I feel that this Debate which is being held to-day on problems which concern women will serve a very useful function, because, in a House which contains 601 male Members and 14 women, it is fair to say that it is possible that certain subjects peculiar to women's services may be overlooked. I propose to deal chiefly with a matter which concerns the Women's Auxiliary Services. I want to bring to the notice of the House an injustice which is rarely ventilated, because the chief victims are reluctant to air their grievances and hope, sometimes vainly, that Members of this House will raise the matter here. Most of us here know that those who do not complain are those who are the most often neglected and that it is persistence which is generally rewarded in this House.The matter I want to raise is this: During the last year or two it has been increasingly obvious to most of us that in the Women's Auxiliary Services women are now replacing men, head for head. I want the House to understand what I mean by that. At the beginning of the war, it was explained to us in this House, when this matter was occasionally raised, that we could not ask for equal treatment for the women in the Services because it often meant that two women replaced one man. But now, as years have gone by, we are told—and there is evidence—that women are replacing men in the Services, head for head. Therefore, I have come to this House to-day to ask for justice for these women. We are hearing every day that in industry women are working on an equality and obtaining the rate for the job. I understand that this week two important conferences of trades unions are taking place and that at both, the trades unionists have asked for the rate for the job. It seems rather curious, therefore, that, where women are doing excellent service in the Women's Services and where women are replacing men, nobody has as yet asked—at least there has not been a strong agitation yet—for the rate for the job for women in the Services. The House will not listen to the argument which was advanced in the past that one woman does not perform the work of one man when she replaces him. I want to remind the House of the statement of the Minister of Labour two or three weeks ago, when he told the country that he found to his amazement that in industry one woman was often capable of a greater output than two men. I find it difficult to understand why the Services have been reluctant to give the same publicity to their women, and can only say that perhaps the heads of the Services have rather a guilty conscience and are not anxious to reveal that their personnel are not receiving a square deal. I want to remind the House of the Question which was asked by the hon. Lady the Member for East Islington (Mrs. Cazalet Keir) of the Prime Minister last week, when she drew the attention of the Prime Minister to the fact that women officers in the Services did not have batmen. She said that they were not asking for batmen; they were willing to clean their own boots and look after their own clothes and so on. But she asked the Prime Minister whether, if it would not be possible for women officers in the Services who have not the same amenities as men that they should at least have a little addition to their pay in lieu of batmen. I must admit that I was shocked when the Prime Minister got up, paused for a little while to consider the matter, and then said something to the effect that uniformity should be mitigated by general convenience and custom, and there was loud laughter in the House. I did not see one woman Member laugh, but the remark evoked loud laughter. What a curious thing, and yet to-day the Prime Minister who, when asked whether women would have the same war decorations as men and who had previously said that he had given a lot of thought to the question of decorations, immediately rose and honestly said: "Yes, there would be no sex discrimination." It is very curious to us that, while the Prime Minister has had a long time to ponder the many aspects of the war, he has failed to give serious consideration to what many distinguished visitors have said is the most striking feature of the war effort—the services rendered by women. There is nothing of which to be ashamed, as many great statesmen have given consideration to women's problems in the past, and if we had not had the support of many great men we should not have been sitting here to-day. To me, listening to the Prime Minister, whom I regard as a big man in every sense, I found it very difficult to understand how he could have sought for a smartly worded retort calculated to evade the issue and, with his customary honesty not have offered to consider the matter. Discerning historians, while they may recognise the Prime Minister's outstanding qualities, will search in vain for any practical approach to women's problems such as other statesmen in the past have manifested. At no time in this war have the War Cabinet considered the pay of their women employees either in the Civil Service or in the Auxiliary Services. I think that uniformity in the Government service is certainly only mitigated by one custom, and that is, by treating women as cheap labour. I cannot understand why the Government have adopted the policy which has been followed by industry for many years, and that is to concern themselves with the pay of their workers only if they are forced to do so. The United States of America, and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics are paying their women in the Services and in industry at the same rates as men. Surely the very fact that we have women from the United States in our midst should have shamed our Government. When they first came over here I put a Question down to the Secretary of State for War asking whether where women replaced men, head for head, he would consider paying the women in the Services at the same rate as men instead of at two-thirds of the rate now that our American. Allies were with us and it was generally known that these women were paid equally with the men. The Secretary of State for War, in his rather abrupt manner, said that he was not going to consider it. Our American Allies, I believe, were given a book in which they were told something about our customs, and I think it must be rather difficult for them to understand how we can, on the one hand, support the Atlantic Charter and, on the other, pay our women the Services at a cheap rate. What is the exact position? Let us take the A.T.S. I can only take a few of the trades. I think that there are over 100, but let us take a few where women are replacing men, head for head: Dispensers, electricians, fitters, laboratory assistants, motor mechanics, painters, decorators and cyclists—to name just a few. No doubt many Members of this House have been to A.A. gun sites. Those who have seen women on these gun sites have been very impressed with their work. But that is not all. When I served on the Women's Services Committee what I was impressed with was the testimony of an old Regular officer who took me on one side and said, "I know you champion women. In the old days I thought women had only one place, but I would not change the women on my gun site for any men you like. They are brilliant, they have first-class brains, do good work and are very easy to get on with." Yet these picked personnel on gun sites are paid only two-thirds of the men's rate. I can imagine the House saying, "But women are noncombatant." Surely, nobody here thinks for one moment that the Germans will treat women on gun sites as non-combatants. I always thought it was a ludicrous piece of wishful thinking on the part of the Secretary of State for War to believe that they would be so treated. But that is not the principle involved. The argument is that women are regarded as non-combatant and, therefore, have to be paid at a lower rate than the men. If that is so, what about the men of the Royal Army Medical Corps and the Pioneer Corps who are non-combatants but are paid at the same rate as combatants? I would like an answer to that question. In war-time does the degree of danger determine the rate of pay? If we argue that it does and that women should be paid more cheaply, we must argue that a private in the front line in Sicily should be paid more than a general in Whitehall. That is obvious if you follow that argument to its logical conclusion. Let us take the W.R.N.S. I am told that they do clerical, domestic, transport, technical and radio-location duties. I think that the Admiralty have five officers and 20 ratings doing wireless, motor transport and despatch riding duties. On the face of it many of these jobs appear to be women's jobs. I want the House to know that women are replacing men in our ports and are responsible for directing ships into port. Yet they are doing all this still at the cheap rate. Again, as regards the question as to whether danger determines pay, the House may say that the W.R.N.S. are on land. I was told the other day by an instructor that certain examinations were set for shore work in which women always topped the list. The men took it good-humouredly. The men were older and had been in other jobs, while the women were young, receptive to new ideas and brilliant at the examinations. Both the men and women do the same job on shore. There is no question of sending the men to sea, so there is the same degree of danger. The women are working efficiently and conscientiously, yet at cheap labour rates. It is a pity that the Admiralty have spoilt the ship for a ha'porth of tar in this matter. Now we come to the W.A.A.F. I would like to draw the attention of the House to some of the trades which members of the W.A.A.F. are doing—wireless mechanics, acetylene welders, electricians, flight mechanics, fabric workers, shoe repairers, tailors, clerks, aircraft hands, armament assistants, parachute hands, bombing plotters, M.T. drivers and the rest. Women officers are replacing men in the W.A.A.F., doing dental, equipment, intelligence, meteorological, photographic, and signalling work. Again, there is the same treatment meted out as in the other Services. An amazing Question was asked in the House about a fortnight ago by a Member who wanted to know whether it was quite fair that a 19-year-old W.A.A.F. corporal should be directing men of 40 years of age to sweep floors. The hon. Member said, "Think of the feelings of the men."
I expected the hon. Member to say "Hear, hear," That girl of 19 was chosen on her merits; she was directing men to sweep floors simply because the men were not fitted to direct her. But she is paid only two-thirds of the men's rate of wages. What astonishes me is that the Service Departments have not put their own house in order, because a good officer is told that he must concern himself with the well-being of those under him and redress their legitimate grievances. These officers should be sticklers for justice for the men and women under them, yet they allow this grossly unfair treatment to continue. I cannot understand why those in charge of the Services have changed the shape of the A.T.S. skirt and the W.R.N.S. hat, and why at the same time they did not pay attention to the pockets of Service women, who would have appreciated it more. One of the most significant things is this: The only women in the Services who are paid the same rate as men are doctors. Other women are doing work which is just as specialised as a doctor's work. You have brilliant scientists in the Services, B.Scs. and D.Scs., who are being paid only two-thirds the rate. A doctor's work is purely non-combatant. The reason for this is that doctors have a strong organisation to protect them. It should not be necessary in this country for women to be strongly organised in the Services before they can get justice. The British Medical Association would not sanction the Government recruiting women doctors at a cheap rate. Therefore, women doctors who are organised are treated fairly, while un-organised women, who have no trade union, are not. Such injustice would not be allowed to continue in any factory in the land. The Minister of Labour and the trade unions would not sanction it.I would like to put on record my appreciation of what the Minister of Production did two or three months ago in deciding to pay women ferry pilots at the same rate as men ferry pilots. This was after four years of war, during which women have ferried planes across the country at a wage two-thirds that of the men. I cannot understand why the heads of the Service Departments do not follow that Minister's example. Surely women eligible for equal compensation for injury should be eligible for equal pay. I would like to remind the House that women officers in the Forces these days are asked to initiate debates and discussions on matters which concern members of the Forces. These debates range over a wide field—democracy versus dictatorship is often discussed—and it is a little difficult for these women officers to defend the inequalities perpetuated in the Forces and uphold at the same time a democracy which treats women as second-class citizens. The Government cannot pride themselves on their democracy. It is not a democracy in which there are second-class citizens. Democracy means real equality irrespective of sex, race or creed, and these women officers know in their hearts that they are not being treated in a democratic way. I would also like to bring to the attention of the House the question of women in the Home Guard. I have felt ever since the war began that it was absolutely necessary that every man and woman should be prepared to play his or her part in resisting the invader, or that in the event of a second front being opened women should take the place of men who were required to do other jobs. A few months ago the Secretary of State for War decided to include women in the Home Guard. I have seen this small army of women increasing since then and I find it difficult to understand why, having been admitted, these women are still not allowed to take over jobs which are performed by elderly men. In the Regular Army women are allowed on A.A. gun sites and are doing splendid work, but in the Home Guard they are allowed to do only minor jobs, such as cooking. That is a curious anachronism, and I hope it will be remedied forthwith. The other thing I want to ask for is a uniform. I have never been uniform minded; I have always said, "If you can do your job without a uniform, do not ask for one." But I want the House to appreciate what is happening in the Home Guard. Women are allowed to drive heavy lorries and do cooking on night exercises with the men. The Home Guard are finding them invaluable. But in practice, if they like, they can drive lorries in a cretonne frock and high-heeled shoes. What an absurd state of affairs. They have no uniform. They are a very important part of the Home Guard, but they are allowed to wear any clothes they like, because nothing else is provided and no rules are made. I should be the last to ask for a uniform for them, but I am pleased to say the demand is coming from the men officers in the Home Guard, for three reasons. First of all, it is practical to have uniform in the Army. Secondly, discipline can be maintained. It is quite absurd in an Army, when men are in khaki, to have women in any kind of flowered clothes they like with officers trying to maintain discipline among the men and women soldiers. Thirdly, uniform eliminates class distinction. It is quite wrong for women to be allowed to wear what they like. It means that certain women do not like to come in because they think their clothes are not sufficiently good, or that they will wear out quickly and they will be unable to get more. With regard to clothes, this is rather an important point. The War Office has been so concerned that the Germans might treat women as combatants if they have any training in musketry that I cannot understand why it is not also concerned that these women, dressed in civilian clothes and driving lorries, might be treated as francs-tireurs. Is it not the case in international law that a civilian in civilian clothes helping the Army is treated as a franc-tireur? If that is right, alterations should be made immediately. Another thing that we find it rather difficult to understand is why women members are not allowed to practice first aid in the Home Guard and why women doctors are not eligible for service. I am rather alarmed when I see how many elderly men are in the Home Guard. Surely, if a woman doctor offers her services, she should be accepted, as in the Army. We may never need the Home Guard, but I take the view that we should remain vigilant. We have been very grateful to the Home Guard in the past, and I feel that it should merit as great consideration as any other branch of the Service.
I should like to congratulate the hon. Lady on her interesting and lucid speech. She always knows what she means to say and always says it well. I, like her, am very glad indeed of the opportunity that this Debate gives us of speaking about a few of those subjects which concern my sex. It is true that the war has made undreamed-of demands on women in almost every sphere of life, and it is equally true that they have not failed to meet those demands in the factories, in the fields, in the Services and in the home. There is no doubt that as a result of the war women will have developed a keenness and a real capacity to take part in the adventures of reconstruction. This will not only apply to those women who remain in employment, but also, I feel sure, to those who return to their homes. The home is a question that seems to be worrying the minds of a good many people. They are afraid that women's war-time emancipation and economic freedom will have an adverse effect on the homes of the future. Let me say one effect it will have. They will never again tolerate the bad housing conditions of the past, because they know that good houses make good homes, and good homes are the foundation of good citizenship. It is also important to remember that improvement in housing is just as essential for men as for women, because with bad housing the most progressive woman becomes a slave and a drudge, and that makes it impossible for her to be a real companion to her husband inside or outside the home. Also, of course, bad homes fail to give children the proper start that they should have in life.There can be no argument about the fact that the home is woman's most specialized sphere—we would not have it otherwise—but surely the right and the modern conception of the home is that it should always be the centre, but never the boundary, of a woman's life. After the war the vast majority of women who return home will want to spend some of their time on citizenship. They will want to go into different forms of local government and serve on social service committees, which directly affect them and their children. I hope very much that many of the new services which have been started in the war, such as British Restaurants and school meals and the big increase in nursery schools which the President of the Board of Education mentioned last week, will all continue into the peace, because all these things are not only excellent in themselves, but they release the housewife and the mother for a certain amount of public service and leisure. It is essential to guard against the unquestioning acceptance of State aid. It seems to be that the more the State does for one, the more one has to do for the State. In addition to working in the home and performing some public service there must be some leisure for the housewife. Women, I feel sure, are opposed to over-organisation of leisure, because they believe that most people have it within themselves to create for a part of the day an environment in which the inner life can flourish and where recreation is really re-creation and not just some form of escapism. If the war has taught us one thing, it is this, that spiritual values and human freedom must be safeguarded at all costs. I should like to say a word on the question of domestic work. I welcome very much the Committee that the Minister of Labour has set up. If we have heard it once, we have heard a thousand times that we must raise the status of this service, but we all know this is quite impossible unless wages and conditions are tackled, and that is why I specially welcome this Committee which is to deal with these particular problems. I hope that as a result of its work a proper domestic service corps for war-time purposes will come into existence, and it is essential, if you want to have this corps equal to other women's services, to give them a proper uniform. I also hope that as the result of organising this corps in war-time it will lay the firm foundations of a good service in times of peace. After the war it is very likely that the Government will introduce a period of compulsory military training for men. When that is done I hope they will also introduce a period of compulsory service —not necessarily military—for women. One big advantage of this will be that it will give equality of citizenship, which must result in benefit to the nation as a whole. In the last war women gained political equality. In this war I hope they will gain economic equality. The settlement of the wages question and the removal of the marriage bar are certainly two necessary preliminaries to this end. The frequently expressed fear that the free competition of women in the labour market will deprive men of jobs is, I think, a very shadowy one. Surely today it is efficiency and not sex which should always be the standard of employment, and payment should be based on this principle. Wherever each sex is suitable for the work, there is no doubt that the country will be the loser unless equal opportunities are given to both men and women. I believe that all forms or human progress will go forward more speedily and more successfully if men and women are companions in work and not competitiors.
When the Minister of Labour announced that he intended to register women up to 50 we all concluded that he must be doing so for a very excellent purpose and no doubt after much thought on the part of the Government, but I must admit that a great many people feel extremely anxious. The country fully realises that no woman will refuse to play her part in the war effort. She will go to any length, but the fact remains that women between 45 and 50 are at the moment carrying a full load in keeping the homes together. I often think that Government Departments do not realise what the lives of those women have been in the last four years. They have had to cope with the evacuee problem, to look after their homes without their girls and boys, and they are often looking after their grandchildren in the absence of their younger daughters and sons. They are having to deal with the whole of the shopping problems, and I can assure hon. Members that unless they themselves have dealt with shopping problems, they do not know what they mean. They are the women who are having to go very often long distances armed with heavy baskets to catch buses which are not there to be caught; and at the present moment, since the Ministry of Transport has had to put on the roads buses with extraordinary machines attached to them, the bus problem has become even more difficult for these women, who never know when these buses are going to run, how fast they are going to run and whether they will get to their destinations.All these are very serious problems to these older women who are trying to keep their homes together. In addition, having lost their sons and daughters, they are maybe having to carry on in the small shops and businesses. I am certain from my own experience that the nerves of many of these women are pretty near breaking point. I have stood in fish queues and have stood in shops waiting to be served, and yet I have many advantages for which I am extremely grateful. I know, therefore, what it means to these women who are valiantly trying to keep their homes going. I am afraid that when they have to register and have to be interviewed, often by women a lot younger than themselves, who do not know the nervous strain that women of 45 and upwards are going through because of the war, they will not be understood in the way they must be. I appreciate that perhaps this action has been taken because the Minister merely wishes to have a register of women up to 50. I hope that when they come to be interviewed they will be treated with great tolerance and understanding. Otherwise, I am afraid that the Government will lose more than they gain. Girls who are in the Services are not overworked. We hear very often from young girls in the Services that they have hours and hours on their hands. A great friend of mine who is in the W.R.N.S. told me that she never had to do more than two or three hours' work every day and that she walked about the camp trying to occupy herself. I am not blaming the Services or the Government, because we know that the girls in the Services are preparing for the day when they will be needed on full-time service, but it is very hard on the older women who are left at home to keep the homes going and to carry on civilian life when their daughters, whom they can so ill spare, come home on leave and say that they are not properly occupied. In addition, much of the voluntary work which is being carried on up and down the country is being done by these older women in any spare moments that they have. Yet how difficult it is to explain that when you go, perhaps rather nervously, to be interviewed at the employment exchange. You cannot then explain how many hours you have been occupied in fish queues and other queues trying to collect the necessary food for the household for the week. Therefore, I beg the Minister to see that too much is not expected of these women. I hope they will not be told: "You can easily spare two or three hours a day to go to a factory; it only means a bus ride of half an hour and two or three hours in the factory, and you can surely spare the time to do that." You have to know what it is to run a busy household really to understand the lives of these people. It is a serious matter, and I wish it had not been necessary to decide to register women above 45. I feel that it is a great mistake. I want to say a few words on a question which has been discussed before, concerning pregnant women in industry. In the Third Report of the Select Committee on National Expenditure in the 1942–43 session there was a sentence on maternity benefits. A Question was asked of the Minister of Labour on 2nd March, and in the reply it was said that the Committee had made no recommendations and that unemployment benefit in such circumstances would not be appropriate, as the qualifications for receipt of that benefit would not be fulfilled, because claimants for unemployment benefit must be available for and capable of work in addition to being unemployed. Perhaps no exact recommendation may have been made, but I do not think the Government have been left in any doubt as to the views of the majority of people on this question. Perhaps one has to have had the great advantage of having children oneself to realise what it means to women who are going to have children under war conditions. They are anxious about the future from the moment they know that they are going to have a baby. They are anxious financially because they know they must carry on working as long as they can, otherwise they may find themselves in financial difficulties. The Government has shown a lack of appreciation of what these women are going through mentally and of the anxiety which is hanging over their heads. Those of us who have had the advantage of having children know what it means to be able to be quiet in one's mind as to the future of the baby that is coming and of one's own future when the moment comes, for it is a very nerve-racking period for any mother. The knowledge that one will be in the good, kind hands of nurses and doctors and that one will be free from anxiety during those anxious weeks is of enormous importance to the mother and to the life of the baby afterwards. At the present moment these women are going through deep anxiety, firstly on financial grounds because adequate arrangements are not made for them, and secondly because of the lack of beds in hospitals. I am told that 2,000 women were turned away from 30 voluntary hospitals in the last three months of 1942. What must it mean to these women to have no idea where they will be able to lay their heads when their time comes? It is something that no man can understand, and it will have a serious effect on the future of the children. We had a Debate the other day on the birthrate, and we all realised the many reasons why it is going dawn. I very much doubt whether any of those mothers who in wartime are having to cope with the appalling difficulties of having babies will feel inclined to have another in the same difficult circumstances. The Government may have had no specific recommendation on this matter, but they have been left in no uncertainty about what is happening by every voluntary association that has anything to do with the women who are going through these difficult times. As I did not have an opportunity of speaking in the education Debate last week, I should like to say a ward on the domestic training of girls. We very much welcomed the announcement made by the President of the Board of Education. I have had the opportunity lately of seeing several girls who have been to camps to which girls joining the Services first go. I am told—and it bears out what one had already been told, but this is first-hand —that the number of girls who are not even able to make a bed is terrible. They know nothing whatever about haw to run a household, and many of them who are entering the services are making their beds for the first time It is true that the reflection is on the parents, and when these girls are asked "Didn't you help your mothers?" and "How is it your mothers have not taught you?" the reply usually is, "Mother does it all for us." It may be true that mother ought to have trained them better, but the fact remains that this ignorance exists. What hope have we for the future that there will not be a recurrence of slums immediately after the war if these girls of 19, 20 and 21 are having to admit that they do not know how to run a house, how to cook or how to make a bed. It is a serious question, and it must be our duty in the educational world and throughout every class in the country to teach our children that their duty to their parents is not only to honour their fathers and mothers but to try and take some of the load off the shoulders of their overworked mothers. If we can only see the swing of the pendulum so that they may be able to cook, sew and look after their households, as did the generation of our grandparents we may have some hope for future generations. One other word, on the question of religious teaching. The same ignorance is found, and again perhaps the parents are to blame. There must, however, be something wrong in this country for parents not to have realised their responsibilities in this direction as well. We have reports from the camps where these girls go from every kind of home and where they are able for the first time to attend religious services. I am told that they welcome the services and that frequently they say to their commanding officers, "Shall we be able to go to services like this when we move on to another camp? We have never been to a service of this kind before." I am told that very often a large section of the girls cannot say the Lord's Prayer and know none of the words of the ordinary morning service. Again, what a great responsibility lies on our shoulders. These girls have to go out and face life, and we send them out without any religious foundation to help them. We hope we may not now be too late. We cannot as a country expect to be fit to lead the world in the peace and in the years that will follow unless we provide for our young people who will be the leaders in those days the sure foundation of spiritual belief on which they must rest their inspiration for the great work of the future.
I am sure that the whole House has listened with the greatest interest to the three admirable speeches that have been made by the three women Members who have preceded me. I am sure we were particularly intersted in the speeches of the two Members who were partly responsible for that excellent report last year on the welfare of the women in the Services. I should like to take up some of the things that my hon. Friend the Member for Hemel Hempstead (Viscountess Davidson) has been saying with regard to what I may call the common or garden kind of woman, the housewife in the home. She has coped with ration cards, been bombed, has lived on bits and pieces, putting her best energies into looking after the children, cheering the hearts of her scattered menfolk and valiantly doing odds and ends of war work in her so-called spare time. In the future, when the war is won, the main burden of civilisation will remain on her unconscious shoulders, and it is time that our planners did something to help her and to see her point of view.I do not mean that we should praise her by patronising talks on the wireless telling her what she can do as well as a man, or nearly as well as a man, but that we should give her some of the tools for her highly specialised job, for if she fails, our whole social system will fail. I do not mean that we should regard the women of this country purely as a foddermaking machine. Regarded in that way, they will fail, as Hitler is finding to-day to his cost, but we should remember that the ordinary woman is not only the torch bearer of life itself, but she is the earliest educator and stabiliser of the whole world. As the hon. Member for West Fulham (Dr. Summerskill) so rightly pointed out, the ordinary woman has no trade union behind her, although the housewife belongs to what I may call the second oldest profession in the world, certainly the largest, and of the utmost importance to the future. At the same time she retains the instincts of her cavewoman ancestors, which were food, children and the home. I feel to-day that we should remind our legislators that these things must come first, be in fact the next priority to winning the war, because unless we give the women of the future a decent home, the knowledge and ability to bring up their children, and some of the amenities of life, the future which we are so busy building up in theory will founder and fail. The first thing we should visualise is women's education. I am not saying that grammar, arithmetic, civics and economics are not proper subjects for our girls to study. They are, in the right place and at the right time; but a woman's fundamental knowledge is instinctively based on the home. The women who can make life worth living for her men folks and her children is the one who knows how to cook for them, how to look after them in health or in sickness, how to plan for them, how to clothe them, how to keep them happy. If in addition she can discuss intelligently with them the "innards" of a Spitfire, the latest "flick" or the agenda of the city coun- cil, so much the better, but if she cannot do the first essentials then that knowledge of civic affairs will turn to dust on her lips and to acid in their stomachs. Home and health still remain the main interest of our ordinary women; that will be so in the future as they were in past days. I should like to refer to what the hon. Member for Hemel Hempstead said about food. We have learnt a lot through the Ministries of Food and Agriculture in regard to diet and food values, and I hope that knowledge will be available to us for a long time in the future, whether in war or in peace. The hon. Member for East Islington (Mrs. Cazalet Keir) referred to the women in the Forces. In my experience as a welfare officer in the A.T.S. I found that the great majority, probably about 75 per cent. of the women in the Forces are looking forward in the future to marriage and a home of their own. Though I very much welcome the arrangements the Government are making to provide them with university courses and training of all kinds at the time of demobilisation and resettlement, I do trust that the needs of their future homes will not be overlooked. I would suggest courses being run for them whilst in the Services on home making, in the same way as excellent courses are run by A.B.C.A. and on civics in the Anti-Aircraft Command at the present time. Obvious subjects for discussion would be home nursing, mending, making dietetics and child and social welfare. With regard to women's place in any form of post-war National Service, my own idea tends towards a young woman sharing with a young man the obligation to train in time of peace to serve her country in time of war, but I think it would be best that she should receive militia training of a type designed to teach her something useful, educative, and of practical use to herself. I hope very much the three Services are making arrangements to retain the services of their auxiliaries in post-war days, and that they will provide some sort of organisation wherein the woman who offers herself for annual training will receive a welcome and feel that she is of use. I think it is essential that we should avoid in the future the disastrous experience which we have gone through of training in the midst of war. Next, I hope that our planners will remember the importance of the housing question to both men and women in the Forces. Houses for them, I feel, should be of simple design, based on the use of electricity and gas. They might have prefabricated standardised interior fittings, but I think the exteriors should be of pleasing local materials and they should be well sited—all essentials to a satisfactory home. I should like to know whether the Ministry of Supply are designing and will put on the market at reasonable prices after the war all types of electric labour-saving apparatus, such as refrigerators, electric irons, cookers and so forth. I very much support what the hon. Member for Hemel Hempstead said about the importance of maternity services. These need overhaul and coordination, and I should like to see a Select Committee of this House going into the whole problem, a problem which concerns not only the poor mother and the middle class mother but also the rich, because fundamentally the problems of motherhood are the same. My last observation is with regard to children. I also would like to say how very much I welcome the noble plan designed by my right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Education. I am sure we all agree that happy, healthy children are vital to the future of this country. There are many aspects from which one could speak about children, but I will not delay except to say that I feel one very important point has been omitted from the White Paper, and that is that we should do something towards supplying a school uniform to all children in this country. I was very much disturbed in my experiences in the early days of the war, when as a W.V.S. sector leader in an area receiving children evacuated from some of our big cities. Much of their clothing was deplorable, and this was due not always to poverty, but largely to ignorance and to carelessness, and sometimes to over-much money. I should like to see the Board of Education undertake the clothing of the children, and by clothes I mean outer clothes, underclothes, footwear and so on down to caps and ties and collars. This, I believe, would eliminate snobbishness, as it has in the Services. Those of us who send our children to public schools are well aware that we have to conform to the school clothing-list, and how much better in the long run that school clothing is than clothes which we might have selected ourselves. To sum up, I believe that to send a woman out into the world ignorant of how to keep her husband and her children is just as criminal as to send soldiers into battle without the right arms. We did the one; we must not do the other. My final observation is this: "The hand that rocks the trade rules the world "—for better or worse. Let us make quite sure that that hand is efficient, efficient not only for turning lathes and totting up ledgers, but efficient for rocking cradles and rearing therefrom the men and the women upon whom all our future dreams of a better world depend.
I notice that my hon. Friend the Member for Central Bristol (Lady Apsley) made reference to her theory that the proper place for woman was the home and that home-making was the greatest profession for women. I noticed the cheers that came from some of the men Members of the House who have been good enough, and I am sure we appreciate it, to listen, and who, I hope, will later take part in the Debate. I hope that those who subscribe to the theory that the professions for women are home-making, motherhood and so forth will notice that the difficulty in getting a general appreciation of that fact among women arises from the tendency to keep that highly honourable profession a profession of practical serfdom by giving those who follow it no security or economic independence. I think some of the restiveness under domestic obligations which many women display would be more easily dissipated if the woman who does adopt that greatest of professions, home-making, was more secure in her economic situation, was not too often in the position of the ancient Israelites when they were required by Pharaoh to make bricks without straw.Women of the older generation, to which I belong, especially those who have spent a large part of their lives working for the women's movement, realise what an enormous amount of progress we have achieved. My recollections go back to the days when the mere announcement in this House that any women's question was to be discussed was the signal for a kind of humour to make itself manifest. I re- member one instance of a modest Bill for women's suffrage, for which women had been working for several years and on which all our hopes and ambitions were centred, being talked out by a Member prolonging the Debate on a Bill for the cleansing of verminous persons. That was looked upon as an excellent joke. Since then we have had a very slow and uphill fight for women's citizenship, which often consisted of pushing Bills one year after another up to the top of Constitution Hill only to see them roll down again. I never forget, a cartoon which appeared in "Punch" during that epoch which represented a woman pushing a stone up Constitution Hill and explaining, "Don't talk to me of Sisyphus; he was not a woman." The mistake nowadays is to assume that victory is completely won and that all is lovely in the garden. All is not lovely in the garden and will not be so long as the old Adam persisis—or perhaps to say that is an injustice to Adam. I might say the old serpent.
What about the woman, who was also in the garden?
That old serpent still exists in nearly all male minds, far below consciousness. It rather resents seeing women in a position of real authority and responsibility. That is really the subtle and difficult enemy we have to fight, far more difficult than actual, concrete and legal injustice. I used to call that feeling the Turk complex, but I think that may be uncomplimentary to our gallant Ally. I will give one or two instances of what I mean. Only a few days ago in this House, one of its most recent recruits who is the first Member to be elected as representing that new party, Common Wealth—which some of us might expect would represent the very cream and forefront of idealism—that gallant young airman was full of a grievance about the Air Force. It was that actually, men recently recruited into that Force were obliged to work under the supervision of W.A.A.Fs. He cited the case of a former stockbroker of 40 being supervised in carpet-sweeping by a W.A.A.F. of 19. Why not? A W.A.A.F. of 19 would almost certainly have more experience of carpet-sweeping than a stockbroker. I am sure the W.A.A.F. would not mind being supervised by the stockbroker if the job had been the buying of shares.Another more important example is what constantly crops up when it is a question of appointing new committees. We had a curious instance the other day of the committee which has been appointed, and consists of only three members, whose task it is to go into the question of wages and conditions of women workers in hospitals. It is to consist of two men who are in very important positions and one woman. The chairman is the Vice-Chancellor of Glasgow University, a most able man. I am sure he will make a most excellent chairman, but he has been taken from his duties in Glasgow University to deal with a matter like this. Was there no suitable woman for the chairmanship? It is not as though women had never proved themselves as chairmen. Among the recent reports of Government committees, what report has been more admirably composed and written, and more generally accepted for the common sense of its recommendations, than the report of the committee on the welfare of women in the three Auxiliary Services? I think it is an open secret that its chairman was Miss Violet Markham. Then-there was the case of a report where, to everybody's astonishment, unanimity was reached. It was a report on a question relative to Army nurses. It was a small question on which it was known there was a strong counter-opinion, but to everyone's astonishment the committee brought in a unanimous report. I think it is notorious that the chairman was laid up by a rather serious accident, and that the later meetings of the committee were presided over by the vice-chairman, Mrs. J. B. Stocks. The Government ought to be convinced by this time that women are capable of actually chairing committees, yet there is a constant tendency to put one or two capable women on a committee while behaving as though it were quite necessary to have a man in the chair. I want to come to a much more serious and important result of that desire to evade giving women real responsibility. It concerns the position of women in the Civil Service. I want to take as my main instance the Colonial Office, not at all because the Colonial Office has behaved par- ticularly badly in the matter; rather the contrary. The Stockdale Committee is associated with the Colonial Office, and it is one on which a majority of women has been put. There has been a considerable advance in giving appointments to women, both in the Colonies and in the Colonial Office itself, where I believe there are one woman principal and 10 women assistant-principals. That is better than any other Department. I want to mention the Colonial Office because women often desire to get opportunities for useful service in the Colonies and because the welfare of women in the Colonies and in the Colonial Service should be fully developed, not merely as a stopgap for war-time but permanently. Many of us who have studied Colonial questions realise that much of the backwardness in Colonial areas arises from the social conditions which depend upon women—lack of education, lack of hygiene, bad housing, and very often the low status of women and some of the horrible matrimonial customs that exist in certain Colonies. Customs in the Colonies vary enormously, like the Colonies themselves, but in many of the Colonies the real impediment to progress lies in conditions which can only be changed if the women are better educated and instructed, and their conditions and status improved in every kind of way. Therefore, I am watching with very great appreciation to see what is to happen after the war. Are these appointments in the Colonial Office at home only wartime appointments, and are the women to be pushed out to make room for men? Is there to be the extraordinarily slow progress that there is at present in making appointments for women in the Colonies themselves? A certain number of women education and welfare officers have been appointed recently in the Colonies, but their number is terribly small when you consider the number of Colonies and the vast and important interests which they represent. Then there is the home Civil Service. There, the important problem is the treatment of married women. We know that in peace-time there is a bar on marriage in the Civil Service. It does not seem to work out so very badly in the lowest grades of Civil Service work, much of which is of a routine character. It is not a bad thing to have a perpetual out-flow of women upon marriage, so that the young women have more chance of promotion and will not have to spend a whole lifetime on rather dull and monotonous jobs, but in the higher grades of the civil and local government services, highly skilled work has to be done and much ability and experience are lost to the Service from women affected by the marriage bar. It is a cruel waste in the administrative grades of the Service that much fine ability and experience should be lost because of the compulsory retirement of women on marriage. A worse example is that of the teaching profession. There it is really important to take care for the future, because we are threatened with a serious shortage of teachers after the war. Is the position likely to be improved by re-imposing the marriage bar or by refraining from making it clear that it will not he re-imposed? In my young days there were so few occupations open to women that the great majority of women, whether they were natural teachers or not, found that teaching was much the most promising of openings. Now there are many more openings, and the tendency is for teaching not to get the ablest women. Nothing would more encourage the ablest girls to go into teaching than to know that the horrible marriage bar was not to be re-imposed. If ever there was a profession where marriage should be a positive qualification rather than a disqualification, it is teaching. Surely experience of marriage and maternity must be of real advantage in the teaching of young girls and ought to outweigh the relatively minor disadvantage which comes from the inconvenience of employing married women. The other point I want to speak on is quite different, and I shall not occupy the House for long on it. It is the question of the unhappily married woman. Spinster though I am, I claim to be a real expert upon the unhappily married women. That arises partly from the nature of my work in the last war but mainly because in the 1920's I was the head of a large organisation which initiated a number of Bills for improving the position and the treatment of the unhappily married wife. We actually got on the Statute Book, with the help of some our men friends in Parliament, three Bills dealing with the position of the unhappily married woman, and when I became a Member myself I initiated and eventually got on to the Statute Book an Act to some extent redressing the grievance of the wife or husband who had been unjustly disinherited by the other spouse. I realise what the difficulties are, and I also realise that the position is by no means satisfactory at present. I am only going to deal with one aspect of it, and that is the treatment of the neglected wife by a husband in the Armed Services. Where private soldiers are concerned I think the administration, though it allows certain abuses, makes it not too easy or pleasant for a man to say, "I do not want to support my wife, because I have taken another woman. I want to transfer my separation allowance." The grievance I want to enlarge upon is the extraordinary position in the commissioned ranks. The Armed Forces really make it perfectly easy not merely for a man to neglect his obligations towards his wife and children, but to take the money he gains by doing it. Here are just two examples, one from the Army and one from the Navy. The Army case, of which I have furnished details to my hon. arid learned Friend the Financial Secretary to the War Office, is that of an officer who since enlistment has actually had made against him a court order giving his wife separation and maintenance and the custody of the children, and stipulating what he has to pay her on the ground of his persistent failure to maintain. Yet so far he has found it quite easy to evade all the efforts made by the wife and by the court to make him pay over the allowance he draws from the War Office for the maintenance of his wife and children to the wife and children. The War Office have promised that they will do their best to get him to pay up both the current and past payments, but my information is that for a long time he has paid very irregularly and that his present payments have not paid off one penny of the really large sum which he has managed to keep in respect of the time when he was not paying anything at all. He has pocketed the money. More astonishing is the Navy case, that of a naval officer who for several years has not contributed a penny of support to his wife, yet for the past three years from 1940 he has been drawing a wife's allowance from the Admiralty, and pocketing it. The Admiralty have persistently declined either to hand over the allowance to the wife or even to withdraw it from the husband. Who can defend that? The assumption seems to be that though a ranker is not necessarily an honest man or a gentleman, an officer is necessarily both, and that therefore no Army regulations should oblige an officer to sustain his family obligations, or, at any rate, if he does not sustain them, not to draw the money for the support of that obligation which is evaded by the officer. I really think that an opportunity should be made in the Army and Navy Regulations in that respect. Finally, I think that one must recognise that all these anomalies—and I am not surprised that my right hon. Friend who is to answer this Debate has withdrawn for a little interval, as he must be getting quite bewildered by the number and variety of the anomalies and grievances thrown at his head—the real truth is that nearly all of them are rooted in this old prepossession, this old inherited instinct that after all the position of women is properly a position of economic dependency on their husbands, and servitude, and that if they are allowed for war reasons or temporary reasons into the skilled professions, they should still be kept in their places, not allowed to expect too much or to rise too high. Yet with that curious inconsistency and illogicality of which men, as well as women, are sometimes guilty, there is the theory that the professions are only a kind of stepping stone for women and not really a suitable permanent occupation for them, and that their real place is in the home, and yet their position in the home is so unsafeguarded, so completely unsecured, left so much at the mercy of their husbands that many young women, I am afraid, the more so through experience of war-time independence, are beginning to feel that the position of a wife and mother, so honoured in theory, is really inferior to that of even the less paid independent single worker.
I intervene for a very few minutes—
The hon. Member deserves a medal.
—and with considerable trepidation in this Debate, but I hope that the hon. Ladies who have spoken previously and who are Members of this House will not think me disrespectful if I say that I think it would be a great pity if the impact of our arrangements for the war, as they affect women, were left only to the women Members of this House to ventilate. Before coming to the one point to which I wish to allude, I would like to add my tribute to the many that have been made in the past to the unsurpassed contribution which women have made to this war effort. I listened on Sunday night to a very remarkable postcript to the news, and I venture to say that it was no coincidence, that it was no flight of oratory that "Freckles," the taxi driver, chose as illustrations for the way in which Britain, and London in particular, could take it, the "daughter" and the "grandmother" of John Bull.The one point I am anxious to bring out now concerns the position of those married women whose husbands went to the Forces in the early part of the war, many of them volunteers, and who are carrying on the small businesses of their husbands in their absence. A number of them are now finding themselves subject to interview and potential call-up by the Ministry of Labour. I put down a Question the other day to ask what governed the calling-up of married women working in such a way if it was established that by calling them up the business they were running for their husbands would be closed down. The reply I got was not altogether unexpected and pointed out that there were appeal tribunals to which hardship cases could be taken. I venture to say that those tribunals were established primarily to deal with border-line cases where considerable investigation into the case in point is required before it can be expected that justice can be done. There is, of course, always a risk that interpretation of a set of facts may differ as between one tribunal and another, but I suggest that where it is clearly established that a business will close down if a particular woman acting for her husband is taken, it should not be left to the discretion of the tribunal to grant exemption or opposite as they think fit. I suggest that to leave it to an appeal tribunal in such circumstances is passing the decision on policy from the Ministry where it should rest to a tribunal from which there is no appeal. For that reason I would hope that regard would be had not only to the person concerned, but to the fact that in many cases there are relatives, may be in-laws, whose income and future may be very seriously prejudiced if these women are taken away. In addition to that, it is surely only right that we should have regard to the views of the husband who may be very anxious that that small undertaking, which he is looking forward to coming back to after he has fought for his country, may be preserved for him. I hope that some guidance, or, if it is not thought proper to give guidance to the tribunals, some clear line of policy will be laid down and suitable instructions given to the representatives of the Ministry of Labour dealing with these matters, that where they are satisfied the conditions are as I have described they will give the benefit of the doubt to the wife who is acting for her husband, and will leave that person to carry on the business intact and so avoid a great deal of inconvenience and, in a number of cases, hardship.
We have heard a great deal to-day about woman's place in the war effort, and of that there can be no doubt. I think that the greatest tributes that have been paid and will ever be paid to British womanhood were paid by Mr. Menzies and by General Smuts. Women have shown that if they receive training they can adapt themselves in any sphere, and the right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Labour himself has stated quite recently and quite emphatically that the women have exceeded all expectations in regard to their productive effort for war and for munitions, and in professional capacities also. We have heard something to-day about the position of the Government in their refusal to recognise the work of the women of this country not by lip service, but by equality so far as rates of pay and salaries are concerned. It may be that in industries where the women have been organised properly in their trade unions we have been able to establish the rate for the job. I think we have evidence of that in the various agreements that have been made by the trade unions that cater for women, but a proper example could have been made by the British Government if they had recognised the rate for the job and given equality to the women so far as the Services are concerned. It must not be assumed that because a great many speeches have not been made in this House in regard to this aspect of the question, Members of Parliament, both men and women, have been lacking in their duty and responsibility. I remember that in the early years of the war, when suitable men were asked to concentrate on the new process of radiolocation, by doing so, by sticking at that job, they lost the chance of promotion in their spheres. Later, when it became more simple, the Government said that it was their intention to have a reorganisation and that they did not intend to pay tradesmen's rate of pay. I took up that question, because I received a large number of letters from the men in the radio-location service, and the Government consented to proceed with the reorganisation and the review, and as a result the men retained their trade rates of pay. Indeed, some of them had an increase, and very few had a decrease. But in the midst of negotiations I discovered that women were to be put on this particular work, and I immediately raised the question with the War Office as to whether the women who were expected to perform the same work were to receive the same rate of pay. I received the usual answer that that principle had not been established for the women of the Services, and that while they would receive extra in the shape of trade rates, women were paid two-thirds the rate the men received. But the question of equality and the rate for the job has been raised over and over again in correspondence with the various Services. The Government would have set a fine example if they had acted as the American Government have done on this question. Thousands of women in industry have had the good sense to organise in their wade unions, and they have very largely received in some trades the rate for the job.I want to make a few observations about the registration of women up to 50 years of age. I know that there are many women of between 45 and 50 who will be only too pleased to help the country in its hour of need, but I have had it put to me very forcibly since the demand was made last week as to whether it is really necessary and whether the younger groups are fulfilling their responsibilities. Some women have put it to me that some of the younger men and women have escaped the net. In many constituencies one or two such cases create a good deal of disaffection. I know of one case in particular where a man of military age was actually put into a Government establishment, and, although it was protested that he was liable to military service, he dug himself in and, to the amazement of everybody in the works and in the locality where he resided, he got himself scheduled as a civil servant, and is evidently above the law so far as the Military Service Acts are concerned. I know the difficulties of the Department, and I will pay my tribute to the splendid organisation and the spirit in which it has worked; but it takes only a few of these cases, perhaps isolated ones, to make men and women ask whether there is some easy way of evading or defying the law. I hope that the Department will go very carefully in regard to this new registration for women up to 50. I am certain that, just as the other groups have done their best, so will these middle-aged women. Many thousands of them are giving valuable service at present in voluntary organisations, in running British restaurants, helping in the localities in one way and another. I am certain that if the nation needs their services in industry, these women will gladly shoulder that responsibility, and make enormous sacrifices. I would like to say a word about the demobilisation of the women. We all hope that the war will be brought to an early and victorious conclusion, and now is the time to express our views. I hope that preference will be given to the girls who have married since the war began, to the girls who are engaged, and to girls who have responsibilities in their homes. I hope that we are going to have equality for the women and tie men during demobilisation. I hope that there will be no sudden demobilisation, but that it will be gradual, and that something will be done for the women until they can gain a footing in industry. That may mean that training will have to be provided. It may be that they will have the opportunity of securing entry into the professions or in industries. A number of women have expressed a desire to continue in the Services, and if the women's Services are continued, I hope everything possible will be done to see that we reach as near perfection in the Services as is possible. I want, in particular, to speak about the women in the homes. The women in the Services are thinking in terms of marriage and of homes immediately after the war. The right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Labour make a speech this week-end in Edinburgh. What he said expresses what I have in my mind. Speaking about the demand for homes after the war, he said that the homes would need replenishing, while internal and external repairs presented a very serious problem. He went on to say that all these would create a demand for commodities. There had been hundreds of thousands of marriages during the war and it was important that opportunities for homes at proper prices should be made available at the earliest possible moment. That is a true statement. The women in the Services are looking to the future. I hope that the Government, in planning for reconstruction, have given serious consideration to this provision. Already we have men discharged from the Services who have no homes—it distresses me when I receive letters from men who have done their bit to find that they have no proper house accommodation. These difficulties will be accentuated. The Government must lay their plans for good homes. In regard to the statement made to-day by the President of the Board of Trade in relation to clothes rationing, I would say that the British housewife has made the best of her job. She has been turning, she has been twisting, she has been making do, and she has been mending, but there comes a time when it is impossible to go further. Our British housewives have been very patient, they have been very patriotic, they have made their sacrifices in this war very quietly. There is an agitation in this country to speed forward the delivery of goods to other countries. I do not wish to be misunderstood. I know that we must co-operate with the other Allied Governments to help countries where the people are despairately short of the necessities of life; but I beg the Government not to assume that our British housewives will be patient for ever and that they will allow themselves to be put in the background. I ask the Government to see that, when things ease up a bit, when there is a better supply of goods, the position of our British housewives is taken into consideration. Both the President of the Board of Trade and his predecessor have done a good job of work in catering for the needs of the population, and the women have been prepared to make sacrifices when they felt there was a need to do so; but I do not want their patience to be exhausted. I hope that, as soon as the situation becomes easier, we can have an opportunity to replenish the necessities in our homes and our personal requirements. We are not asking for luxuries, but only for necessities. The majority of women in the homes are thinking of the future. They have a fear. These women are normally not afraid. They are the women who stood up to the blitz in Coventry, London and all the other centres which engaged the attention of the enemy. They can stand up to Hitler, but they are afraid of what the future holds for them. They can see this country organised for war, but they remember that it was unable to organise for peace after the last war. If I were asked what the British women desired most, I should put it quite simply: they desire good homes, they desire security against poverty, they desire a better chance for their children, and they desire peace on earth and good-will towards all men. That may seem a ridiculous thing to say in the middle of a great war, but in recent weeks this House has discussed the declining birthrate. I think that after the last war men and women were reluctant to bring children into the world because they feared another war. It is natural for the woman, whose life is devoted to rearing and preserving human life, to think that, because the peoples of the various countries cannot agree or because dictatorship and Fascism arise, her child, upon whom she has lavished all her care and for whom she has made sacrifices, may have to go forward to destroy the sons of other women in other countries. While they are anxious to help the country in its time of trouble, they hope that when this terrible war is over the statesmen will organise to save the peace of the world. I think that if we put our minds to that task we could accomplish it. I make a plea for the British women, who are thinking in terms of the future, and I ask that their anxiety shall be relieved, so far as the provision of good homes, a plan to give them security against poverty, a better chance for their children, and peace on earth and good-will towards all men, are concerned.
I am sure that the House and all who are interested in women's work and the women's movement have been grateful for the last three speeches. I should like particularly to endorse what was said by the hon. Member for Northampton (Mr. Summers), who asked that women who are running their husbands' businesses because those husbands have been called away to the war should be dealt with by direction of the Government and spared when possible and not left to the dictates of individual appeal tribunals. I am the only Member of this House who served on the Retail Trade Committee. One of our recommendations, which was adopted, was that no new business should start in any area without a certificate from the Price Regulation Committee, which should prove that there was a necessity for a new business in that area. That met with general approval, but I am deeply shocked to find how often it is being avoided or abused.A case was brought to my notice some weeks ago of a woman who was running a small business in the St. George's Division of Westminster with very great difficulty owing to the call-up of her husband. Her business was threatened with absolute ruin because a new business was allowed to come in and open up only two doors away from her. I had information that the business which opened up was not only unnecessary but that all the goods sold in the shop were stolen goods. Naturally, one receives such information with considerable suspicion, but while I was making investigations the man who had opened up the second business was prosecuted and sent to prison for six months, because, not only were his goods stolen goods, but they were mostly stolen from the Office of Works. What I am objecting to is that although the man has been prosecuted and sent to prison, the licence for that shop which ought never to have been granted has not been withdrawn, and he has put in someone to run the shop for him. That is a direct flouting of a Government Order, If women who are trying to run their husbands' businesses because of the call-up are obliged to come up against the competition of people who wrongfully obtain certificates and are liable also to call-up, the question needs very close investigation. Several hon. Members who have spoken have paid great tribute—and it is not the first time that great tribute has been paid —to women's important work in the home. Those sentiments will always be certain to receive cheers from every man who is dependent upon a woman for his comfort. I am second to none in my recognition of the vital importance of the home, but may I say the work needed in the home is skilled work? Many people fail to recognise the underlying cause of the failure in the past to recognise in fact, the importance of the home is the status of woman's work. Many hon. Members have drawn attention to the need for paying women the rate for the job; for paying them when they take over work previously done by men, the same rates the men enjoyed. I entirely endorse that but I do wish to protest to-day, not only against the inequality of payment of women when they take over men's work, but against the low rate paid to women when they do what is considered to be women's work. That is one of the reasons why to-day you have a dislike of domestic service, difficulty in obtaining nurses, a shortage of midwives, with consequent difficulty in our women finding maternity accommodation and also why the conditions of the home are so often less good than they should be. It has been assumed in the past that no matter how low your educational standard, how few amenities of life you enjoy, if you were born a woman, you must of necessity be gifted in running a home and bringing up children. That is not at all the case. The profession of home-making is a highly skilled profession. I listened to the Noble Lady the hon. Member for Central Bristol (Lady Apsley), who said in effect—I cannot quote the words correctly, because I was too shocked to take them down—that it was quite all right for women to learn mathematics and physics and history, but it was, above all, important that she should be able to cook and sew in order to make man happy. If you are going to have true democracy, you will have to have an educated population, men and women alike. You will never get democracy, except in theory, unless you have an educated population. We must appreciate woman's work at its true worth in fact as well as in theory and have it performed by trained and highly educated women. I do not think you should try to teach women sewing, making beds and cooking before you have given them a groundwork of general education. But I shall not expect any support in that view from the Noble Lady. I wish to draw attention to some of the work being done by women of a very responsible nature at a disgracefully low rate of pay. The example I should like to take is the county organisers of the Women's Land Army. Far too little has been said about the work that these women are doing. In the first place, before you are accepted as a county organiser of the Women's Land Army you have to be a woman in possession of a car. I do not know why, when you are making yourself responsible for the working hours, happiness and efficiency of perhaps 1,000 women, you should be required to produce your own car. No one asks a young man who goes into the Air Force to provide his own aeroplane. The two positions may not be comparable, but it is very deplorable that you confine yourself, in choosing county organisers, only to women who can possess a car. These are some of the duties which these women have to do. They have to keep general watch over the welfare, generally with only one assistant, to care for about 1,000 land girls, drawn from all classes of the community. They have to be able to cope at a moment's notice with any problem which may occur in these girls' lives, many of whom have left home for the first time and are doing work which is exceedingly strange to them in quite new surroundings. In addition, they have to find and to inspect the billets where these girls are to be lodged. If there are no baths in the billets they have to find places where the girls can have baths. Where it is necessary to turn people out of their houses in order to arrange hostels for land girls, they have to do that exceedingly uncongenial work, then to engage staff for the billets, When they have found a hostel they are responsible for seeing that it is properly furnished and very often, because there is no one else to do it, they should physically unpack the furniture and move it into the hostel themselves. They have to pay the insurance of their car and all the upkeep, and they are exceedingly lucky if, when they have paid Income Tax, they have £3 16s. a week left with which to provide their own food, their clothing and lodging allowance. If a man were taking on work of comparable importance, would anyone suggest he should have under £200 a year? It is because of women's low pay that to-day so many of the professions which have been considered professions suitable to women have difficulty in finding recruits. Women are still not consulted adequately on their own concerns. For example, there is a Committee sitting at the present time to consider salaries of midwives, which surely is a subject on which women should have some slight knowledge; very few men have ever met a midwife to be able to recognise her again. When midwives' salaries are being considered, women should be allowed to consider them. But on that Committee there is a majority of men—25 men and 12 women. The hon. Lady the Member for the Combined English Universities (Miss Rathbone) drew attention to the Committee set up to consider the shortage of domestic workers in hospitals and institutions and again pointed out the utter farce that on such a Committee as that there should be a majority of men, in fact, only one woman Those who pay such high tribute to the home and stress the type of home in which women are going to wish to live after the war would be very well advised to direct their attention to trying to ensure that the women who are going to live in those homes should have at least a fair share in deciding on the type of home in which they would like to live. Could not those who talk so glibly about the upbringing of children, the importance of home life, and the decline of population do something constructive in order to see, not that women have privilege, but that they work alongside men as partners in deciding the Government policy on these questions? I would also like to endorse what the hon. Lady said about women teachers. We discussed in this House the other day the White Paper which deals with the new Education Bill, and many speakers got up and rightly stressed the utter impossibility of making any Education Bill practicable in any way whatever unless you had an adequate supply of teachers. The supply of teachers is far from adequate to-day, and yet you still have in this country 260 authorities whose policy is to dismiss women teachers on marriage. That should not any longer be in the hands of local authorities. There should be Government policy. The Government should say whether or not women are to teach after marriage. In view of the shortage, however reactionary their views, they cannot afford to dismiss them. There has been talk to-day of the registration of women from 45 to 50. Personally, I am very much afraid that the registration is going to create a great deal of work, far more work than would be justified by the very small number of women likely to be found sufficiently free now to make any contribution to the war effort in excess of that which they are already making. Before you ask women of 45 to 50 to register for war work—and I fear it is a farce because most of them are already engaged on war work—would it not have been as well to see that you had replaced men who could make an active contribution to the war in the Fighting Services by women in every case where this could be done? I am not convinced that that has been done. I believe that many men in the Civil Service today are doing work which could equally well be done by women. I know that there are men in the police force who, had you adopted a progressive attitude towards the engagement of women police earlier in the war, could by now have been replaced by women. That, again, should not be left to the discretion of counties; it should be a central policy from the Home Office. For 20 years you have had recommendations from those who have made very careful investigations, from very important committees, as to the necessity for employing a larger number of properly trained women police. But the matter is still held up in some places by reactionary old men and young men who are prejudiced against the idea of women police. These things should be controlled from the centre. If the Home Office believes, after investigation, that women police have done good work, they should lay it down that they are to be engaged. Progress must not be impeded by reaction in the counties or on local authorities. In conclusion, I would add my plea that where women take on work that men are doing, and do it equally well, if not better, whether it be in the Auxiliary Services or in any other branch of the war effort, they should be paid at the same rate as men, not because we are fighting for the rights of women, but because we are fighting for the best in the country to be recognised and for the creation of a real, as against a theoretical, democracy. We shall never have real democracy until people are appointed on merit irrespective of sex. I would like every Service and profession to be open to women, the Diplomatic Service, the Church, and every other. When I look round the world I more and more marvel at what men think they risk by taking women into partnership with them.
My right hon. and learned Friend will reply to the general points raised in the Debate when it is over, but I thought it might be for the convenience of the House if I dealt for one or two minutes with two specific points which refer to my Department. My hon. Friend the Member for Northampton (Mr. Summers) raised a point with regard to wives who are carrying on the businesses—many of them small businesses—of their husbands who are away in the Forces and who may be directed to other forms of war work, which would mean the ruin of those businesses. He suggested that the procedure of appeal boards who are now the courts of appeal on these cases is not the right way to deal with these people. There are difficulties about the suggestion he made that regulations should be made to cover all these points because the facts of each case are nearly always different and the object in referring these matters to appeal boards is to ensure that the facts may be accurately ascertained. However, if my hon. Friend feels that there is room for improvement in our procedure, I will be glad to look at the point again, because I am sure the cause he has pleaded is one we have at heart.As regards the point raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Hemel Hempstead (Viscountess Davidson) and the hon. Member for Dartford (Mrs. Adamson) about anxiety over the registration of women up to and including the age of 50, it might be interesting to the House if I announced the dates of our next registrations. We propose on 7th August, that is, next Saturday, to register the second half of the 1924 class of women, who will, of course, be regarded as mobile. On 21st August we propose to register the first half of the 1925 class of women, who will be regarded as immobile until they reach the age of 19, and in September and October we shall be registering the 47 to 50's, inclusive, which are the 1896, 1895, 1894, and 1893 classes. I would like to assure the House that my Department will deal with this matter with the very greatest care. There is, for example, no intention of sending these relatively older women all over the country. In the main they will be regarded as immobile. We have to bear in mind several important things. At this stage of the war we must get more mobile women for the aircraft factories, and many of these women who are not in a position to be moved can be employed as substitutes for mobile women who can then go into the factories. Many have been employed on work which is now rather petering out, and many are also the type of people who may be of the greatest assistance in the difficult task we have to face in the way of staffing the midwifery and hospital services, domestic services and all general duties in connection with the care of the sick. The House will, I am sure, appreciate the very great need in that direction. The advantage of registering these women is that we can call selected candidates for interview and can then, if necessary, tell those who come for interview of the forms of war work open to them. We will take the very greatest care —and I can give this assurance on behalf of my Minister—to give the utmost consideration to domestic and household responsibilities. My right hon. Friend would, I am sure, endorse what was said by my hon. Friend the Member for Hemel Hempstead on that subject. While we do not expect to get a great many thousands of women, we shall get a substantial number, I have no doubt, who will be of immense value to the war effort at this moment and who will contribute very greatly to the solution of the special difficulties which we have at the moment in regard to man-power. I would like to add that we have it in mind that women of these ages have done very splendid voluntary work which has aided the war effort, and we will take that fully into account. I am confident, and I am sure the House will be confident, too, that, as always, when calls have to be made on the women of this country there will be a willing and ready response. The House will I am sure expect the Ministry of Labour—and we will do our best—to see that the very greatest care is used in dealing with these women when they come forward.
On this question of replacing girls in industry and offices by older women, will care be taken to see that specially skilled women such as costing and wages clerks will not be taken away and a whole year wasted by replacing them with other women? The computation of engineers' wages at the moment is a very complicated mathematical business. The girls who have been trained to do this work and other work in connection with costings for the Ministry of Supply and other Departments are very skilled, and I would like to impress upon the Minister the need for extreme care. I hope he will not replace these girls by other people who cannot do the job.
We will certainly bear that in mind.
It was with keen interest that I read the Report of the Committee on Amenities and Welfare in the Women's Services and with satisfaction that I noted their refutation of the allegations about the conduct and morals of members of the Women's Services. With one exception, the Voluntary Aid Detachments, the other Women's Service were new organisations with, largely, inexperienced officers. Time and experience were necessary for them to get into working order. How well they have done, this Report shows conclusively. But it is to the V.A.D., the oldest Women's Service, that I particularly wish to refer to-day and more especially to the proposals made in the Report of the Committee on Voluntary Aid Detachments. The V.A.D. is the oldest and, I fear, the Cinderella of the Women's Services. It was originally formed under the Territorial Army Associations in 1909, and the Associations are still interested in the V.A.D., as they are also in the A.T.S. which, parenthetically I would say, was also raised originally under the Territorial Army Association and which owes a great deal of its present efficiency to the good foundations that were lad by the Association and by the ladies who originally formed them in the counties. There were exceptions, but in the main it was well done.In my county, Hampshire, we have many Voluntary Aid Detachments, and we have some very large military hospitals, including Netley and Connaught Hospitals, and we are correspondingly interested in the efficiency and welfare of the V.A.D. and those hospitals. The V.A.D. did very great service in the last war. Indeed, the military hospitals could not have gone on without them. I do not think it is too much to say that. In many cases they acquired a degree of efficiency in nursing and other duties which brought them very close to the standard of the professionally trained nurse. Now, after the last war, recruiting and training continued at a time when recruiting and training for any form of military service were by no means popular in this country. And again in 1939 when the call came it was answered once more by a large body of members of the V.A.D. who had had a considerable measure of training. Most of them have now done very nearly four years' war service, and I would emphasise that they were all volunteers. Many of the remainder, most of them volunteers too, even after conscription had been introduced, had spent much time and money in fitting themselves for their duties before the war came. Since the war broke out they have again rendered devoted and efficient service in the military hospitals, and it seems to me curious that the moment you select for an improvement and grading upwards of pay and conditions of other nurses, civil, probationary, and so forth, is the moment taken to deprive the V.A.D. of their status and a good many of the allowances that go with such status. In dealing with this question, whether by myself or by other Members or by supporters of the V.A.D. in the country, there is no question of social status or social influence, as, I regret to say, was suggested by the hon. Member for the Combined English Universities (Miss Rathbone) in a Supplementary Question a week or two ago. It is merely a question of justice and of the efficiency of the V.A.D. There are a great many people who talk about this from various angles who have had very little experience of the actual work of the V.A.D. I do not claim, either as chairman of a Territorial Association or as a member of a county Red Cross committee, to have more than a distant acquaintance, as indeed have Most members of the Committee, but I claim some knowledge of it from an aspect which is sometimes forgotten—that of a wounded patient during the last war in hospital where V.A.D.'s were largely doing the work. That is an experience that I had in the last war, and I was immensely impressed with the efficiency and devotion to their work of these girls. No job was too hard or too dirty—there are many unpleasant jobs in a hospital—for them to be given and to do cheerfully and well. The trained nurses, certainly in times of pressure, could not have got on without them in the last war, and I doubt very much whether they could in this war either. I do not think anyone would contest the main recommendations of the Report, with one exception, and that is in paragraph 25, Section 8, dealing with the abolition of V.A.D. commandants in military hospitals, leaving the welfare of the girls to the officers commanding the units responsible for their accommodation, messing and pay. I do not stress for a moment the title "commandant," though I believe there have been some differences of opinion and some comment on that. I am far from asking that there should be commandants in military hospitals. The title "commandant" in the Services implies the commander of a station or an establishment, certainly some considerable military body, and I can quite conceive that it might be considered by the War Office an unduly grandiose title for these V.A.D. officers, but women officers are absolutely necessary, just as they are in the other Women's Services, to deal with the administration, the discipline and the welfare generally of the women under their command. The threat to do away with these commandants, or officers, as I would prefer to call them, in military hospitals has caused great discontent and apprehension throughout the country. It is not welcomed by the officers commanding military hospitals. I know of certain large hospitals where these officers have displayed the greatest apprehension at the prospect of having to deal with these matters themselves, and I do not believe it is welcomed by the Queen Alexandra's Nursing Sisters. Those medical officers and sisters have their medical and nursing work to do, and they are fully occupied with-it and have no time adequately to look after the administration and general welfare of a considerable body of V.A.D.'s in addition. While the Queen Alexandra Sisters are highly trained as nurses, they have not in most cases the training or the experience to act as officers of a considerable body of women. I believe the officers commanding hospitals would in most cases wish the V.A.D. officers retained, as they undoubtedly recognise their good work. I would next refer to paragraph 25, section 9, which lays it down that warrant officers shall be appointed from the general body of V.A.D.'s to assist the matrons. Warrant officers are no substitute for officers, they have not the same status, they have not the same powers and they cannot speak on an equal footing with officers. This measure is one which will not help the situation in any way. The recommendations contemplate putting the V.A.D.'s on the same footing as other Women's Services, and that is a perfectly comprehensible and sound principle. But in this respect, of having their own officers, they are being put on a different and a worse footing. All the other Women's Services have their own officers to look after their administration and welfare, and in the report on the Women's Services it is rightly stressed haw important it is that there should be women officers trained and competent for this purpose. I would give an illustration. The A.T.S. may find, say in a large ordnance depot, a number of women who, quite apart from any possible technical employment, are employed as clerks, storekeepers and orderlies and in various other capacities. For their work they are, quite properly, under the officers of the ordnance depot or whatever the establishment may be, but as regards their administration, their quarters, their discipline, their leave, their welfare generally, they are under their own officers, who deal with these matters very efficiently. The same ought to apply in the case of the V.A.D. It is significant that the representatives of the council of County Territorial Associations and of the voluntary bodies were reluctant to assent to these paragraphs 8 and 9. I have no idea how it happened, but it is said they were talked over by the Director-General of the Army Medical Service. I cannot pretend to have any idea what their felings were, but I cannot help thinking that the one representative and the two ladies in question, although high in the counsels of the Territorial Army Association in one case and of the Red Cross and Order of St. John in the other, were perhaps less experienced than the undoubtedly experienced official ladies and gentlemen who formed the other members of the Committee and were unable to stand up against them. But it is significant that they all objected in the first place. What is the reason for the V.A.D. being the only Service not allowed their own officers? The title "commandant" is unimportant, and I attach no importance whatever to it, but it is very important that they should have their own officers, call them what you like. They might take the same titles as are used in the A.T.S. for junior officers, and they undoubtedly ought to have the status of commissioned officers. As regards the rest of the Report, speaking generally, I do not wish to contest it, but I would stress again that it implies putting the V.A.D. on the same footing as the other Women's Services and not on a lower footing. The V.A.Ds. have to be given, according to the Report, the status of other ranks, but there are degrees of other ranks. They should be given their due proportion of non-commissioned ranks, and they should not be directly subordinated to male R.A.M.C. N.C.Os. There might be some inclination on the part of possibly not a very good class of male N.C.Os. to say, "Ah, my girl, we have got you now. We will put it across you and show you." It would be very unfortunate to have anything of that kind. It would be far better if any orders that it is necessary for males to give should be given through women noncommissioned officers or officers, as the case may be. Paragraph 25 (2) states that V.A.D. recruits in possession of first-aid and home nursing certificates shall be graded as Class III and be subject to the same tests and time rules as R.A.M.C. other ranks. That is a little hard, because R.A.M.C. other ranks join with no knowledge and no first-aid or home nursing certificate and, generally speaking, especially in war-time, they are physically and in other respects not the best samples of the male population. V.A.D. recruits in possession of these certificates might well be graded, provisionally at any rate, in Class II, which is not so very much higher, and be given the chance of passing further examinations to show their fitness for it at the earliest possible moment. Again, for upgrading from Class III to Class II or from Class II to Class I, or for remaining in Class I, a trade test is to be necessary. All I would say is that they ought to be given the opportunity of passing the trade test at the earliest possible moment and that there ought to be no question of temporarily or otherwise putting them down until they have passed. I cannot help doubting whether in the circumstances we need consider Class III very much, because I do not think there will be many future voluntary candidates for it. I suggest that any of those who came voluntarily into the V.A.D. and who have had a considerable amount of service in it, and who would now come under quite different conditions should, if they do not like the conditions, be allowed to resign to take up other suitable and approved war work. They are not going to continue under the conditions under which they volunteered originally and it would not be unreasonable to allow them the right to resign provided there was no question that they would take up other war work. Paragraph 31 deals with the supersession of the V.A.D. Council. I would only say that there will be no regrets for the V.A.D. Council and that the best that can be said for it is that it has outlived its usefulness. I have no criticism to make of that recommendation. Paragraph 33 runs:
That is a pious aspiration. The answer of the Royal Navy and the Royal Air Force to that has been in effect, "Nothing doing," and it is a pretty good commentary of what they think of this Report and the manner in which the V.A.D.'s are being dealt with. I would re-emphasise that it is essential that V.A.D.'s in military hospitals should have their own officers, not as a special privilege, but to get them on the same footing as the other Women's Services. V.A.D.'s, I believe, have now very unfortunately a sense of what I might call, if I may coin a word, "forsakenness." They feel that nobody has any use for them, that they are being put back, that nobody cares about them and that they have no friends. We all know the old adage of the '80's and '90's, "Hit him hard, he's got no friends." That is what the V.A.D.'s are feeling now. I believe that whether the officer concession is made or not, if my right hon. Friend or the War Office at a later date can see their way in adopting the remainder of this Report to issue some expression of official gratitude and an appreciation for the past services of the V.A.D.'s and an assurance that their services will be valued in future, it would do much good and would dispel a great deal of the disillusionment, disappointment and unhappiness on the part of V.A.D. members."It would follow that a similar redefinition of V.A.D. functions and status should be applied throughout the three Services if it desired to avoid the emergence of a new set of anomalies."
I want to add one or two words to what has been said by the hon. and gallant Member who raised this important question of the future status of the V.A.D. I am one of those who have taken an interest in this question from the start and particularly since the publication of the Elliot Report. As a result I have had a great deal of correspondence showered upon me, both from my own constituency and from all over the country. V.A.D.'s feel that a point of principle is involved, because they say that when they volunteered they did so under certain definite conditions of service and that if the recommendations in this Report are carried out, their Service contracts will be broken and their status will be much worse. V.A.D.'s might readily feel that they have a cause of grievance in that they did for many years qualify and prepare themselves for the day when their services would be called upon, as they were in the last war. I am one of many who were in military hospitals in the last war when most of the work was done by Voluntary Aid Detachments, and done extremely well. As the hon. and gallant Member said, if it had not been for the presence of the V.A.D.'s, some of the military hospitals in the last war could not have carried on. A great many women have carried on with their detachments ever since the last war. They have gone into camps every year, taken courses and bought their own uniforms, and they were ready to step into the breach when called upon in 1939. They have been serving in military hospitals for three or four years, and they rightly think that it is very hard on them after that devoted service that this Report should give them such scant treatment.I sympathise with the Secretary of State in this matter. He has taken a great deal of trouble to try and deal with the question sympathetically. When it arose in the House before, I asked him whether he would see a deputation consisting of myself and other Members. He did so and we put the case before him. We made recommendations to him and he was good enough to say he would consider them. We asked, first, that the future status of the V.A.D.'s should he clearly defined. It is very ambiguous at present because a great many nurses do not know where they stand in the Service or in military hospitals. There is a different status between those and V.A.D.'s serving in R.A.F. and Naval hospitals. They feel that that is a point of grievance. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman can clear up this point and clearly define what their future status is to be, give consideration to the service they have rendered to the country in defining their future status, and give them their own administrative officers, a point on which they feel very strongly. It is true that the warrant officer can perhaps do the same work, but she does not carry the same status as a commissioned officer. There are only 24 commandants and some may think that that is a negligible number when so many people are employed in the Service, but we do not ask that they should be called commandants, nor do they themselves. They are willing to be called administrative officers or the title of any other commissioned officer such as they have in the A.T.S. and the W.R.A.F. Another point of grievance they have is that they are looked upon in the hospitals as a different class and they are not given the same consideration as regular nursing sisters. There is a certain amount of class consciousness in this. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will pay a tribute to these excellent women who have served their country well and deserved well of their country. I hope that he will also make an appeal to matrons and sisters who will be in charge of V.A.D.'s to try and abolish the class feeling which has been created. The hon. Member the Lady for the Combined English Universities (Miss Rathbone) tried to stir up that feeling in this House. It is all nonsense, because these girls are drawn from every walk of life, and I hope that the feeling with disappear. We want this matter settled for all time. It has been hanging in the balance for a long time. V.A.D.'s are willing to serve on the same basis as any other branch of the Service. They want no class distinction, but they do want a fair deal and that their status and future Service conditions should be cleared up.
This question has excited a certain amount of controversy, and not unnaturally, as I always do when controversy blows up, I have taken steps to discuss the matter in controversy with various people interested. I have, as the hon. and gallant Member for the Isle of Wight (Captain P. Macdonald) said, discussed it with hon. Members who are interested in the question. I have certainly discussed it with the various societies concerned on many occasions. Perhaps I may start by saying that as a result of those discussions—I will elaborate my reasons and remove certain misapprehensions later—I do not see how can come to any other conclusion than that the Report should be implemented and that the provisional decision which I announced in the House a month or so ago should be confirmed. This question has a considerable history and it is not entirely the fact that the history is one of complete peace and comfort. The position as it existed a year ago was not satisfactory to the V.A.D.'s or to the War Office, and the War Office proposed a certain remedy. That remedy met with the most violent resistance from the V.A.D.'s and the societies concerned. Not having any desire to coerce both the societies responsible for the V.A.D.'s and the rank and file of the V.A.D.'s, I undertook quite readily to set up a committee which should be representative of the interests concerned in order to see whether they could arrive at a more satisfactory solution of what was not at all a satisfactory situation.In the end I set up a Committee under the chairmanship of the right hon. and gallant Member for Kelvingrove (Lieut.-Colonel Elliot), representative not only of the Services and the Departments, but of the various societies concerned. They produced a unanimous Report, something which I wish the House to keep very firmly in mind. A Committee representative of all the interests, who had been in violent conflict over certain proposals, and none of whom were satisfied with the existing situation, have produced a unanimous Report. Personally I am extremely grateful to the right hon. and gallant Member for Kelvingrove for the work which he and the Committee have done. In a matter of this kind it is no small thing to have produced a Report to which all concerned have subscribed. The Committee being representative and having produced a unanimous Report, it seems to me that I am obliged, unless very abundant reason is shown to the contrary, to regard it as being of the essence of a tribunal, and there ought to be produced to me extremely weighty reasons before I reject the verdict or appeal against the verdict of that tribunal. There has been a certain agitation, not in the circumstances a very widespread one, against not the Report but one particular aspect of it, and that is the abolition of the V.A.D. commandants. I think that agitation is very largely based on misapprehensions, and I will try to remove those misapprehensions. Let me say here and now, in view of the fact that the hon. and gallant Member for Petersfield (Sir G. Jeffreys) half suggested that the representatives of the Red Cross and the Order of St. John of Jerusalem on the Committee had been somehow coerced or "bounced" into signing the Report, that I have—
I suggested nothing of the kind, and if I appeared to suggest it, I would at once take it back. What I said was that they were over-persuaded by more experienced persons in public affairs.
The War Office representatives on the Committee were not the only representatives. There were representatives of other Government Departments, the right hon. and gallant Member for Kelvingrove and another outside member of the Committee. I cannot believe, knowing the ladies concerned, that they would allow themselves to be over-persuaded. In any case, since the provisional decision was promulgated I have at every stage been in touch with the societies concerned, and I have the best of reasons for believing that their position is the same as mine, and that position is that, the verdict having been given, we will all try to give the solution proposed fair trial and give it the best possible chance of working. I have the best of reasons for believing that the societies concerned completely endorse what I am saying.Now let me go on to try to remove some of the misapprehensions. First, it seems to be thought—and the hon. and gallant Member for Petersfield gave utterance to quite a number of fears on this point—that because the Committee proposed that the status and range of duties of V.A.D. nursing members should be the same as that which would apply to the trained A.T.S. nursing orderlies and enrolment should be in the grade of nursing members Class III, that this would have the effect of making Voluntary Aid Detachments what I knew in another incarnation as a "depressed class." There is no question of this. The new grade is comparable with the Royal Army Medical Corps nursing orderlies Class III, and that grade is recruited, partly at any rate, from men holding first-aid certificates, and other recruits for the R.A.M.C. have to have at least six months' service and to pass a trade test before they are graded as nursing orderlies Class III. In any case, it is only the new V.A.D. nursing members who enter as Class III. Those already serving as Grade I, and they are the majority, will be eligible to qualify by examination as nursing orderlies Class I, and those serving as Grade II will become nursing members Class II if certified by the commanding officer of their hospital. There is no question, as the hon. and gallant Member seemed to fear, of their being automatically graded down and then made to pass a test before they come back again. They will be given every chance of passing their test and of qualifying; in the meantime there will be no question of their being graded down, and I have every intention that this particular provision shall be operated as reasonably as is possible. Not only that: V.A.D. members will be eligible for promotion, and in particular to the grade of warrant officer, in the appointments which are proposed to assist the matrons of hospitals in supervising the administration of their V.A.D. personnel, and, also, if members of the V.A.D. have a bent for administration outside the V.A.D. they can always apply to be considered for commissions in the A.T.S. The main criticism, I have already said, and as the hon. and gallant Member for Petersfield has pointed out, has been directed to the Committee's proposal that the existing V.A.D. commandant posts shall be abolished. It is necessary to have a sense of proportion about this. There are only 24 of these posts in the whole country. They are employed only in those hospitals where there are more than 30 V.A.D.'s. Two-thirds of the existing V.A.D.'s are in hospitals where there is no commandant and where they are visited by one of the other commandants at intervals, say once in six weeks. This contention that the V.A.D.'s are entitled to their own officers really has not much substance when, on this showing, two-thirds of them have not got their own officers now. Also, the hon. and gallant Member for Petersfield said there was a great deal of class feeling between the existing sisters and matrons and the V.A.D.'s. I think he rather destroyed his own argument by saying the V.A.D.'s came from all classes, because it is very difficult for me to believe that sisters and matrons have a universal dislike for all classes. To the best of my belief—with some exceptions, regrettable exceptions—generally speaking the relations of the commandants with the matrons and the commanding officers, the medical officers of the hospital, have been close and co-operative.
Why abolish the commandants?
Wait a minute. In the Army the welfare of the soldiers is the responsibility of their commanding officer. It is anomalous, therefore, that the matrons who are already responsible for the professional efficiency of the V.A.D. should not also be responsible for their general administration and welfare. The House will not, I think, generally agree with any system which makes for divided control in military hospitals, and the perpetuation of the posts of V.A.D. commandants must inevitably lead, as in the past, to overlapping in this respect. That is why, I have no doubt, the Committee recommended their discontinuance, while at the same time they suggested that the matron should have the assistance of a V.A.D. warrant officer. If certain of the V.A.D. commandants consider that their future service to their country might lie in fulfilling the duties of these warrant officers, I will gladly consider their appointment. It may be that some of the existing commandants can usefully be employed for a time in facilitating the transition from the old to the new conditions and to assure the societies concerned that the welfare of the V.A.D.'s can be adequately cared for under the new arrangements. It is a possibility I will certainly explore with the societies. In any case the societies have told me they will do their best to make use of the services of the commandants who are to be replaced.Then the hon. and gallant Member has made some complaint that there will no longer be uniformity in the three Fighting Services as a result of the Elliot Report. There never has been any uniformity in the three Fighting Services. It is true that the Committee did recommend that their redefinition of the V.A.D. functions and status should be applied similarly throughout the three Fighting Services in order that there should not grow up a fresh set of anomalies, but the Army V.A.D.'s are such a preponderating proportion of the whole Service that it is surely right to proceed in their regard to what the Committee recommend as a preferable system to the present one, even if the other Services feel themselves unable wholly to adopt the recommendations of the Committee in their own auxiliary nursing services. The House may not know that the Army has very nearly 4,500 V.A.D.'s serving with it, as against less than one-third of that number in the Navy and only about one-sixteenth in the R.A.F. The R.A.F. system is completely different, and the Women's Services of the Navy are quite different from those of the Army, and it is no good seeking after uniformity if you thereby sacrifice other things which are better worth having. Moreover, I did take the trouble to consult the societies concerned, asking them specifically whether a certain lack of uniformity between the Services would injure or destroy the solution proposed by the Elliot Committee, and the answer was that there would be minor inconveniences but not more than minor inconveniences. Finally, let me emphasise the wider scope and range of duties which the new system will open up to those V.A.D.'s in the Army. Hitherto the duties of nursing members of the V.A.D. have been limited by regulation, although in fact the majority, but not all, have been only too willing to undertake whatever duties were asked of them. Now it is proposed that their range of duties shall be the same as those of the A.T.S. nursing orderlies, and I think the great majority will welcome rather than resent this extended range of their usefulness. The consultations which I have had with the bodies represented on the Elliot Committee have satisfied me that I may hope for increased rather than decreased efficiency as a result of implementing the Report, and, at the same time, that the new system will work without any more than the initial inconveniences which must follow any change of this sort. In what I now propose there is no kind of reflection upon the past efficiency of the V.A.D.'s. I sympathise with my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for the Isle of Wight that in this sort of miasma of controversy the official appreciation of the work of the V.A.D.'s has possibly been somewhat overlaid. Let me repeat that I have the greatest appreciation of the admirable work they have accomplished since the outbreak of war, and I assure the House that if the new system does not work, then I will certainly reconsider it or any particular features of it. Let me repeat that in spite of the fears expressed by my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Petersfield I am sure in my own mind that the new system will prove successful in making yet more effective the contribution of the V.A.D.'s to women's service in this war.
Before my right hon. Friend sits down will he say whether we are to conclude that he really is going to carry out the Report in full at once? He said it was a unanimous report. It is sustained by the heads of two of the Services. Why does he not put a stop to this wirepulling by a small group?
I am sure that the hon. Lady will regret what she has just said when she reads her words in Hansard to-morrow. I want to thank the Secretary of State for what he has done. He has produced one great thing, a final decision in a matter which in my opinion has been mishandled on both sides. He has listened to arguments on all sides and has produced his decision, which I am sure will be loyally accepted and abided by by all concerned who will do their very best to see that the new system is a success. I think my right hon. Friend has made a mistake with regard to the commandants, but from what I know of the V.A.D.'s I am sure that, the decision having been made by the responsible Minister of the Crown, every effort will be made to see that the new system is worked successfully.I have been interested in these questions for over a year now and I have found my right hon. Friend sympathetic and free from prejudice on the matter. I was not satisfied a few weeks ago that he had heard all the evidence, so I asked him to allow me to lay certain evidence before him. I did so and I have no complaint whatever at the treatment I received. I told him that if I was satisfied that he had heard all the evidence I would loyally back his decision, and I have no hesitation in doing so. If there has been any mistake it has not been the fault of the Secretary of State for War. He said himself that he could not have acted otherwise. In that I am entirely with him. If the cause of justice to the V.A.D.'s has been—I do not want to use the word "betrayed"—I will say mishandled—it is due almost entirely to their own societies. I do not think that can be said too strongly. I do not want to go into past history and I hope the matter may now be regarded as one of the
I do not think the Secretary of State is on sure ground with regard to commandants. I hope the new system will work well but I think he will find that he has created an anomaly in creating a women's service in the Army without its own officers or its own administration. I challenge him to tell me of any service in the Army which has not its own officers and administrative service. For example, take the A.T.S. They may work during the day in the R.A.P.C. or R.A.O.C. under those officers but their administration and welfare are under their own officers. Even in the R.A.M.C. what we call the executive officers have nothing o do with administration and personnel. Be that as it may, the right hon. Gentleman has made a decision. Jove has spoken, and I sincerely trust that all concerned will really try to make the system work. My right hon. Friend spoke hopefully of the present commandants becoming warrant officers in charge of administra- tion and said he thought their work could be done by warrant officers. He also said that two-thirds of the V.A.D.'s were not under commandants at all. I must correct him there. Those V.A.D.'s who are on out-stations rely even more on the friendship and good sense of their commandant than those who are in hospital. I hope that new warrant officers appointed to do commandants' work will manage out-stations all right. I am sure that the present commandants who become warrant officers will go on, by their own momentum and by virtue of the prestige they have created as commandants. But I think the right hon. Gentleman will find that the new warrant officers in charge of administration will not be able to carry sufficient prestige to be in charge of out-stations. Finally, my right hon. Friend expressed the hope that the present commandants would patriotically consent to serve as warrant officers in charge of administration. I am not going to deal with personalities although it is very tempting to do so on a matter like this. but I want to ask him whether he is aware that a highly-placed individual in his office has issued instructions that existing commandants are not to be allowed to act as warrant officers."—old, unhappy, far-off things And battles long ago."
I am quite aware of the particular letter to which my hon. Friend refers but the only thing I can say to him is that I am responsible for the War Office and not the writer of that letter.
I thank my right hon. Friend very much for that reply, the reply that I wanted. I conclude by saying that he has acted rightly and that he could not possibly have acted otherwise. If the course he has taken turns out to be the wrong one, it will not be the fault of the V.A.D.'s themselves. They will do their best, in the future, as in the past. I wish the scheme well, and I thank the right hon. Gentleman for his sympathy.
I want to thank Juno, as he has been called—[Laughter]—I mean to say Jupiter—I want to thank Jupiter for being so kind to the Junos. I am certain he is going to do his best to clear up this very tricky, difficult and unhappy situation of the V.A.D.'s. The House knows that there are 140,000 V.A.D.'s in this country drawn from all sections of the community. I am very grateful to my right hon. Friend for being so fair. I know that the House does not like figures and I do not want to give them. I cannot read them myself very well. However, I have to do it to-day because this is a woman's Debate, on the question of women's treatment. I want to bring to the notice of the House how many women there are serving the country. There are over 30,000,000 persons in the country, of whom 16,000,000 are men and 17,500,000 are women. More than 10,000,000 of these women are married and engaged in housekeeping. There are more than 9,000,000 children under 14 to be looked after, and about 7,000,000 women are employed in the Services or in industry. Over 2,500,000 married women are employed and at least 300,000 of them are employed in part time work, while 67 per cent. of girls between the ages of 14 and 17 are employed in war work. When we come to women voluntary workers—
On a point of Order. On occasions, Mr. Speaker, we have asked for this information in the House and it has been denied us on grounds of security by the Ministry of Labour. I do not know the source of the noble Lady's information, but it seems that if the Ministry of Labour denies it to us on security grounds, it is undesirable that it should be published.
I have no knowledge whether the noble Lady's figures are accurate or not.
The House ought to be very grateful to me for placing it in possession of information which it desires. Of women voluntary workers over 1,000,000 are in the W.V.S.; there are 18,000 unpaid part-time workers in the civil Nursing Reserve and 500,000 housewives are known to have received evacuees. That is one of the most difficult things to undertake. Over 122,000 nurses are fully employed and in the V.A.D. service there are over 140,000 women. The Women's Land Army numbers over 60,000 and there are more than 36,000 women in N.A.A.F.I. So the House will realise how lamentable it is that the Government in making appointments of committees, do not take in a greater number of women to help and advise them. I will read to the House some further figures in this connection. The Ministry of Health have appointed II committees. The committee on midwives' salaries consists of 25 members, and includes 12 women. The Rushcliffe Committee on Nurses has 41 men members arid 17 women. Of the remaining nine committees of the Ministry of Health seven have no women, one has one woman and one has two women. The education authorities have three committees sitting. This is where it is very important that we should plan for the future. One committee of 12 members has two women; another committee of xi members has three women and one committee has no women at all. The Central Housing Advisory Committee of 22 members has three women. The Industrial Health Advisory Committee at its original conference, had no women at all, except those who were in the audience. The first planning committee of 18 members had only one woman. Last week we had read out to us particulars of the Committee set up to look after employment in the domestic services. They selected two very good but, as has already been said, very busy men, and one woman—a trade union official who is really overworked. There have been very successful committees under women. The Committee of Miss Violet Markham was one of the most successful. Other women Members have already dealt with nearly every aspect of women's work and I do not want to bore the House any further. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] Well, very often you get a man rising to read what he has written out beforehand although the House may have head the facts from five or six other Members. That is not what I call making a speech. I call that "getting it off your chest."I want to ask about our planners. It is not so much a question of what are the plans but who are the planners. Are they the same people who have made mistakes in the past? This Government have made more mistakes than were made even by the Government in the last war in relation to women. Everybody knows that when the present Prime Minister came into office he could have done anything in the world he wanted to do. Unfortunately, he chose his Government from the same old people. He chose the best of the heads of each party and although we know we have a magnificent Government it is not a perfect Government. It is chosen on a political basis. I do not want planning to be done by a great many of the people who have made the mistakes from which we are suffering now. I ask the House of Commons to consider, if the Government had really taken our advice and called in women in the beginning, what they would have saved in the matter of health and even wealth and also in the prevention of great unhappiness. Really, the waste has been lamentable, but I do not want to go back on that. The House and the country will, however, want to know who are to be the planners of the future. You have not got enough women on the committees. One hon. Lady said, "The hand that rocks the cradle rules the world." A great many cradles are rocking in Europe to-day where women do not rule. Of course men like to think of women rocking cradles. They had better think of the rocking world, instead of rocking cradles. I feel very strongly because I do not think that the Government are awake to the feeling in the country. Many women are being given now the first opportunity to prove their capabilities. But they see nothing for themselves in the future. They see no planning. They ask, "Are we to be treated as equal partners?" We do not want to be appointed because we are women. We know it is not just because you were men that you have made all these blunders. You must get the best brains in the country and not ask whether they belong to men or women, and then you will save yourself and the world a great deal of trouble. We see the Foreign Office. We know of the mistakes made in past years. Yet the Foreign Office say that they cannot promise that women will go into the diplomatic or consular services, but that after the war they will consider it. Is that a forward-looking view? When you consider the Foreign Office and Colonial administration and all these great offices, you see the mistakes they have made and the mistakes they are bound to make unless they look for the best brains irrespective of sex. We ask, "What is the Government's policy?" I wish the Prime Minister would look into this question to see whether he is being fair to the girls. I know his past prejudice. Nobody knows it better than I do; I suffered from it for years. But he has wiped out a great deal of his past; cannot he wipe out this prejudice also and say, "I have made a mistake. I know now that women are in many ways equal and in some ways superior to men and my Government, in planning the future, are not going to give lip service but a chance to women"? It is necessary. The other day we had a Debate on education and hon. Members talked about inequality, lack of opportunity, and frustration. That is what the women of the country will feel unless something is done pretty quickly. I do not want a sex war. There is no more truth in it than there is in a class war. There is much woman in some men, and much man in some women; you cannot afford sex war. We heard talk about snobbishness. If snobbishness were confined to one section of the community we could get rid of it but snobbishness is— [Interruption]. I have some suggestions to make if hon. Members will allow me. I would do away with hereditary peerages, if I wanted to get rid of snobbishness. I would not have so many people coming to the House of Lords—
I am dealing with inequalities in the Peerage. Women in their own right cannot sit in the House of Lords, but any mumbo jumbo man can sit there.
The Noble Lady is getting out of Order in saying something which might cause annoyance in another place.
I am sorry, Mr. Speaker. We speak so freely to one another here that we forget the feelings of their Lordships. We do not want a class consciousness nor sex consciousness; we want a better world. We want the Government to face the fact that they must seek the best brains where they can find them. One more question about the Foreign Service. Hitherto it has always looked to Europe. It has forgotten the rest of the world. It has almost forgotten our great Empire. It has forgotten the United States in many ways. Europe has always been its chief interest; that has had to be. Surely, more forward views will be taken in the future and Europe will not be looked to exclusively though we must look to it, by all means and avoid its mistakes.That is what I want to put to the Government and the Minister who is to reply. No one knows better than he does all the magnificent work women have done in this country. After all, the Labour party have said all along that they believe in equality. They have said so, but do they believe in it. The Tory party, or some sections of it, have said the same thing. One thing about the Tory party is that if they do not believe in a thing, they do not say they believe in it. But the Labour party have talked about equality for 25 years to my own knowledge. Now is the chance to prove their belief in it. I beg the Government not to wait too long. Do not put off your post-war planning. Let the women of the country know whether you intend to treat them as equal citizens. The only way you get the best out of women is by appealing to the best. We have the most appalling social problems to face. I cannot go into them in the House to-day, but anyone interested in social questions knows that we have problems to-day such as we have never had, in the same degree in this country. They cannot be solved by men planners alone but only by committees of people who understand the questions. There are really hundreds of women, thoroughly qualified, able in every way, socially, spiritually, physically, morally, and trained, who could help. I do beg of hon. Members to think of it seriously. Some hon. Members have talked about wanting women to be good in their homes and to be good wives. Who does not want women to be good in their homes? Anyone would think that was a new thing, instead of something in which we all believe. You want good women in your homes. I wish you would like them as well out of your homes as in them, and perhaps you would have more good women. One hon. Lady said that good houses make good homes. It is not true. Some good houses make homes and some do not. Only good housekeepers make good homes. I could take hon. Members to my constituency to some of the very worse houses, but they are good homes. It all depends on the quality of the home-builders. You will not get the best out of women if you allow them to be frustrated and kept back. I am a great believer in women. I have sat here for 24 years and the more I see of men, the more I believe in women. Their patience, their courage and their valour and their wonderful love of all that is best, make England what it is to-day. I see an hon. Member laughing. It was some of the bright young men in the last Government who did not give women a chance and who would not give them one in the future. We should think of building a better future, and I warn the Government that none of us wants any sex war or class war but we shall do all we can to rouse the women to fight all those who will not see the justice of the case we make; some men get into the House on the women's vote and yet when they get here take these things lightly and treat the matter as though it were of no consequence. It is of great consequence, but one cannot get the House to realise it. Government promises are not enough. The Government, before it is too late, must enunciate their policy and let us know whether it is to be equality, or a fight to the finish. I do not like fighting, I want to make men happy. Women want happy men but we want happy women too, and we want the right kind of women, to help to plan this world, not the wrong kind of men who are subconsciously prejudiced against women. Let them get out of it. They are out-of-date and a positive danger to the country, and we intend to do all we can to clear them out.
The noble Lady will pardon me, if I do not follow exactly on the lines she has taken. I agree with most of her conclusions, but I do not necessarily agree with all her arguments or illustrations. I propose to bring the House back to what is, after all, one of the principal points under discussion to-day, the treatment during the war by the Government of the women who are in their employ. The subject was raised by my hon. Friend the Member for West Fulham (Dr. Summerskill), and though it has not formed the main theme of the speeches that have followed, it really lies at the back of a great deal of what has been said. When I went to the Treasury as Financial Secretary, my officials put before me the Treasury point of view with regard to payment of Government employees. They said, "This has always been the Treasury point of view, and we want to know how far you and the Minister are prepared to agree with it? It is this, that it is the business of the Government to bring the conditions and pay of its employees into line with the conditions and pay given by the best employers. It is not the view of the Treasury that the State can be generous with the public money to the extent of paying wages far and above the level which is paid in the outside world. On the other hand, it is not the view of the Treasury that the Government should be stingy and mean and fall appreciably below what a certain number of good employers are prepared to do. It was on that basis that the officials of the Treasury were prepared to give their acceptance of the view of the Labour party—which was the Government of the day, and for which I was the spokesman in the Treasury—that a week's holiday with pay should be given to Government employees, because by that time, a good number of good employers had accorded that innovation, and the Treasury felt then that it was quite possible for the Government to take that view with regard to all Government employees; and that was what they did.I suggest to the Government that, in the light of this maxim, the time has come to review their whole policy on the pay and treatment of women in the Services and in Government employment generally. When women first came into industrial life, in private enterprise, they were regarded as cheap auxiliary labour. Women were set to inferior tasks, and were paid at a lower rate. It was gradually found that, given scope, women were capable of taking on much more difficult and complicated and technical jobs than had been supposed, but the idea of cheapness still continued. Many men workers supported this' differentiation, because they felt that it redounded to their sense of superiority and also because they felt that, in some way or another, it secured better wages for themselves. I think they were living from 50 or 100 years behind the times in an economic sense, when it was thought that there was a "wages fund"; and they believed that the more women took out, the less would be left for themselves, while the less women took out, the more would be left for the men. That. was a short-sighted view. The wiser men saw that if there was a certain amount of cheap labour, on which the employers could rely, it would bring down the standard of wages and that the men would be—as in fact they were—the losers by it. When the war came the Government, who are generally some 20 or 30 years behind public opinion, decided to employ women in Auxiliary Services, and fixed their wages at approximately two-thirds of the male rate. There was some support for this view, for two reasons. The great bulk of women in private employment were paid about two-thirds, or even less, of the amount that men received, even when working at the same job. Secondly, there was some measure of support because it was, supposed that the Auxiliary Services were substantially different in function from those Services in which the men were employed. I do not think it can be denied that both those things have fundamentally changed. In the first place, private employers have increasingly given to women tasks requiring responsibility, skill and endurance. Tribute has been paid by Dominion and Allied statesmen to the work which women in this country have done, as my hon. Friend the Member for West Fulham (Dr. Summerskill) rightly pointed out in her convincing and, I venture to say, unanswerable speech. The big trade unions, supported by the enlightened opinion of their more active members, have campaigned for payment for the job, and in a large number of cases they have got it. At the same time, public opinion has awakened to the fact that in Government employ there is no longer the same differentiation of function between the work of men and of women that was at one time supposed to exist. In the Civil Service women are interchangeable with men in a large part of the work that is done. In the Fighting Services, as my hon. Friend the Member for West Fulham demonstrated, many women are engaged in intricate and highly skilled, and in some cases dangerous, tasks. At the same time, there are many men who are non-combatant, and who have comparatively easy jobs. If I may name just one case of very highly skilled work, there are the women whose business it is to control the landing of the aircraft returning from all parts of Europe—a very important task, on which the safety of large numbers of airmen depend; and, as is well known, they carry it through to the complete satisfaction of the Royal Air Force, and tribute has been paid to them for it on all sides. There might be a case for basing differentiation of pay on function. In so far as this has prevailed in the Services, in the pay of tradesmen, it would be quite a reasonable basis on which to differentiate between the pay of men and women, but what is repugnant is a differentiation based solely on sex, without regard to function at all. It will be said that women do not engage in the actual fighting ranks. But I would like to remind the House of a fact that is often lost sight of. Women are not employed in the fighting ranks of the Army, not because they are less courageous, or less capable, but because it is not in the interests of the State to endanger the lives of those who are responsible for the future of the race. That is why, all through history, women have been excluded from the fighting forces. Public opinion is certainly changing. Men and women in all ranks of life have seen the splendid work of women in factories and in the Services. They know of the reports that have been given by visitors to this country, and all of us, whatever opinion we may have on this question, recognise that but for the service of women in this war we should be in a very different position to-day. Therefore, I do not envy whoever is to reply on behalf of the Government, if the Government propose to stand over their present policy. As I see it, he will have to defend the indefensible. I am told that my right hon. and learned Friend the Minister without Portfolio is to reply. If any one can put across a case it is of course my right hon. and learned Friend; his advocacy is famous. But I have no doubt that Mrs. Partington, who tried to brush out the ocean, had an excellent broom. However good may be the broom of my right hon. and learned Friend's intellectual advocacy, I think it will be equally futile in trying to sweep out this ocean. In the end, I am sure the Government will have to give way; not to-day, not to-morrow, not next week, but before so very long, the Government will have to yield to public opinion and to common sense in this matter. The sooner they give way the better it will enure to their reputation, and the better it will be for the welfare of the country. It is important that they shall give while the claim is one of justice, and not wait until it becomes a clamant grievance and creates ill-feeling. I believe that if this matter could be submitted to a vote of this House—which, of course, it cannot—the Government would be made aware of the large amount of feeling that exists and of the change in public opinion that has taken place inside this House, making this reform urgent, as well as vital and necessary. It may not be possible for my right hon. and learned Friend to do other to-day than to repeat the adverse decision of the Government. That will be his duty, acting as a Member of the Government, if, unfortunately, that task has been put upon him. But if he takes that view, I hope that he will at any rate recognise that he is not a valve which allows things to pass only in one direction but that he is also a channel through which the opinions of this House and the commonsense of the country are reported back to the Government and the acting section of it, the Cabinet. I hope that he will make it clear to the Cabinet, beyond a peradventure, that, in his opinion, the time has come to bring the action of the Government with regard to their women employees, firstly, into line with the practice of the sensible and good employers of this country, and, secondly, into accord with the mass of public opinion.
I have listened to most of this Debate. I hope that in the few minutes during which I shall detain the House, I shall not seem to come within the category of those individuals castigated by my Noble Friend the Member for the Sutton Division of Plymouth (Viscountess Astor) for coming here with speeches which have been well prepared beforehand. I do not know to whom she was referring, but as most of the Members who have spoken to-day have been women, I suppose she was referring to Members of her own sex. If so, I think she was quite mistaken. We have had to-day some of the best contributions to debate that we have had for a long time. I am very glad that the women Members had initiated a Debate on a subject of such great importance to the country. With regard to the submission made by my hon. Friend the Member for West Fulham (Dr. Summerskill) and by my right hon. Friend the Member for East Edinburgh (Mr. Pethick-Lawrence), I think that, on the whole, they have made out a prima facie case, at the very least, for the consideration of an improvement—if not for the acceptance of co-valuation—in the pay of women in the Forces and in other walks of life. I trust that the Government will give consideration to that matter.The main question I wanted to deal with was that of woman-power, in its relation more particularly to the very grave statement made by the Minister of Labour the other day and qualified to some extent to-day at the Box. I make no apology for being somewhat old-fashioned. I am a great believer in women in the home. I emphasise what my hon. Friend the Member for East Islington (Mrs. Gazalet Keir) said earlier in the Debate, and which was corroborated very strongly by the Noble Lady the Member for Hemel Hempstead (Viscountess Davidson) and the Noble Lady the Member for Central Bristol (Lady Apsley), and that is that the home is the paramount place intended for woman, although there was a qualifying remark made by my hon. Friend that she must not only be fulfilling great usefulness in the home, but also in the war effort. We have seen the example in this war of the finest contribution made by the women of Great Britain in the whole of history—in every field, in all the Services, Civil Defence, in nursing, in the factories, on the land and in the home. Never in any country, Allied or Axis, have women made such a contribution than have the women of this country in this war. It may be said that the women of Russia have made a very great contribution. No doubt in proportion to the men, the women in Russia are making a very considerable contribution, but we have to remember that in Russia for many years, ever since the Soviet system was established, women have played an almost co-equal part in the life of the State, and are treated as such on every basis of life. But as far as the Allied nations are concerned the work done by the women of this country is something for which history and the women of these Islands will ever be grateful. While we are saying that, my right hon. Friend the Minister of Labour came to the House the other day and made one of the gravest statements which has been made in this country with regard to the registration of women from 45 to 50. It is true that my hon. Friend has qualified it, and the Minister qualified it yesterday in a public speech by saying that at the present time only registration is meant and not actual calling up.
I am afraid I did not say that.
My hon. Friend did not give an indication to the House that women from 45 to 50 are to be called up now, but registration itself is an indication that they may be called up, and that very soon. You are dealing here with a class which should not be called up under the compulsory system. This is at an age when the vast majority of these women are mothers with grown-up sons and daughters, whose contribution to the home life of this country is essential and most valuable; they are women who through age disturbances and disabilities are not meant to be called up on a compulsory basis unless the State can convince the country absolutely that there is no other avenue of escape from it, or the Minister can convince the country that there is no other alternative.Unless the Minister can show conclusively that it is absolutely necessary and vital that this should be done, I do not think it can be justified in any other way. I say this for two reasons. I have already made reference to the work done by women in our national services, the Auxiliary Territorial Service, the Women's Auxiliary Air Force, the W.R.N.S., and so forth, but I am convinced that as far as the Auxiliary Territorial Service and the W.A.A.F.'s are concerned there is at the moment a great waste of woman-power. I have raised this matter by Questions in this House. It is very difficult for a back bench Member to get at the facts. I have tried to get the actual figures from various Ministries. The noble Lady has given figures to-day which are somewhat startling. I do not know where she got them. I have not been able to get the figures for which I asked, but since I raised the matter in the House I have received letters, facts and testimonies. from the A.T.S. and W.A.A.F.'s that there is a wastage of personnel, that a large number are only doing two or three hours' work a day and that there is a tremendous amount of sending backwards, and forwards in travelling, and an immense wastage of time in sudden changes from depot to depot and camp to camp, especially among the officers. In the Report of the Committee, of which my hon. Friend the Member for East Islington was a Member, on the Amenities and Welfare Conditions in the Women's Services, although they were precluded by their terms of reference from going into the actual personnel, they make a reference twice to the fact that there is a wastage and a lack of economy in the use of personnel in the A.T.S. These are the very young women. We know how avaricious every Government Department is. Perhaps an officer in the A.T.S. may want more girls under her, and perhaps another may want to do something else. The thing goes on like a snowball, and there is no controlling it, because these are very sheltered Departments. I asked the Minister once or twice whether he could not set up an important Departmental Committee to investigate whether a 10 per cent. cut could not be made in these two Services. If that were done, there is no Minister who could stand up at that Box, and in the circumstances call up women from 45 to 50. If it is necessary to call-up more women for aircraft factories, I hope that the women will be forthcoming, as I believe they would be, but why not make a cut among the men in Government Departments? There are something like 40,000 in the Ministry of Food, 17,500 in the Ministry of War Transport, 16,000 in the Ministry of Aircraft Production and 11,000 in the War Damage Commission. There is a total in the service of the State, apart from the main Services of the Army, Navy and Air Force and Civil Defence, of nearly 800,000, a large number of whom are young people and many of whom, I am sure, would wish to serve in any capacity in which they thought they could be of most use to the State. A 10 per cent, cut in that total would give 70,000 or 80,000, which is something like the number of women between the ages of 45 and 50 if you combed out the whole lot of them in this country to-day. These other women would be younger.
I take it that my hon. Friend realises that it would have the effect that our letters might be answered in half the time?
It would be putting the obligation on the right sort of people to serve—upon the young, energetic and active who have their lives before them and who do not get tired like the women of 45 to 50. [Interruption.] I was going to conclude my remarks by saying that the Noble Lady does not by any manner of means come within that category.
A little above it.
As I was saying, a cut of 10 per cent, would give us 70,000. The Minister of Labour has done very fine work in this war. He has many enemies in this House. I do not agree with his political views, but, on balance, he probably has been able to do more for the national service than any other individual of whom I know, either in this House or outside it. If he embarks upon this project it will be a blot on his escutcheon; it will be a reflection on his reputation. It will dwindle the great effort he has made, and I trust that the Government will reconsider this matter seriously, not in the course of two or three weeks, but now, in order not to alarm unduly this very great number of women in this category who ought to be allowed to remain where they are. They are the mainstay of our country and the bulwark of our home life.
I would like to support what my hon. Friend the Member for Denbigh (Sir H. Morris-Jones) has said. I did not know that he was going to speak on this line, but I want to express the deep disquiet which is felt throughout the country at these proposals of the Ministry of Labour. I have never known any proposal which has caused more anxiety and disquiet among the people generally. Like my hon. Friend, I pay tribute to the Minister of Labour for the work he has done, and this is not, I am sure, the decision of the Minister of Labour. It is probably a Cabinet decision, but it is one which I do beg them to reconsider. We are now asking women of from 46 to 50, an age when you do not want to have women exposed to constant worries and anxieties, when they are not able constantly to take on the heavy burdens of a house and in addition to do the labour which they may be called upon to undertake. I feel therefore—and my medical friends all assure me—that this step, if pursued, will have a very serious effect on the health of many of these women.We all want to put the maximum effort into this war, but you can have the extra straw that breaks the camel's back. We say that in 1940 when we asked men to work too long hours and found that it did more harm than good. Therefore, I think this is a demand which should not be made and which will not achieve any- thing to justify the inconvenience and the ill-health which it will cause. What does the Minister or the Government hope to get out of it? To-day we are not struggling to save ourselves from destruction. Things are going very well. That does not mean that we can relax, but, on the other hand, it justifies us in not asking for the last ounce from the country when that might do more harm than good. We are told that at the present time we are producing many times more aeroplanes than the Axis can produce. We are bombing Germany, and their production must be very much reduced. When are these women, who are to be registered in September, to begin to pull their weight in manufacture? Registration will take some time, and then, even if they are not called up, they will be worried and anxious. They will have to go to the Employment Exchanges for interviews—a process which in all may take some months—and then they will get directions for training. How many months will it be before these women are able to pull their weight? I believe it will be a year before we shall be able to justify the expenditure, time and training spent on them. So far, we have had nothing from the Government Front Bench to justify the decision which the Minister of Labour announced last Thursday. Those who are anxious for success in this war, those who are very zealous for victory, sometimes allow their zeal to outrun discretion and judgment. This is in my view a case where that has happened. I want to emphasise a further point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Denbigh about which I and other Members put down a Motion earlier to-day. Think of the feelings of men in the Services and elsewhere, who know that their wives have to run their houses for part of the day and do part-time work in a factory for the rest of the day when they know that there are hundreds of young girls running about in Government offices not pulling their weight. Let us be frank about it. Every one of us has had his postbag full of complaints from constituents that they have been taken into the Auxiliary Territorial Services or the Civil Service from important jobs and are not getting anything to do at all. Recently, I had a letter from a girl who had been doing important work. She was taken into Government service, and all she had to do for the first two months was an average of two letters a day. She complained to her chief, who replied, "Do you expect us to make work for you." Some of-these cases may be exaggerated, but there is a lot of disquiet in the country about the stories coming from constituents who say, "We are not doing a quarter of the work we used to do. We could do three, four or five times the amount of work without any harm at all." The country will be disquieted if the Government persist in going ahead with this new registration without at the same time satisfying the country that full use is being made of the women already in industry, the Civil Service and the Women's Services. I hope the Minister, who has performed his duties efficiently, will not make this severe demand. What these women can do in the aircraft industry is slight and remote, but the effect on the happiness and morale of many homes and particularly on the health of these women will be very great indeed. At their age these women should not be subjected to unnecessary burdens which they cannot carry, and I beg the Minister and the Government to reconsider the matter.
I should first like to put on record something about the work of the Woman-Power Committee, because that Committee has been responsible, through the usual channels, for promoting this Debate to-day. The Woman-Power Committee consists of the back bench women Members of Parliament, with the exception of those who have Ministerial and Departmental duties; in a way we form a National Government of our own, because we are composed of all parties. In addition there are women representatives of the T.U.C. and others with very wide interests who are also on the Committee with us. With our wonderful honorary secretary, Mrs. Wood, we have functioned since March, 1940, when we came together because we felt that the women of the country would be urgently wanted to play their full part in the war effort. Until that time very little use was made of their services and of their desire to play their full part in winning the war. That period has passed, but our co-operation has remained. We are working together to help the Government, as I believe, in the war effort and also to achieve certain aims and objects which I will briefly outline in a few minutes.First, I would like to speak of the record of work the Committee has already achieved. We were responsible for persuading the Minister of Labour to establish his Women's Consultative Committee, which advises him on the registration and call-up of women. Here I am treading on rather delicate ground, because I am a member of that Committee, but I think I can say that we have been helpful to the Minister and to my hon. Friends the Parliamentary Secretaries.
May I ask my Friend a question? Was her Committee in any way responsible for the recommendation to the Minister of Labour which was based on his decision, given in the House last week, to call up women of 45 to 50?
My hon. Friend has been quick to put his point. May I put the constitutional position? We are the Advisory Committee to the Minister. My hon. Friend and others with him thought that the Minister's announcement was a Cabinet and not a Ministerial decision. May I suggest that he puts a question to the Minister of Labour to ascertain the position? Far be it from a woman to talk about the work of an Advisory Committee to a Minister. No man could do it, and certainly a woman would be in difficulties if she did, I should like to put on record the work that we believe we have achieved. We are grateful to the Minister for having set up the Advisory Committee, and those who serve on it have enjoyed our co-operation and enjoyed working with the Ministers. In addition we were responsible for initiating the successful campaign for achieving equal compensation for civilian war injuries. Our spokesman was my hon. Friend the Member for Frome (Mrs. Tate), and we all had the greatest possible satisfaction in the successful conclusion of her campaign. We were also responsible for another Advisory Committee, one to the Ministry of Health dealing with maternity and child welfare problems and for putting into operation the provision of the Child Adoption Bill, which had been placed on the Statute Book through the good work of the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Health. In fact, behind the scenes we look out for opportunities wherever we can be helpful. True we are often critical, and we believe we are doing good work and playing a helpful part in the war effort.Now for the future. At the Equal Compensation Committee the head of the Treasury, in giving evidence, said that, whether it was right or wrong—on that he was not offering an opinion—our social structure was based on sex differentiation. That is one of the matters the Woman-Power Committee is now dealing with. I will not go into all the points of difference between men and women in relation to their privileges and responsibilities, but, so long as that is the accepted policy of the Government, is the right hon. and learned Gentleman surprised that from time to time we want to urge on them the views that we hold and that we have now reached a stage in the history of democracy and the growth of the nation where we should be allowed to take part in national affairs with the rights of full citizenship? I will not go any further in that direction. Another aim, and a major aim, is that we should be allowed to play a full part in reconstruction work and in building this brave new world which everyone talks about. I should like to reinforce what was said by my Noble Friend the Member for Hemel Hempstead (Viscountess Davidson), who drew attention to the Report of the Select Committee on National Expenditure with regard to benefits for pregnant women in industry, and the result of that Report. It strikes me that in a matter of that kind the Government should decide on its policy and not wait for years. Some months ago I went on a deputation to the Minister of Health, who is always extremely helpful and co-operative in receiving deputations but not so helpful nor co-operative in achieving results. He said quite nicely that he was a little tired of people coming to teach him how to do his job and added that this was a matter that had been under consideration by his Department for a very long time. That is exactly what one complains of. It has been under consideration for such a long time that it must have become embedded in the files. It is no good having Debates on the trend of population if problems which really require solution are allowed to drift and we get no satisfaction. I am not saying it is the right hon. Gentleman's fault. In democratic government we get obstruction from the Treasury, from the Cabinet and from all kinds of people, but, as matters are, we have to hold the Minister responsible. Therefore I say he has had quite long enough to make up his mind what his policy is to be. Women have been in industry for a long time since the outbreak of the war, and it is time we came to a decision, and that decision should be favourable to the women whose cases we have been talking about. Another point which raises matters affecting the right hon. Gentleman's Department is a recommendation of the Rushcliffe Report with regard to the payment of educational grants to sister tutors. I have already raised the matter, and the right hon. Gentleman has ridden off by saying he is waiting for some regulations to be prepared by the General Nursing Council. He rather insinuated, in answer to a question, that he was doing so with the good will and co-operation of the nurses and that they would welcome it. Does he never read the "Nursing Times"? Has he not seen a leader in the "Nursing Times"? Does he really think that the nurses and the organisation in which one finds the bulk of them are satisfied with the situation? The Rushcliffe Committee sat for over a year and made that specific recommendation in February which implied a Treasury grant, and here we are in August. No decision has yet been taken, and the right hon. Gentleman is still waiting. On many occasions we have speeches from him and the Parliamentary Secretary doing their best to obtain nurses and pointing out that it is one of the most helpful professions in the world, and yet on a simple little point of that kind, which really requires action, we get all this delay. It really must cease. I hope the right hon. Gentleman will soon be in a position to announce his policy on these two points. The National Expenditure Committee issued a Report last January in which questions dealing with the health and welfare of women in factories were discussed. We hear a very great deal of talk against private enterprise. I am a progressive Conservative and I like to approach every problem with an open mind, but, from my experience on the Expenditure Committee, I do not think there is anything in the world to touch best private enterprise. I very much regret that the Government, where they are the employers, have not tried to set the standard of a good employer. At least on one or two counts that have come my way they have failed miserably. I want to read an extract dealing with the factory inspectorate and I should like to take this opportunity of saying in what high respect the factory inspectorate is held throughout the country. One comment in the Report is:
Then it goes on to state the constitutional position in regard to the inspection of Government factories and privately owned factories, and continues:"It does not appear that co-operation between the Factory Inspectorate and those responsible for Royal Ordnance Factories has been as full as it might have been."
There is another point I would like to draw attention to in connection with the principle of the Government being a good employer."It has been alleged that in some Royal Ordnance Factories the hours worked by women and young persons has been excessive. In one factory the inspectorate are stated to have been trying since 1940 to get these hours brought within statutory limits, and only recently has effective action been taken. In one factory it is reported that for many months representations had to be made before the safety department was properly organised, and in the meantime the fencing of machines had become badly in arrear. If the principle of the good employer is to be maintained, these constitutional difficulties must be cleared up in such a way as to render it impossible for the Royal Ordnance Factories to avoid complying with the recommendations made by the Factory Inspectorate."
That Report was issued in January. The decision by the Treasury had been taken before that, and the final details have not yet been organised. Here we are in the fourth year of war with women making a heavy contribution to the provision of war weapons, and the State has not yet paid the contribution of the good employer in order that its workers may benefit by a scheme which has been arranged by the Rest Breaks National Advisory Committee. It is time the Government did become a good employer. I also took part in another investigation relating to flax production. I was horrified at the conditions under which some of the women work in some of the factories. I think that the Government sometimes lose the opportunities which they get for making more use of women in a really big way and getting helpful advice and stimulus in carrying out the essential work they ought to do to put their own house in order. I come to what I might call the wider issue. Women Members in the House of Commons and the women in the country feel that we should be allowed to play our full and proper part in reconstruction after the War Not long ago the Woman-power Committee took a deputation to the Deputy Prime Minister. The Deputy Prime Minister is really a friend of ours and he has tried to be extremely helpful. Whether he cannot carry the Cabinet with him, or whether there really is no desire on the part of the Government to put the position with regard to women right I do not know, but we have asked that women should be allowed to play their full and proper part. We are not asking for privileges. All that we are asking for is that when a position is to be filled the best person, irrespective of sex, should be allowed to fill it. It is obvious to us as we go about that, very often, first-class women are working under second-class men. We feel that if the Government thought earnestly about the position they would agree with us, and if they agree with us, it is up to them to alter it. I want to draw the attention of my right hon. and learned friend to the answer that the Woman-power Committee got from the Deputy Prime Minister as the result of the deputation they took to him. They argued, as I am arguing, that women should be allowed to play a full and responsible part in planning the world after the war. The Government will be well advised to pay heed to their remarks because the attitude of the Government towards women since the outbreak of war has created a public opinion in favour of women which will not be denied. We are now much more popular in the political and local government spheres than we have ever been, and we have friends throughout the length and breadth of the land. When we asked the Deputy Prime Minister if he would consider the representations that we were making he undertook to examine the position with particular reference to what was happening in various Departments concerned with reconstruction to see whether women filled positions where they had power. What we wanted to see were women carrying responsibilities which they were very well able to carry. This is the answer that the Deputy Prime Minister sent:"Your Committee took evidence on the organisation of Rest Break Schemes which provide hostel accommodation in pleasant surroundings for women war workers, and they were much impressed with the importance of this work. They are, therefore, glad to learn that the Treasury has now agreed in principle to some measure of financial assistance being given, where necessary, by Departments to Rest Break Schemes promoted by the Rest Breaks National Advisory Committee."
In a free democracy are we not entitled to get the names of the women who hold major positions in Government Departments? Am I not right when I say that one can look them up in various books of reference? Is my right hon. and learned Friend aware that in this House time and time again he has refused to give to my hon. Friend the Member for East Islington (Mrs. Cazalet Keir) the names of the civil servants who are advising him; and does he really think that we do not know the names? This is a most Gilbertian situation. Here we are fighting for freedom, for free speech, for the continuation of our political democracy and for our Parliamentary system, and the Deputy Prime Minister, in answer to an ordinary question, says that he cannot give the names of women civil servants who hold high positions in Government Departments. I am driven to the conclusion that if he cannot give the names they cannot be included in books of reference and they cannot therefore be holding very high positions. The Woman-Power Committee also made a full investigation into all the Departmental Committees that have been set up with the co-operation of various Government Departments and we found a very deplorable condition of affairs. I ask once more, whether in reconstruction work, the Government are still going to hold to the view of the Treasury that the social structure of this country and the policy of the Government are based on sex differentiation. Can we hope for a future which will provide something worth while for the generations that come after us, and in which women will be allowed to plan along with the Government? Are we to continue to keep women in secondary positions often with second-rate men above them, or is it to be a question of the best man or best woman for the job? We want to know the policy, and I shall be grateful if my right hon. Friend will give us an answer."I have looked into the question of the participation of women in the work of the Departments and on committees concerned with problems of reconstruction. Except for two cases in which I am making representations to the Minister concerned, it appears to me that the number of women participating is satisfactory. As you are aware it would be contrary to practice to give detailed particulars."
I want to deal with only one or two of the matters which have come up in this Debate, but first I will take the opportunity of wishing the hon. Member for Wallsend (Miss Ward) bon voyage, because I believe she is off in two or three days to show China the kind of people we have in this country. I am certain she will represent this country and Parliament very adequately, and we wish her all good fortune. But having said that nice thing, I want now to break a lance with her. She has just assaulted the Government, whom I am not very much inclined to defend, on the ground that they declined to publish the names of people in the Departments. But that was not her original challenge. Her original complaint was that they declined to give the names of people on committees. You can find the names of all leading civil servants, men and women, in the public books of reference, there is no secret about them; but when a Minister appoints a committee of civil servants to advise him on a matter which may be subsequently the subject of political controversy, it is absolutely right that he should not disclose the names, because only in that way can we avoid bringing civil servants into politics.
Why then did the Government publish the names of the civil servants who helped Sir William Beveridge with his Report?
I do not know why they did that silly thing; they ought not to have done it; but it is not for me to defend them when they make a mistake. I am always protesting against public relations officers writing letters in the newspapers. They are civil servants. Only the other day one was in controversy with my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for South-East Essex (Flight-Lieutenant Raikes). We want to keep civil servants out of politics, otherwise we get corruption. I am not a racing man, but I believe that at Epsom in the days before the war they used to have a day's racing called Oaks Day. To-day has rather reminded me of that. The first five runners were all ladies. I do not think that has ever happened before and I do not think it is a very good thing. Nothing will do more harm to women in politics than to have political days which are women's days. We do not want them. We do not want to develop this House into a place where men have a show one day and women another day. It is silly to try to enter into the vast calculation of men's rights and women's rights. Suppose we start examining National Health Insurance. We find men pay three-quarters of the contributions and women get three-quarters of the benefits. That is the kind of calculation we must not make. I got the figures in detail from the Minister of Health some time ago. I have not them with me at the moment, but I think the proportion is even greater than I stated.But I want to go back to the question of the call-up of women. I think it will be a disaster if any attempt is made to call up the forty-fives and the fifties. I can say that dispassionately, because to the best of my knowledge all my women folk are either over or under those ages, but I am certain that nothing will cause greater trouble to the Government than any attempt to regiment the women of those ages, most of whom are tied up with heavy domestic duties. Those who are free will volunteer as part-time workers if the appeal is made to them. Do not apply regimentation to women of those ages. If you do you are just asking for disaster. The hon. Member for Denbighshirse (Sir H. Morris-Jones) expressed the opinion that extra man-power could be obtained from Government Departments. I agree with him. I am perfectly satisfied, and I say this with solemnity, that there is hardly a Government Department that could not be run with half—he said one-tenth but I say with half—its present staff and with a great increase in efficiency. What happens when any of us write to a Government Department? We get a prompt and polite acknowledgment from the Minister's secretary. The letter then goes into the machine. It takes at least 10 days to get down to the junior clerk who is to deal with it. In Government Departments all decisions are taken by the juniors. It is not the same as in ordinary business, where those at the top decide what the answer shall be. The letter goes downstairs from the Minister's room and then a junior gets busy—they call him an assistant principal, I think—collecting such information as he can, and ultimately he writes a minute. In Government Departments they always file the letter before they answer it. In business you answer the letter and then file it. It is true. Everybody knows that the jacket and minute system are the curse of Government Departments. If the Minister were to go in and say "If there are any more delays in this Department some of you will be fired; remember His Majesty can dispense with you and you are all His Majesty's servants," you could cut down the red tape in 24 hours. But Ministers tolerate it and go on tolerating.
Is that what the hon. Member did when he was a Minister for a short time in 1928?
I did it to the best of my ability, but I was not No. 1 but only No. 2. Yesterday was Bank Holiday. I was not working, and I took a stroll round these parts. Outside a large hotel occupied by Government Departments there were nine large motor vehicles and 10 motor cycles, and "Ats" and men in uniform engaged in doing nothing. Every Government Department has a needless number of motor vehicles. Why call up people when all this massive waste is going on?During the Debate some reference was made to equal pay for equal work. An hon. Gentleman behind me made the usual sentimental appeal which leaves me quite cold. It is always termed equal pay for equal work, but it is not that unless you get equal quantity and equal quality of work. If you call in at the South-Western District Post Office, you will find a counter which used to be entirely staffed by men now entirely staffed by women. There are the same number of women. Clearly those women ought to get the same rates of pay as the men, but they do not, because there is in the Civil Service a general differentiation based on the truth that the average woman does not turn out as much work as the average Man. That is true also where soldiers have been replaced in part by women on the anti-aircraft gun sites. If more women are wanted to do the same amount of work clearly the women ought to be paid less. The only test is piece work. It is the only basis. Pay them by the value of their output and on that basis women will in general be paid less than men. We have had 25 years of women's suffrage, and the relations of the incomes of men and women remain exactly the same as they were, or virtually so Whether you get equal pay or not has nothing whatever to do with whether you have votes. It depends on production. Where the women are producing as much as the men they ought to get the same as the men. You will never get anywhere on sentimental reasons. Looking back to industry in peace times, we find there is virtually no competition between men and women. They do not do the same jobs. I was going round an exhibition of bicycles one day and the head of the firm showed me disintegrated parts of a bicycle. I said, "I suppose that piece of assembly is done by women." He said, "No, women are useless for this; they have not that combination of strength and delicacy of touch which is necessary." Of another bit of the assembly work I said, "Do men do that?" and he said, "No, men are useless here; I must employ women." There were two cases in which the manufacturers did one job entirely by men and another by women. If you want very delicate work, with very delicate fingering, it is invariably done by men—watch-making and all the rest of it. We have such a lot of false ideas. Do not let us run away with them, but come down to the realities of life, and then we shall find a lot of these problems do not exist. May I pay a tribute to the valuable work of the hon. Member for Wallsend in conjunction with the Noble Lady the Member for Hemel Hempstead (Viscountess Davidson) in two inquiries for which they were mainly responsible. Reports were published by the Select Committee on welfare in the Services and welfare in the munition factories. I do not know whether all hon. Members have read those two Reports, but they are a mine of valuable information. Their task was not too easy. I think it was the first lime that two women Members of Parliament, with a woman secretary, had toured the country with the full authority of Parliament and the full powers of a Select Committee of the House of Commons. It was a long and detailed investigation that came to a number of very valuable conclusions which were embodied in Ibis Report. I think it was one of the best pieces of work ever done by two public women in this country. It has never had sufficient tribute paid to it, and I should like to use this occasion to pay a tribute to the very notable work that was done by those two ladies.
I do not wish to follow the hon. Member for South Croydon (Sir H. Williams) in all the details of what he said, only I think he made a great mistake when he said that women were not a great success alongside men. In the last war and in this war women have proved that they are quite as capable as men. In the last war, when the women were brought in—
Do I understand that the hon. Member is criticising something that I said?
I did not say anything in the remotest relation to it.
The hon. Member did not say anything good about them, so he should be quiet.
When women were brought in during the last war I, as an engineer, was against their coming in, and particularly to their working on the night shift. I thought it would be bad for them. When the women came in I advised them not to work on the night shift. At that time we engineers on the Clyde received Is. a night extra for working on the night shift, and when the women got to know about it they thought my advice was given because I was trying to reserve that shilling for the men. What was our actual experience before the war was finished? It was that the women on the Clyde broke all records in producing shells. The best records were made by the women on the night shift, and there never were better shells.At that time I tried to get my union to admit women, but our revolutionary executive and officials—there is one of them in the House at the moment—thought they could not have anything to do with it. They said it would not do to have women in. We have changed all that. In this war, we have 70,000 women in the union as engineers. The women in the shipbuilding and aeroplane building and in the gun shops are a gigantic success. It is not true to fact what the hon. Member for South Croydon stated, that men have a finer touch than women. This fine touch in taking sizes has been entirely eliminated by man's ingenuity in producing the micrometer and the vernier. Fine touch is now no longer needed, and there are men and women who have never served any time at all, working to the finest gauges that we know. I have heard Back Benchers pay a great tribute to what women are doing, just as I have heard tributes to miners and those who go down to the sea in ships. When it comes to paying the women and recognising them, it is a different story. To me, actions speak louder than words, though the words may be the finest. It is no use telling the world what wonderful women we have and doing nothing else about it. The Minister of Labour told us distinctly that if it had not been for the women, he did not know where we should have been in this war. I entirely agree with him. The Minister of Aircraft Production can also bear witness to the excellent work being done by women at the moment. Provision has been made in the engineering trade in this war to prevent semi-skilled and women workers from making the kind of wages that were made during the last war. There is no talk now about the tremendous wages of the women. During the last war, women workers were said to be so well paid that some of them were buying two pianos and 20 fur coats. It is true that women shell makers did make big wages, but the output was based on the output of men. The same thing is done to-day. Women are producing more than the men. This is an opportunity for this House to express itself. An appeal is being made on behalf of the mothers of our race, the women, who, as Burns, our national bard said, were made after the Lord had tried his "prentice han'" on man. Women have proved beyond a shadow of doubt what they can do, and they ought to be treated fairly. We never can requite the women for what they have done in this war. We have 70,000 of these women in our union, and we will fight for them just as we fight for the men.
I am one of those who have listened throughout almost this entire Debate, and I think I should be voicing the common opinion of all those who have shared that experience if I said that this Debate was very well worth while, and I think the Woman-Power Committee are to be congratulated on arranging it. At the same time I confess frankly that I am no feminist. Equally I am no anti-feminist. It seems to me that the only reason for the one is the existence of the other. I, for my part, take this view: It is idle to think that there is any great topic which can concern women only. It is bound quite obviously to concern the whole country if it concerns women, and it is bound to concern men just as much as it concerns women. Equally I would for my own part almost protest against putting women on committees just because they are women, just as I would protest against putting men on committees just because they are men. Of course, there are certain types of topics in which, speaking generally, women have greater knowledge and arc more likely to be able to render useful assistance. For instance, on maternity and child welfare if you wanted to pick the best team you could, you would obviously get a much higher proportion of women than if you were picking a committee to advise you on, shall I say, the export trade. But I am quite sure the principle we ought to go on in selecting our committees is to get the best team together we can, not minding whether they are men or women or whether they are brown haired or red haired.The Debate we have had to-day has ranged over a vast field, and nearly every Government Department has been brought into consideration, and I have to do the best I can in a comparatively short time to take up some of these threads and make some reply. May I say in answer to my right hon. Friend opposite that I do not regard myself as a one-way valve? I shall certainly see that the various points which have been brought forward are considered in the proper quarters, and hon. Members in various parts of the House will forgive me if I do not attempt to deal with a very large number of detailed points, all of which of course concern other Departments, beyond saying that I will see that those points are brought to the attention of the various Ministers. I did think that this question of directing women between 45 and 50 was obviously of such importance that the House would desire that some representative of the Ministry of Labour should be here to reply to that topic, and accordingly in the course of this Debate the House has listened to and I think been reassured by my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary. [An HON MEMBER: "NO"]. But in so far as they are not reassured I will see that the representations they have made will most certainly be placed before my right hon. Friend the Minister of Labour. One other thing I need not say; it has become really a commonplace, and it is quite unnecessary for me to pay tribute to the work women have done in this war. When this war comes to be won it will be just as much due to the women as to the men. Without the effort of one or the other it would obviously have been absolutely impossible, and the women have shown us that in courage and in cheerfulness and in constancy they certainly do not lag behind the men. The main point, I think, which has been raised in this Debate upon which I want to say something is the question which has been described by various speakers by the phrase, "Equal pay for equal work." I have to explain, and so far as I can justify, the position which the Government are taking at any rate at the present time. This matter has, hon. Members will remember, a long history. I need not go further back, though I easily could, than the Tomlin Commission, which was very sharply divided on this question, though that Commission, I think, unanimously endorsed the principle that the wages should be fixed by the Government having regard to outside practice. Members will remember what took place in 1936 on the Motion, "That Mr. Speaker do leave the Chair," and they will remember that the Government were then defeated. They will remember the Vote of Confidence which came along afterwards in 1936. That is the principle unanimously adopted by the Tomlin Commission, though its application is by no means easy, which the Government have adopted, that they should have regard to the practice of what I might call the best employer. Let us just see how that works on the civilian side and on the Service side. First of all, on the civilian side, I think there is no doubt that so far as the non- industrial civilian side is concerned the practice of employers outside is to differentiate between men and women in their remuneration. It is true that there are exceptions. The hon. Lady the Member for West Fulham (Dr. Summerskill) referred to the medical exception, and she also referred to the exception with regard to air pilots, if one regards that as non-industrial, hut, broadly speaking, that is the principle on the non-industrial civilian side which prevails to-day in outside employment. Coming to the industrial side, on the other hand, it is quite plain that though the principle of equality is not fully admitted, yet there is a strong movement that way, and accordingly one finds that women working on the railways or women working as bus conductors are receiving, with very minor exceptions, equal pay. That principle has been upheld by the Industrial Court, where women are doing work which has hitherto been done by men in industry, but of course if the women are fully replacing the men. But here I agree there does come in a difficult question. What is full replacement? Because it is the fact that there are many conditions, heavy work or night work or long spreadovers or what are called "hard lying" elements, where women cannot on a 50/50 basis replace men, and it is not right that they should be asked to do so. That brings me to the Services. The fact is that the present principle that has been established is that women are receiving two-thirds of the rate of men. The question arises as to how far these jobs done by women and men can really be said to be comparable. Of course, there is this distinction: men in the Services are called upon to perform combatant duties. Even the Pioneer Corps is liable, and in a tight corner has frequently been called upon to perform combatant duties, and of course the R.A.M.C., as everyone knows, face very special dangers. But although women serve on gun sites and are therefore exposed to such extra risks over and above members of the public through machine gunning or bombing, except in that sense they are not and cannot be and would not be called upon for combatant duties. That is the first differentiation.
I hope that it was made clear that I myself in asking for equal pay in the Auxiliary Services never asked for it except where women were replacing men and doing the same work in special trades. I have never asked that there should be absolute equality in the Auxiliary Services, because I realise the differences to which the right hon. and learned Gentleman has referred.
I am much obliged to the hon. Lady. I will come to that. All I am pointing out is that in the case of a man, he may be a cook or doing clerical work or anything of that sort, but it is of the essence of his service that if emergency arises he can be called upon to take up arms against the enemy and engage in combatant service. There is that difference. There is another thing to remember. The rate of sickness and of discharge has proved to be very much greater in the Women's Services than in the men's. Apart altogether from the discharges due to pregnancy, the rate of discharge is higher in the Women's Services, and the sick absence also is about twice as much. Having said that, let me make this concession quite frankly. There are many tasks which women are doing on which they can replace men, one for one: clerical work, communications, domestic work, transport, technical work, draughtswomen, fitters, radio mechanics, teleprinter operators and so on—let us make the concession: all that sort of work where brains count more than brawn. But there is a very large area where that fact does not prevail: for instance, cooks, balloon operators, postal workers, bakers, storekeepers and a host of other kinds of work where there is some element of strength and strain involved. It has been found by experience that in these jobs Women cannot replace men. Normally, the proportion is three women to two men. That being so, the principle we have adopted is that of not trying to select out particular cases, but, treating the thing by and large, to say that the women's Services shall be remunerated at the rate of two-thirds that of the men's. That is the principle we have adopted, although, as I have said, I am by no means a one-way valve.I was asked by the hon. Member for East Islington (Mrs. Cazalet Keir) whether I could say anything about the continuance of the Women's Services after the war. The Prime Minister, in answer to a question the other day, announced categorically that it was too early yet to pronounce upon that question. Certainly, if he will not tread, I am not going to rush in. But I will say this. Anybody who has had any experience of the work these Women's Services have done, must realise how useful it would be to keep, at any rate, some cadre, some organisation, some skeleton for these Services, to prevent our having to start from scratch and improvise if this emergency ever comes again, which Heaven forbid.
I think the right hon. and learned Gentleman misunderstood my question. I asked whether, if the Government introduced a period of compulsory military service for men after the war, they would also have a period of compulsory national service, not necessarily military, for women?
It was that question which the Prime Minister refused to answer. He said it was too early to say whether there would be compulsory service at all, and therefore too early to say whether it would be only for men or for women. Those facts which I have stated seem to show that some case might be made out for taking steps to preserve this corps in some form or another, whether as a voluntary or as a compulsory corps. That is a matter which must be considered.With regard to teachers, I was asked about the difference in their salaries. It is true that there is a difference—not a very large difference—under the Burnham scale, but that is an arrangement between the various local education authorities and the teachers. I am by no means prepared to subscribe to the view that it would be desirable, as it were, to wash out the local education authorities and to make the teachers direct servants of the Government. With regard to the marriage bar, the position, so far as the Government are concerned, is that in the administrative class there is power for a Department to keep a woman in the Civil Service in that class, although she becomes married. That power is not infrequently exercised.
Is that a peace-time arrangement?
The arrangement existed before the war; I cannot tell the hon. Lady the date it began, but it is not a temporary war-time expedient. I think I am right in saying that the London County Council also have some similar arrangement for teachers. That is not a matter for which the Government are responsible. I was asked a good many questions about the teaching of domestic science. In particular, the noble Lady the Member for Central Bristol (Lady Apsley) asked about the possibility of having domestic service courses for young women in the A.T.S. I am glad to tell her that that is already being done. They are sending some of these young women to the domestic service colleges. They are picking rather carefully to get the right type in order that when these young women go back from the courses they may spread the good news, and their influence may make itself felt among the other girls. Of course, the Board of Education realised the deficiency that there was in this part of our educational training. It is not for me to enter into the controversy which various Members have started about the relevant importance of the task of cooking arid the like. I would merely say that a wife has to be a man's helpmeet and companion through life, and not merely his cook. The controversy as between Martha and Mary is as old as time. I hope that we shall be able to have both. We do not want our women merely to be good cooks. We want them to be sufficiently educated and intelligent to be able to take part in civic life, Parliamentary life, and all forms of our national life. But while they do that, however good companions they are, we shall be rather annoyed with them if they do not know how to cook. So I sincerely hope that the policy of the Board of Education, particularly in respect of the continued education in the young people's colleges, will give attention to what I might call housecraft. In housecraft I hope there will be included such topics as nutrition and dietetics, which are obviously topics of which a woman ought to have considerable knowledge.
Is there any reason why the boys should not be trained in those subjects too? They are of great importance to everybody.
I certainly think that everybody should be taught nutrition and dietetics. [An HON. MEMBER: "And cooking."] I am not so sure about cooking. I have some doubt about that. I have tried to answer the question which my Noble Friend the Member for the Sutton Division of Plymouth (Viscountess Astor) put to me about committees. I will give her this assurance. We have, in appointing these committees to help us in reconstruction, tried to get the best people—whether men or women we do not mind. On the Midwives Committee there are II men and 13 women. The composition of that Committee was really decided by the various organisations. It was left to them to say who were to be appointed, and my right hon. Friend the Minister of Health accepted the suggestions they made. In many other committees—I have a list of them here—dealing with housing and all that sort of thing, we have a very large number of women, because it is a matter they particularly understand. There is the Maternity and Child Welfare Advisory Committee, which consists of 30 members, of whom 24 are women.
I agree. There is the Central Housing Advisory Committee of 30 members, of whom five are women, with a woman acting as secretary, and so on. I am not going to fall into the error that I have been deprecating. I do not want these people because they are women. I want to get the best committee I can. I was asked about women in the Diplomatic Service. A Committee sat and considered this matter. It reported in 1936, and the decision of the Committee was that the majority were in favour of women going into the Diplomatic Service and against them going into the Consular Service. At any rate, now that the Diplomatic Service and the Consular Service are to become one, my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary has given an undertaking to the House that he would, soon after the war, reconsider this matter, and seek further advice in regard to it.I was asked about women in the Home Guard. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for War announced his scheme on 20th April under which women are admitted as auxiliaries for doing noncombatant duties, clerical, cooking, driving and the like. They have no uniform, but they have a brooch. This is the whole difficulty, and I want the House to face up to it. We have heard the President of the Board of Trade state today that he will just be able to hold to the existing clothes rationing for civilians, but the trouble about these uniforms is that it is no good having uniforms unless you have to surrender the full number of coupons, because unless you do that there will be less and less for civilians. There are various classes of civilians—not those who started the war with a wardrobe full of clothing—who are pretty well right down to the bone. We had another suggestion of uniforms for the domestic corps, and there is a great deal to be said for it, and there is the question of uniform, as the Noble Lady suggested, for school children. All those things, if they mean some special concession, also mean that the unfortunate common or garden person is going to get less. We are so near the knuckle now that it is very unwise to contemplate any further steps of that sort. I was asked several questions about the health and welfare of women in factories, and I hope that the House will not think me discourteous if I do not go into this matter. I have not myself first-hand knowledge of the matter, but I will make a point of seeing that all these topics, and in addition the very important topic in relation to the health and care of pregnant women and the danger that may arise from their working too long or returning too soon, are once more brought to the attention of my right hon. Friend. He has already received a deputation about it. He is most anxious to have a factual survey made. He himself is collecting all the information he can get, and if the Noble Lady who spoke on this topic has any precise facts which would be of assistance, perhaps she would be good enough to bring them to the notice of my right hon. Friend. With these words and with the undertaking that these other matters will be passed on to the Ministers concerned, I hope the House will forgive me if I do not deal with them in the Debate. It is obvious to anybody who considers reconstruction problems at all that women have to play a part in reconstruction just as big as that of men. You are never going to get any Government Department to arrange plans for reconstruction to bring you into a better world. That depends upon the individuals in this country. The most a Government can do is to try and organise so as to give the people a chance to work out their own salvation. I believe that in working out your own salvation the best and most important place of all is the home. If we have sound and happy homes, we shall get through all right. I believe, therefore, that the part which women can play in reconstruction is just as great as the part that men can play, and we certainly want in the future to keep women trained to the best of their ability to play their full part.