swansea, W.)Roberts, W.Wright, Group Capt. J. (Erdington)
Kerr, H. W. (Oldham)Robertson, D. (Streatham)York, Major C.
Kerr, Sir John Graham (Scottish U's)Robinson, W. A. (St. Helens)
Kimball, Major L.Royds, Admiral Sir P. M. R.


King-Hall, Commander W. S. R.Russell, Sir A. (Tynemouth)Mr. Boulton and Captain
Salt, E. W.McEwen.


Buchanan, G.McGovern, J.Stokes, R. R.
Fildes, Sir H.MacLaren, A.
Kirkwood, D.Muff, G.


McGhee, H. G.Stewart, J. Henderson (Fife, E.)Mr. Maxton and Mr. Stephen.

Bill read accordingly a Second time.

Bill committed to a Committee of the Whole House for the next Sitting Day.—[ Captain McEwen.]

Housing (Agricultural Population) (Scotland) Money

Considered in Committee, under Standing Order No. 69.

[Mr. CHARLES WILLIAMS in the Chair]


"That for the purposes of any Act of the present Session to extend the time within which applications for assistance under the Housing (Agricultural Population) (Scotland) Act, 1938, may be made to local authorities, it is expedient to authorise the payment out of moneys provided by Parliament of such additional sums as may become payable under Section eight of the said Act of 1938 by reason of any extension of the time within which applications for assistance must be made to local authorities in order that their power to give assistance under the said Act of 1938 may be exercisable."—(King's Recommendation signified.)—[Mr. Westwood.]

Resolution to be reported upon the next Sitting Day.

Army And Air Force (Annual) Bill

Order for Second Reading read.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a Second time."—[ Mr. Arthur Henderson.]

I wish to put a point of Order, Mr. Speaker. I understand that on the Second Reading of this Bill it is not possible for hon. Members to put any points at all and that this stage is purely formal, as in the case of the First Reading of Bills. If that is so, would you kindly inform me, and possibly other hon. Members in a similar position, why it is not possible at this stage to raise points of general interest on a Bill which extends the Army and Air Force Act, and whether this procedure applies to the Third Reading?

It always has been the custom that on the Second Reading of this Bill nothing whatever can be raised. No questions of administration or disagreement with any other provision can possibly be raised on this Bill, but it is always open to hon. Members to raise anything they like on the Committee stage, when both new Clauses and Amendments can be moved. The Second Reading always has been, and is, an entirely formal procedure.

Question put, and agreed to.

Bill committed to a Committee of the Whole House for the next Sitting Day [ Captain McEwen.]

British Nationality And Status Of Aliens Bill Lords

Considered in Committee.

[Mr. CHARLES WILLIAMS in the Chair.]

Clauses 1 to 11 agreed to.

New Clause—(Nationality Of Married Women)

(1) No woman who is a British subject shall, by reason only of her marriage to an alien after the commencement of this Act, lose her British nationality.

(2) At any time after the commencement of this Act any woman who was a British subject and lost her British nationality before such commencement by reason only of her marriage to an alien shall be at liberty to apply to the Secretary of State for a certificate of resumption of British nationality.

(3) The marriage after the commencement of this Act of a woman who is not a British subject at the date of such marriage to a man who is then a British subject, shall not confer on such woman British nationality.

(4) A woman, notwithstanding marriage, shall be competent to apply for and receive the grant of a certificate of naturalisation under the same conditions as a man.—[ Colonel Cazalet.]

Brought up, and read the First time.

I beg to move, "That the Clause be read a Second time."

I do not intend to repeat the speech I made on the Second Reading of this Bill, advocating in some detail the various points in this new Clause. All I would like to say is that I think it gives the Government an opportunity of implementing their acknowledged policy in regard to the question of married women. Subsection (1), if I may briefly explain, gives a woman the same rights as a man in this country as regards nationality. If it was accepted, a woman's nationality would not in the future be regarded as a by-product of marriage; it would be something that belongs to her by right. That is in accord with modern-day sentiment towards the equal treatment of the sexes in matters of this kind. Sub-section (2) concerns British women who are married to aliens and gives to them the same rights already accorded to British women married to enemy aliens. Hon. Members who were not present during the Second Reading Debate may not realise the anomaly that exists to-day. British women who are enemy aliens have the right to go to the Home Secretary and ask for a return of their British nationality. The anomaly is that what is accorded to the wives of enemy aliens is not granted to the wives of friendly aliens, and this Clause would set that matter right.

In this particular matter Australia and New Zealand have already passed legislation which accords their own women who have married aliens full rights of citizenship within the Dominions, and I hope the Government will not use that old and specious argument that they cannot do anything about this matter because they do not want to move more quickly than the Dominions. Sub-sections (3) and (4) of this Clause make it necessary for any woman who marries a British subject to qualify before she receives the full benefits and advantages of citizenship. This matter has been before the House on various occasions. I think it was an abuse of the rights of British citizenship, and here is an opportunity to set it right. I have no great hopes of being able to convince the Government that they should accept all the provisions of this Clause, and although I do not intend to press it to a Division, I trust they will remember the way we co-operated on the Second Reading, that they will recognise the general feeling in all parts of the Committee and that they will hold out some future hope that at an early date they will take an opportunity of remedying a real grievance.

I beg to second the Motion.

I would like to endorse all that my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Chippenham (Colonel Cazalet) has said, except, of course, that I cannot agree with him when he says that the giving of equality to women is the modern trend. I have not noticed that trend myself, and I merely ask for this Clause on the ground of ordinary justice to women, as justice is one of the things for which we are supposed to be fighting in this war. I do not wish to take up the time of the Committee by arguing the case, which has been argued very fully and of which the Government are well aware. I hope we shall have a full explanation from the Government, who I fear do not intend to accept the Clause, as to why this extremely anomalous position should be continued. I had a letter from a woman only to-day, a woman married to a friendly alien serving in our Forces, who explained to me that her husband, although a foreigner, can move about this country without let or hindrance, while she, a British subject before her marriage, born and bred in this country, has to register whenever she moves from one place to another. That is an undignified and undesirable position for an Englishwoman to find herself in, and I think it is quite as undesirable that a foreign woman should be able, as has been done in the past, to claim British citizenship merely on the payment of a small sum to a man when she is married to him and whom she probably never sees again.

I hope the Government will not accept this new Clause. So far as the moral issue is concerned and the arrangements relatively between this country and the Dominions, the Government are reinforced by the presence on the Treasury Bench of one of the Law officers of the Crown, who, no doubt, will deal most satisfactorily with the juridical aspect of this question. I want to oppose it on other grounds. I feel that when a man or woman marries a foreigner the desirable thing is that the two of them should hold the same nationality after marriage, not a different nationality and certainly not a dual nationality. If people hold a dual nationality, that is virtually an anomaly on the whole principle of nationality itself, and to my mind it cannot in any way assist towards better relations either between the two individuals who make the marriage or between the Governments to whom they owe allegiance. Therefore, I hope the principle will be maintained that when a woman marries an alien she does so prepared to enter into the way of life of the foreign country of which she is to become a national.

Does my hon. and gallant Friend realise that a British woman married to an enemy alien can regain her British citizenship? Is he suggesting that when a British woman marries a German she should entirely take his nationality, his way of thought and his interests in the unity of their marriage? Does he believe that unity can be obtained by such a course?

I am grateful for that interruption, because I was about to say that in the Debate on the British Nationality and Status of Aliens Bill, which Parliament passed a few years ago, the very case which my hon. Friend has described to the Committee was dealt with. That is to say, that if a woman married an alien whose country should become at war with this country she should have the option of regaining at once her British nationality. I agree that in that case the law should stand, but my hon. Friend and her Friends want to go further than that. They want women to have the best of both worlds, to be able to dodge about between one country and another to see which they like best after marriage. If this new Clause were to be accepted, it would be disruptive of the whole family principle and the idea of the family unit being a unit which forms a component of nationalities and States themselves.

Like the hon. and gallant Member for Chippenham (Colonel Cazalet) and the hon. Member for Frome (Mrs. Tate), I dealt with this matter in my speech in the Second Reading Debate, and I do not propose to repeat what I said then. The hon. and gallant Member for Camborne (Commander Agnew) does not seem to realise that the principle which it is sought to introduce into the Bill exists at the present time in the United States of America and that his suggestion that the adoption of this principle would be subversive of the whole marriage tie is not in the least borne out by what has happened in America.

May I point out to the right hon. Gentleman that America has not got the complication—and also, of course, the great privilege—of a great Imperial situation to deal with as we have, and even if she had, I do not hold out the United States of America as the model which everyone else has to follow in every way, great country as I recognise them to be.

Of course, the question of our Imperial position is a very important one, but it has nothing to do with the hon. and gallant Gentleman's argument, which was that ipso facto the change in the law proposed in the new Clause would be subversive of the marriage tie. I was pointing out that that would not be the case, and that an important country like the United States has adopted that principle and there has not been that effect there. Obviously, it would not have that effect here. It is much more likely to be subversive of the marriage relationship if a woman loses her nationality on marriage and thereby is under constraint, which she is at the present time owing to the fact that her natural loyality and the obsolete law of the country are at variance, the law of the country being obsolete because it is not in accord with modern conceptions concerning the independent rights of women.

I wish to put a question to the Government. It is some 12 years since the Government of the day made their announcement of Government policy on this matter. That pronouncement was that in principle the Government favoured this change. They said then, and they have said since, that the difficulty of implementing that pledge is the one to which the hon. and gallant Member referred just now, that we are part of an Empire and obviously it is very desirable we should act as an Empire in unity in this matter, and that one part of the Empire should not go one way and another part another way. It was said in the Second Reading Debate that those parts of the Empire which resisted the change the last time the question was raised were still against it. In the Second Reading Debate, the Attorney-General was unable to give a reply when I asked what was the latest occasion when those parts of the Empire which disapproved of the change had been consulted. I hope that between then and now the Government have had time to refresh their minds with regard to these facts, and further, I hope they will be able to make a definite pronouncement of a new kind to-day.

It is clear that in the past there has been a division on this matter in different parts of the Empire. Australia and New Zealand have been pressing for this reform to be carried through; in fact they have adopted an ingenious method of getting the effects of this reform, as far as the present period is concerned, without actually carrying it into practice and without upsetting the unity of the Empire in the matter. On the other hand, Canada and South Africa, the last time they were consulted, were against the change. In the Second Reading Debate I asked the Attorney-General whether the Government had, within the last two or three years, made any fresh approach to South Africa and Canada to see whether, with the march of events, those two parts of the self-governing Empire had changed their opinion and would no longer be an obstacle to the reform. I ask again whether any recent approach has been made to those parts of the self-governing Empire, and if it has not, will the Government undertake, within the next few weeks, to make a further approach to those parts of the Empire to see whether unanimity on this question cannot now be arrived at? Of course, this will not satisfy the hon. and gallant Member for Camborne, because he is against the principle, but the Government have said that they are in favour of the change but are held up by the divergence of opinion in different parts of the Empire. If that be the case, what is there to prevent them from making a fresh approach to those Dominions? I ask the right hon. Gentleman the Under-Secretary of State and the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Attorney-General whether they will now give an undertaking, on behalf of the Government, that a fresh approach will be made to South Africa and Canada to see whether the views which the Government have professed to hold on this matter cannot be now brought into effect.

I very much hope the Government will respond to the appeal made by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for East Edinburgh (Mr. Pethick-Lawrence). It seems to me that the only argument against the principle of this new Clause is that it would not be appropriate in this Bill. Behind that argument, of course, there is the consideration that we must wait until we get complete agreement among the Dominions. But we have been waiting for so long, and there is no sign that any strong effort has been made to get a united decision by the Dominions and this country on this really important issue. Its importance is that it affects the status of womanhood. I think there will be general agreement on all sides of the Committee that we want to remove any vestiges that remain in our laws of treating women as inherently inferior to men and preventing them from sharing to the full the civic rights than men enjoy. Therefore, I very much hope the Government will make clear their approval of the principle of the new Clause, whatever may be their decision as to the appropriate place for it. I hope also they will make it clear that they will consult the Dominions once more and urge that there should be a united decision on this point. I am sorry my hon. Friend the Member for Bilston (Mr. Hannah) is not here, because he would have spoken about an Amendment to Sub-section (3) of this Clause in his name and mine which I think is an improvement in one respect, in that it makes it clearer that there would not be dual nationality in the case of a woman who is not a British subject at the time of her marriage and decides to have the nationality of her husband. In that case, in opting for British nationality upon her marriage she would have to renounce her previous nationality, and I think that would in some measure meet the objection of the hon. and gallant Gentleman opposite.

I resemble the right hon. Gentleman opposite in two respects. In the first place, I prefer the word "Empire" to "Commonwealth," and, secondly, I should not have intervened in the Debate had it not been for the speeches to which we have just listened. They seem to me to be examples of the typical modern heresy of taking something for granted, with a great appearance of moral and intellectual superiority, and then supposing that that is the end of the argument. The right hon. Gentleman told us that this or that was more consonant with modern conceptions. But which of us knows what are modern conceptions and what are not? We are continually told what everyone wants or what everyone thinks. The right hon. Gentleman's views of what are modern conceptions and mine differ, it may be, very considerably, and no argument is to be founded upon that assumption, nor is it really anything but a piece of chronological provincialism to assume that the conceptions of your own generation are necessarily better than those of an earlier one; indeed, when the conceptions of one generation run counter to all others, there is a certain presumption in favour of the older conception. I find it a little difficult also to follow the argument that, if the Government accepted this principle 12 years ago, that is conclusive. That is a strange doctrine to be heard in the House of Commons, particularly from a Front Bench, and I hope the House will pay no attention to it. The right hon. Gentleman endeavoured to contravene my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Camborne (Commander Agnew) by saying there really was not such an important issue, as he put it, going to the root of family life and so on. He was immediately confuted by his ally below the Gangway, who said this was a most important matter because it went to the whole root of the question of the status of women and who raised the whole question-begging stuff of those people who think women distinguishable from men being necessarily disposed to impute inferiority to one or other of the parties. That kind of assumption has been current long enough, and it is high time we ceased to pay attention to it.

It seems to me that there are really only two questions before us, one the question of the interest of States in women who marry foreigners, particularly the interest of this State as involved in British women marrying foreigners, and the second part of the question, to which I attach as much importance as the hon. Lady, what could be done to increase the chances of happiness and diminish the chances of unhappiness of the women concerned; and, if the two things run counter to each other, clearly it is our business to give more weight to the first consideration than to the second. In my judgment, the two things do not run counter to each other. I do not believe the assumption that by reducing the stakes of a game you necessarily make the game easier to play. Some games have to be like cricket, where the whole thing depends upon the first ball, and if you do wrong you are out. In my judgment—and that does not matter, but it is the judgment of the immense majority of mankind since the world began—matrimony is one of those adventures. It is one of the most perilous adventures upon which a man can enter, and I am credibly informed, and I rationally believe, that it is even more perilous for women. It does not follow that you make it less perilous by making it easier to enter upon it. On the balance of the two considerations about the interests of the women involved, I should have no hesitation in betting, although I never count myself certain of winning, that on the Day of Judgment when we ask St. Peter about it he will say that this is an extremely perilous adventure. Relations with foreigners are also extremely perilous adventures. When you do the two things simultaneously, you get a sort of geometrical progression of peril. I feel little doubt that if we could cast up the accounts at the end, it would be said that there is less risk of human unhappiness, on the whole, in the law as now proposed by the Government, that is to say, that the woman has to face the fact and say, "I want this man and I am prepared to face the perils, inconveniences and disadvantages of losing my British nationality." On the whole there will be less unhappiness from a compulsion to face that fact than there will be by trying to make that fact appear smaller. You really reduce the effect very little and deceive more than you mitigate. I had another argument of great force and power, but I think perhaps I have said enough to make clear my general view in this matter.

After the Committee has listened to the hon. Member's dissertation on things ancient and modern, and on the question whether St. Peter and not this Committee would have to decide, we can come back to the problem before us. I appeal to the Government to take into consideration the human aspect of this problem and to adopt the proposal that has been made, as a wartime measure at any rate. There are women who have married friendly aliens, now living in this country. Their position is difficult, and if the Government can do nothing else, they might make some special arrangements whereby these women can be treated, for the time being, as British subjects. I hope that they will make provision of that kind, if they cannot go any further.

My hon. Friend the Member for Cambridge University (Mr. Pickthorn) quite properly suggested that we should apply the test of where the advantage to the State lay in coming to a decision on this matter. I want to ask the Attorney-General what is the opinion of the Government in this matter. Is it in the interest of the State that when a British woman marries a foreigner, she should lose her British nationality, whereas when a foreign woman marries an Englishman, she should acquire British nationality? Will he also tell us clearly whether the Government approve the principle of which, we are told, the Government of 12 years ago approved? It would help some of us to come to a decision if we knew that the Government still accepts the principle of the Amendment.

We have had an interesting discussion on a question that always arouses great interest among hon. Members, and the Government, as my right hon. and learned Friend the Attorney-General indicated on the Second Reading of the Bill, are by no means unsympathetic to the object which my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Chippenham (Colonel Cazalet) has in mind. We are, however, very much more conscious of an issue which is even more important, and that is the maintenance of the common status of British subjects throughout the British Empire. It was Lord Palmerston, I think, unless my history is very much at fault, who at the end of a Cabinet discussion said, "Well, gentlemen, it does not matter much what we say so long as we all say the same thing." I would not say that it does not matter whether our law should stand as it is at present or whether our law should be as the hon. and gallant Member for Chippenham desires it to be; it is a matter of great importance; but it is not anything like comparable in importance to the maintenance of a common British status throughout the British Empire. It would indeed be a disaster if those who represent His Majesty's Government or one of the Dominion Governments in foreign countries had, before they intervened on behalf of some British subject in distress, to inquire what sort of a British subject he was.

South Africa has never accepted the Convention, and I think Southern Ireland also takes an entirely independent view.

That, I think, is rather beside the point, which is that the maintenance of the common status is a matter of supreme importance. If hon. Members look at the Amendment, they will see that it falls into two parts. I do not want to be critical of the Amendment in detail, but the first two Sub-sections are intended to prevent the loss of British nationality by the marriage of a British woman to an alien and to provide for a woman who has married an alien to regain her British nationality. The third and fourth Sub-sections deal with the obverse of the picture, the alien woman who acquires British nationality by marriage to a British subject, and as regards such women, my hon. and gallant Friend's proposal is that if they have already so acquired British nationality they shall not lose it, but that they shall not acquire it by marriage in the future. To that extent the Amendment does not deal with the point which so much worries my hon. Friend the Member for Frome (Mrs. Tate), that in the past alien women have acquired British nationality by virtue of marriage to British subjects.

My hon. and gallant Friend raised this matter in a Bill, I think, 15 years ago, but the scope of the grievance which then existed has been very much narrowed. In the first place, we have the provision, to which he has himself referred, that if you are married to an alien of enemy nationality you have the right under the Act of 1914 to apply to regain your British nationality. Since the outbreak of war something like 2,000 certificates have been granted to women who were formerly British under that provision. In the second place, there is the Act of 1933, which provided that it was only where, by marriage, the British woman acquired a foreign nationality, that she lost her British nationality. As hon. Members know, in the case of marriage, for example, to an American citizen, there is no acquisition of American nationality and therefore no corresponding loss of British nationality. The same thing applies to marriages to French citizens since the year 1938. Moreover, the Act of 1933 limited the extent of this grievance in one other case, and that is where the husband acquires foreign nationality by naturalisation.

Yes. The hon. Member for West Fulham (Dr. Edith Summerskill) spoke, I think, too emphatically during the Second Reading Debate when she talked about a British woman being punished and penalised by loss of nationality on marriage. At the present time, if her marriage is to an alien of enemy nationality, a British woman can immediately re-acquire British nationality; on the other hand, if she marries into some other nationality, it is more than probable that she will be married to a person of Allied nationality. Perhaps it is rather hard, therefore, to describe as punishment and penalisation the acquisition, say, of Polish or Czech nationality at the present time.

I know that by narrowing the scope of a grievance you very often make those who suffer from it feel it more acutely. I have been asked whether the Government still stand by that oft-quoted declaration made in 1931 at Geneva, on behalf of His Majesty's Government when Lord Samuel was Home Secretary. That declaration is subject, of course, to the alterations which were made in nationality law in 1933, but I would remind hon. Members that that declaration is always quoted by supporters of my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Chippenham, without the addendum then attached to it, to the effect that His Majesty's Government could take no action in this matter without the agreement of the other members of the British Commonwealth of Nations. The British Government attach supreme importance to the concurrence of the self-governing Dominions in any changes which may be made.

Reference has been made to the legislation in the direction, though not to the full extent here proposed by my hon. Friend, which has been undertaken in Australia and New Zealand. It has been made clear in the Debate that although a woman in Australia, by marriage to an alien, becomes herself an alien, Australian domestic legislation provides for her retaining the rights and obligations, so long as she remains in Australia, of a British subject. That legislation does not go the whole way which my hon. and gallant Friend wants to go, but part of the way, and it is often quoted as an indication that Australia and New Zealand, who have adopted similar legislation, are prepared to go further down this road than are His Majesty's Government. I would just like to draw attention to this rather important fact which occurred in Australia only last month; that is, that the Australian Government, faced with the possible peril of invasion, have had to modify the Act to which my hon. Friend referred, by some emergency regulations. They now have a regulation which provides that a declaration made by a woman, that is, a declaration that she desires to retain the rights and obligations of a British subject in Australia under Section 18a of the Nationality Act, shall be of no effect unless registered, and that registration of the declaration may be refused or cancelled at the direction of the Minister for the Interior. [Interruption.] That was in January, 1943. Hon. Members will see that in the midst of this great struggle, faced with the perils with which Australia is faced at the present time, it has been thought fit to adopt some modification of the Nationality Act which they passed a few years ago.

As regard the main question, put by my right hon. Friend the Member for East Edinburgh (Mr. Pethick-Lawrence), whether His Majesty's Government had made, or would make, further approaches to the Dominion Governments upon this question at this stage, this matter was very fully discussed at the Imperial Conference in 1937. We are precluded, of course, from going behind the publication of the findings of the Conference, and I can give no indication to the House of the respective attitudes adopted by the various Dominions. But this matter having been discussed in 1937, and there having been a failure to arrive at any agreement upon further measures, I hardly think His Majesty's Government could have been expected, in the period that intervened between that Conference and the outbreak of war, to make further written approaches to His Majesty's Dominions. Since the war the action recently taken by the Australian Government to which I have referred does not seem to indicate that there would be any possibility of an advance at the present time in the direction which my hon. Friend desires. But I am authorised by my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary to make this statement to the House. My right hon. Friend, being by no means unsympathetic to the proposal contained in my hon. Friend's Amendment, in consultation with the Dominions Secretary, will be anxious to take any opportunity that may occur for further consultation with the Dominions, and he will be on the look-out for any suitable occasion of seeking a way round the difficulties which prevent further action on the lines which my hon. Friend desires.

Question, "That the Clause be read a Second time," put, and negatived.

Schedule agreed to.

Bill reported, without Amendment, read the Third time, and passed, without Amendment.

French North Africa (Political Prisoners)

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That this House do now adjourn."—[ Major Sir James Edmondson.]

I wish to raise the question of political prisoners in North Africa. I realise that it is a very delicate subject. I realise fully that our men are fighting side by side with Americans and Frenchmen in North Africa, and I would be horrified if any words of mine were to do anything to make their task more difficult. I would like to say at the outset that I know, as indeed we all know here, that North Africa is ruled by France, ruled by General Giraud, and not by us. Any remarks that I make will be made, if I may do so, to General Giraud through the Under-Secretary. What is the position to-day? The latest figures that we have of prisoners were given on 10th February in a reply by the Foreign Secretary to my hon. Friend the Members for North Lambeth (Mr. G. Strauss). He said that 903 prisoners had been released and that 5,407 were still detained on that date. But on 23rd February there appeared an article in "The Times" newspaper which I would like to quote, because the figures contained therein were somewhat different from those given by the Foreign Secretary:

"The weight of evidence, including that which comes from official French sources, goes to show that on November 8th there were between 9,500 and 10,000 political prisoners and refugees detained in North Africa. General Bergeret was correct in saying that 1,300 had since been released. Thus, in fact, the figures remaining must be somewhere between 8,000 and 9,000."
Why this discrepancy between the two sets of figures? I think it arises from the fact that the figures given by the right hon. Gentleman dealt only with those people actually detained in prison camps, and not with those people who because they had resisted arrest were placed in civil and military prisons rather than in prison camps. I understood that a distinction is made and those people who resist arrest are placed in prisons, and not in prison camps. Who are these men? Every one of them, to the best of my knowledge, is an anti-Fascist. Some have national representatives who can speak for them. Many have no national representatives. Included among these are Austrians, Germans, Hungarians and Italians, all of whom have proved in actual combat that they are anti-Fascist, willing to do their utmost to drive Fascism from Europe.

I come to the important question of how they are treated. I wish to give the House some information that I have obtained to-day from a man who was himself in one of the prison camps and who vouches for the accuracy of this information. The information, as far as I can tell—and I say it, naturally, with reserve—is accurate up to 15th January this year. I refer to the camp at Djelfa. In this camp there are in the neighbourhood of 1,500 people, living under canvas in the desert, without even elementary sanitation. Typhus is frequent. Large numbers of young men between 20 and 30 are said to be getting tuberculosis. There is no medical treatment for these men. There is no exemption from work even for the sick. Instead, anybody reporting sick gets 10 to 20 days in the cells, on bread and water for three days with a hot meal on the fourth. The prisoners are sent to dungeons in Fort Cavacelli, and are often, so the report says, actually horsewhipped naked, in front of other prisoners.

It being the hour appointed for the Interruption of Business, the Motion for the Adjournment of the House lapsed, without Question put.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That this House do now adjourn."—[ Mr. Beechman.]

These reports may or may not be true—I hope sincerely that they are not true—but the only possible way of answering them is for an adequate inspection of these camps to be made, and it is for that that I would ask first of all. I shall no doubt be told that the Inter-Allied Commission has in fact inspected them. I gather from information recently given by the Lord Privy Seal that in a recent tour four camps, with 1,200 people in them, were visited, and if the figures I gave of the total number of people were anything like remotely correct, this is only a very small proportion of the people in the camps. I ask, first, that the Inter-Allied Commission might be increased in numbers if it cannot do its work with sufficient speed, or, alternatively, that it might be possible for General Giraud to allow a small party of Members of Parliament to visit one or two of these prisons which the Inter-Allied Commission is itself unable to visit at present.

The real remedy for this, however, does not lie in better conditions for the men in the prisons, but in their release. Where would these men go? I submit that nine-tenths of them would probably go to the Armed Forces. Many of them are most experienced in fighting and would be exceedingly useful in the North African campaign. They are needed to help defend France to-day. I would appeal to the American people and say to them, "Your sons to-day are fighting on French soil. Are they to be deprived of the help of 3,000 or 4,000 political prisoners who to-day are awaiting the word to come to their aid? These men, formed into a brigade, might give very useful service indeed in the conflict that is now raging in North Africa." Finally, I would appeal to General Giraud himself, and I would say, "We lay no claim to any kind of jurisdiction over your territory. We do not even want to put undue pressure upon you. It is wholly your territory, but our men are to-day fighting side by side with yours at this moment to defend this territory. These men do not like to know that there are thousands of men who might be fighting on their side but who instead are standing behind prison bars. It is not nice for our men to know that." In the name of the great friendship that there is between our two peoples and in the name of all for which France and ourselves are fighting, I would say to General Giraud, "Release these men."

Certainly I have no complaint at all about the very moderate terms of the speech which has just been made by my hon. Friend on this very difficult question. Nevertheless, I am sorry that he has raised this question again to-day, and I am sorry for more than one reason. In the first place, there is very little that I can add to what has been stated in this House by my right hon. Friend. My hon. Friend just now was, in fact, under some misapprehension when he said that the last statement that my right hon. Friend made was on 10th February or some such date.

That is what I understood my hon. Friend to say, but in fact it is not the case. The last statement made by my right hon. Friend was on 3rd March, when he gave very full figures, which differed materially from those quoted by my hon. Friend just now. When he made his statement on 3rd March my right hon. Friend said that between 5,000 and 6,000 political prisoners were still in detention, of whom some 700 were French, some 3,000 Spanish and some 2,000 of other nationalities. He said at the same time that some 1,300 had at that time been released. The hon. Member made a point just now about the distinction between prison camps and military prisons. I do not think that distinction is a particularly valid one, because so far as we know there are no political prisoners detained in military prisons, although there may be one or two so-called political prisoners who are detained for criminal offences.

Since my right hon. Friend made his statement that day we have had a report from the Joint Commission. That Commission has so far visited four of these camps, and although it is quite true that they have not made very swift progress, I think that in all the circumstances they have not done badly. As I have said, they have visited four camps, and the hon. Member can rest assured that my right hon. Friend has impressed upon the Resident Minister the importance he attaches to the work of the Joint Commission.

Will the particular camp I mentioned be given high priority on the list of camps it is proposed to visit?

I will see that that point is considered. The reports to which I referred show that there have been further releases since my right hon. Friend made his statement on 3rd March. I have not the exact figure, but I am informed that it probably runs into some hundreds. The reports give a good deal of information about the conditions in the camps which have been visited. These camps, as my right hon. Friend pointed out, cover 1,300 prisoners. About a half of those 1,300 were Spanish nationals. The report of the Joint Commission shows that the great majority of prisoners are not in camps at all; they are working in local industries at local rates of pay; they live in the town in the locality, and there is no restraint whatever on their movements. At one camp a number of these so-called prisoners told the Commission that they were very satisfied indeed with the conditions in which they were living and hoped that they would not be moved, so that some prisoners at any rate do hot take the same view of their unhappy lot as the hon. Member did, with so much eloquence.

My right hon. Friend has made it clear mote than once in this House that His Majesty's Government do attach importance to the release of political prisoners in North Africa and that they do look forward to the complete restoration of political liberties there. As I said, I have no complaint about the tone of the hon. Member's remarks, but I think we ought to ask ourselves in this House whether we are likely to further the objectives that we have in view by lecturing, in a Very elevated and perhaps rather high-handed manner, the local authorities in French North Africa. I think we might consider what would be the position if the Chamber of Deputies were still in existence and if members of the Chamber of Deputies were to have animated debates from time to time the whole purpose of which was to instruct the Home Secretary upon the administration of Regulation 18B. I am not sure that the reaction would be very favourable even among those of us who disliked the administration of that Regulation by my right hon. Friend. The hon. Member made a suggestion that perhaps three or four Members of Parliament might go out to North Africa and inspect those camps. To go back to the simile which I have been drawing, I wonder whether we would really welcome three or four French Members of Parliament going round our prisons or visiting the Isle of Man and making a report back in Paris. I do not think the reaction from this House would be entirely favourable, and I do not think we would be the more likely to make amendments to our present procedure. I should think that what applies to us would probably apply also to Frenchmen.

The hon. Member pointed out that he realised that French North Africa was not British territory. It is very important to remember that. Sometimes we are apt to speak as though French North Africa were a British Colony, or at any rate an American Colony, and to forget altogether that it is an integral part of France. We have to remember, too, what we went to North Africa to do. We did not really go to North Africa in order to release 5,000 or 6,000 political prisoners. That is incidental. We went to North Africa as part of a highly important military operation of which, as the Prime Minister reminded us earlier to-day, the issue is still in doubt. We went to North Africa not to occupy the country, as the Germans occupied France or Poland, but to bring them freedom, to bring them the opportunity to manage their own affairs. I would suggest to the hon. Member that we cannot have it both ways. We cannot go to a country and say we are bringing them freedom and at the same time compel them by force to pursue the particular line of policy that we would like them to pursue. My hon. Friend himself was careful—and I was grateful to him for it—to point out that he was not threatening General Giraud with a big stick. He was using perfectly reasonable arguments. I am very glad he pointed that out, but I do not think that in all our discussions here that has always been made absolutely clear. Sometimes I think we have given the impression that we are trying by force to compel the French authorities in North Africa to follow a particular line of policy. That, of course, is not the case, and it would be quite improper for His Majesty's Government to advocate a policy of that kind.

I would ask the House to get this matter into its right perspective. It is perfectly proper that we should all have our opinions on this matter and should express them. I think, however, that sometimes we should do well to remember that while we are talking here our fellow countrymen are dying, and while we are giving our opinions they are giving their lives. It would be an impertinence for me to say what the Eighth Army or the Royal Air Force or the Royal Navy are fighting for, but I feel pretty sure in my mind that the Eighth Army is not locked in this bitter struggle on the Mareth Line at this moment in order that political prisoners may be released to-day rather than to-morrow or this week or month rather than the next. The hon. Member drew a picture of the sufferings of these political prisoners which does not conform with the reports that we receive from the Joint Commission, but, even if it were true that the political prisoners have to live in the desert and do not have proper sanitation and so on, we might remember that the Eighth Army does not have too easy a time of it at the moment either.

I have said that my right hon. Friend attaches great importance to the release of these political prisoners. He has impressed that more than once on the Minister Resident, and the Minister Resident has taken every opportunity of impressing it upon the Joint Commission. But we must keep these things in their proper perspective, and to imply, as some hon. Members sometimes do—the hon. Member himself certainly did not—that unless we can get these prisoners released immediately the whole war is lost and everything we are fighting for is lost, is really, to my way of thinking, a ridiculous exaggeration. Since I got up I have received a report on the particular camp to which the hon. Member referred. The report is not very full, but it is sufficiently full to indicate that the picture he gave the House of the conditions was very much exaggerated and that they are not anything like as bad as they were painted. We have every reason to believe that the situation in respect of political prisoners and other matters is developing fairly quickly and in the direction in which we should like to see it develop. We have every reason to hope that that process will continue. The House is familiar with the speech which General Giraud made some time ago and is aware that General de Gaulle has said he hopes to get into touch with General Giraud in the near future. I trust hon. Members will be satisfied that a great deal of progress is in fact being made, progress in the right direction. I hope they will be satisfied that it is a problem which can best be left to Frenchmen to solve and that intervention on our part and initiative from this side are not likely to help that process but rather to hinder it.

I did not intend to say a word in this Debate, but I have been drawn to my feet because I was a little disquieted by some of the remarks of the Under-Secretary. We welcome very much the statements which have been made on behalf of the Government with regard to the release of prisoners in North Africa, and we recognise that the Foreign Secretary and the British Government have made efforts to get the prisoners released bat that the matter is not under their direct control. We did, however, land in North Africa in November, and this is now March. A special representative was sent out in December, and I do not think we are unreasonable or that the hon. Member who raised this matter in a very mild form is unreasonable in questioning a little whether the representa- tions which have been made or the action which has been taken are as vigorous or energetic as they might be. Some of the arguments which the Under-Secretary advanced surprised me very much. I do not think it is reasonable to compare this case with the possibility of the Chamber of Deputies looking into conditions in the Isle of Man. We have not collaborated with Germany at any stage of the war. But I do not pursue that matter any further, because I do not want to enter into controversy.

We are in North Africa not merely to fight Germans but to free Frenchmen and to free democrats. When we go into Europe we shall go there to do the same things. There will be many prisoners in France and other countries and we must free them, unless we are to betray the principles for which we are fighting and the peoples who have been fighting for us. It may be necessary in this matter to take time and I will try to avoid saying anything which will make it more difficult. But the patience of some of us who have watched these events may fray rather thin. We do not consider that this is a subject for which we have not some responsibility. If we go into a territory by force, we have some responsibility for what the government in that country does, a government which exists as a result of the good will, to put it no higher than that, of an invading army. I cannot but think that the Allied Forces in North Africa are in a position in which they can enforce, to a large extent, any civil matters if they have the will to do it.

We all agree that some steps have been taken in the right direction in North Africa in the release of prisoners and there is no doubt that quite a large number have been released. The process, however, seems to be taking a very long time and we are perfectly justified in complaining that further steps have not been taken. We are well aware of the difficulties and nobody wants to be unreasonable. With the battles which are raging not very far away, this matter cannot take first priority. Nevertheless, the Allied Forces have been in Tunisia for quite a long time now, and right at the beginning requests were made by President Roosevelt that the laws affecting anti-Axis activities should be revoked, and, as far as I remember, there was a specific request that all those who were in prison because of anti-Axis activities should be released. I think the Under-Secretary would agree that what progress has been made has been very largely as a result of the requests—I use the word "requests" rather than pressure—coming from this country and the United States. Inevitably the people in Algeria and Morocco and the government there are concerned with public opinion over here. If they are not they ought to be, and I think that any action which can be taken by the Government, fortified if possible by this House, in order to speed the process which is occurring in North Africa to-day is desirable, and I cannot understand why the right hon. Gentleman should complain that we have raised this matter.

What strikes one as particularly inadequate is the inspection of the camps by the Mixed Commission. We are told that it is one of their duties. We know from the stories of people who have come here that conditions in some camps are very bad indeed. Even after all these months, only the camps of about one-fifth of the prisoners have been examined at all, and I cannot understand why more steps have not been taken. It cannot be so difficult to go to these camps in Algeria and Morocco to see what is happening, and I hope something will be done in that matter. The right hon. Member looked at this matter from a broad angle and rather complained that the British, American and other Allied troops fighting in Tunisia are not fighting to release the political prisoners now in internment camps in Algeria.

I did not say that. I said that I could not conceive that they were fighting in order that these prisoners should be released to-day rather than to-morrow, or this week rather than next week.

Plainly not, but the Allied troops are fighting for two purposes: one to defeat the Axis, and the other in order that the principles of the Atlantic Charter should be implemented in all countries which Allied Forces occupy.

This is territory which Allied Forces have occupied for some time, and one does expect that the authorities will make all reasonable haste to see that those principles are implemented in this territory. I disagree completely with the right hon. Gentleman when he says that this is a French affair and that we must leave it to the French who are responsible. It is not true at all. The Allied Nations are responsible for the Atlantic Charter and its principles. What happens in any territory that is wrested from the Axis and occupied by the Allied Forces, is an interest of this country, the United States and Soviet Russia. It is not an interest of the French administration in those countries alone. I disagree completely with the right hon. Gentleman there.

There is only one more point I wish to raise. What happens in North Africa is bound to have an enormous effect on public opinion in Europe. When people in Europe, who have been persecuted by the Axis, understand that these prisoners in North Africa are to be liberated by the Allied troops immediately, it will mean that when Allied troops arrive in their territory they will have a greater desire to support the United Nations than they would otherwise have. Many of these prisoners are International brigaders, who were fighting the Axis years before this country was doing so, and they are friends of the United Nations. Their speedy release in North Africa is bound to have an effect on the European situation, when the invasion of Europe takes place. For all those reasons I beg the right hon. Gentleman to take what action he can in this matter to hasten the release of these people and to see that they are properly treated. It is our affair as well as a French affair, and I am sure that the desire of the whole House is that my right hon. Friend, in conjunction with the Americans, should do what he can in this direction in the occupied regions of North Africa.

Question, "That this House do now adjourn," put, and agreed to.