asked the Home Secretary when he is likely to be in a position to announce the decisions of the Government in relation to the recommendations of the Select Committee on National Expenditure on Fire Guards?
As my hon. Friend knows, the Report from the Select Committee has only recently been received. I am giving it consideration.
Can the Minister give any indication to the House when he is likely to be able to make a statement on the matter?
No, Sir. I am afraid I could not do so, but I contemplate that some consultation must take place, and I cannot be sure how long the consultation will take.
asked the Home Secretary what restrictions are imposed on allied and alien personnel in this country in respect of the Compulsory Fire-Watching Order?
Aliens are not at present liable for compulsory fire guard duties, but, as I stated in reply to a Question by my hon. Friend the Member for Deptford (Mr. W. H. Green) on 4th February last, it is proposed to render certain classes of aliens liable for such duties subject to certain conditions, and an Order for this purpose will be issued as soon as the necessary consultations have been completed. In the meantime, it is open to any alien, who is exempted from the curfew restrictions imposed by the Aliens (Restriction of Movement) Order, to volunteer for such duties.
Is it the intention of my right hon. Friend to ensure that our women are not in future to be called upon to look after the safety of foreign men, whether they are aliens or Allies?
I do not think I could give an unequivocal answer to that question.
Is the Minister aware that a great number of aliens are only too anxious to take up these duties and are very mortified at being excluded, and that some of them are not merely 35 but are about double that age?
With regard to the first part of the hon. Member's supplementary question, it is true that a considerable number of aliens are voluntarily fire watching, but it is the case that a fair number who could voluntarily do it are not doing so.
asked the Home Secretary whether, in view of the dissatisfaction among various sections and classes of women with the Compulsory Fire-Watching Order he will consider amending the Order so as to provide that no woman over 35 years of age will be called on to fire-watch unless she volunteers to do so and that all women will be given equal opportunity of fire watching at their homes or business premises?
No, Sir. In view of the need for fire guards, I could not contemplate a reduction of the present age limit for compulsion for women. For the same reason it is not practicable to allow women to choose where they will perform their fire guard duties, but they will only be required to do so at their place of work if insufficient men are available for the purpose.
My right hon. Friend must realise that there are certain disabilities to which women are prone when over 35. Under those circumstances it is very much disliked and resented by women at that period and also very much disliked by men. Would he not reconsider this matter and establish an age limit over and above which women should not be called upon?
That point has, of course, been considered, and I have made inquiries, as well as one can. I am advised by many women that the men worry much more about it than the women do.