Consolidated Fund (Appropriation) Bill
Considered in Committee, and reported, without Amendment.
Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read the Third time."
Women In National Service
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.
Allies And Italy (Political Situation)
I would have preferred to have discussed this next subject on a more appropriate occasion. Last week my right hon. Friend the Member for Wakefield (Mr. Greenwood) made an application on behalf of the Parliamentary Labour Party for a debate on the war situation with special reference to the political issues that arise from the occupation of enemy countries. Although he was pressed, nevertheless, the Leader of the House informed us last Friday that the matter had been carefully considered by the War Cabinet and that they considered unanimously and very definitely that it would not be in the best interests of the Allied cause that the military situation should be debated at this stage.I make no apology therefore for raising the matter just now. We have reached a very queer stage in our Parliamentary history when a demand for a Debate on the war situation before the Recess is made by practically one-third of the House of Commons and is denied by the Government because the Government consider it is not desirable to have it. I have never known a Government consider it to be desirable to have their conduct discussed. It has always been the rule of this House ever since I have been here that, if a substantial number of Members want a Debate, such a Debate must be afforded. If minorities are over-ruled by the majority support of the Executive, then all that is left to the minority is to make use of such Parliamentary procedure as is available to it to raise their grievances. Therefore, I take this opportunity of raising this matter upon the Consolidated Fund Bill. I daresay it was not present in the mind of the Leader of the House that the Consolidated Fund Bill was to be discussed to-day when he made his refusal. At any rate myself and the hon. Members who are immediately associated with me in this matter decided that it would be improper for us to adjourn for the Summer Recess without discussing this very important subject. It is not easy for a critic of the Government to speak on these matters in this House. The role of the critic in war-time is always exceedingly difficult. If this criticism has any influence upon the policy of the Government and the Government are thereby successful, they claim the credit for their own wisdom and deny any guidance to the critic. If, on the other hand, this criticism is ignored and the Government fail, then he is involved in the common ruin. So at no point at all does he get any credit whatever for what he says or does. It always lies in these circumstances with the Executive. Nevertheless, it will be an exceedingly bad thing for this House of Commons and the country if the voices of the critics are entirely silent in this Assembly. There have been many occasions in the course of this war when criticism of the Executive has had very valuable and beneficent effects upon the conduct of the war. I rise now with a full sense of my responsibility in this matter. I know, also, that the position of the Government at the moment is one of very great strength, and, indeed, I rejoice in that because it arises primarily out of the very favourable course which the war has taken. The stronger the Government become through those causes, the more I shall rejoice in the strength of the Government. The Prime Minister and the Government themselves require no ultimate defence better than success. I remember that there was a critical period in the American Civil War when President Lincoln was attacked and bitterly criticised by a Committee of Congress over a certain incident in which he was involved. An officer in the Northern Armies went to him and said, "Mr. President, I know all about these facts. The Committee are quite wrong. Will you allow me to write to the papers and state the facts to the public?" The President said, "My dear young friend, if the event in which we are engaged turns out fortunately for us, I shall require no defence, but if, on the other hand, it turns out unfortunately, then 10,000 angels pleading for me will not suffice." So the Government have an enormous advantage when their military achievements are creditable. But I should belie myself if I thought that the same thing applied to their political policy. Indeed, I have friends who are now fighting on the slopes of Etna who would reproach me when they returned home if I said nothing at all in the House of Commons at this stage in disagreement with certain aspects of Government policy. It is our duty to ask the Government to tell us what are the considerations which lie behind their approach to enemy countries at the present time. Every time we raised this matter during Question time we were informed by the Government that all these questions are determined by the generals on the spot, in accordance with local military necessities. That is entirely the wrong principle. It has never been the principle of British policy. A general does not work in a vacuum. To support me in this matter, I have furnished myself with a quotation from a great authority on strategy, Sir Julian Colbeck, who says:
When a Chief of Staff is asked for a war plan he asks, "What is the political object of the war? What are the political conditions and how much does the question at issue respectively to us and our adversary affect the conduct and determination of the campaign?" In other words, the chief of staff must be informed as a primary consideration of the ground plan on which the statesmen are proceeding if his military activities are to be intelligently guided. What are the plans that the Government have in mind? It is nonsense to say that we must entirely trust the Government in this matter, because there are good reasons why we should not trust them. For example, the establishment of Admiral Darlan in North Africa did more to cause dismay throughout the country than any other single act of the Government since the war began. The House may hear with surprise that I have defended the Prime Minister on more than one occasion when he was criticised for the action that he took over the attack on Greece. Many of my friends considered that it was entirely unwise to instruct General Wavell to proceed with the defence of Greece, because they said that, had he not done so, the Mediterranean littoral would long ago have been in our possession. But I think the Prime Minister's decision was politically sound, because this country would not have tolerated a situation which left the Greeks to fight the Italians alone after the gallant resistance that they had made. If was necessary for the good moral health of the country, no matter what were the military considerations, that we should not allow the Greeks to be overrun by the Italians after the gallant way in which they had resisted them. There is an example where immediate military considerations are overruled by moral, and ultimately strategical, considerations. The first thing in war is to keep the good moral health of your own people, and the establishment of Admiral Darlan and, following him, General Giraud in North Africa as the protégés of the British and American Governments did a good deal to disturb and bewilder public opinion in Great Britain. I think it is also necessary to say—because we have had no opportunity until now—that I believe a great deal of damage has been done to British-American relations by making it appear that the policy in North Africa was imposed upon us entirely by the American State Department. I said in a supplementary that it seemed to me that no greater damage could be done to our good relations with America than for the British people to suppose that the unpleasant and obnoxious policies were imposed upon us as the price of our alliance with America. Fortunately we know that that was not the case, and it is good for British and American relations that this can now be said. We know that the setting aside of General de Gaulle, and the whole North African policy, was not exclusively the responsibility of America, but that the Prime Minister and the British Government were enthusiastic supporters of the policy. It has never been said in this House, because when we raised the matter the Government ran away into Private Session, and we are unable to say what was said there; but I am now asserting — and if my assertion is contradicted, I shall read the evidence upon which it rests—that the British Government were almost equally partners in the establishment of Darlan and General Giraud in North Africa."An officer charged with the conduct of the war may, of course, demand that the tendencies and views of policy shall not be incompatible with the military means which are placed at his disposal. But, however strongly this demand may react on policy, in all cases military action must still be regarded only as a manifestation of policy."
Is it quite fair to bracket General Giraud and Admiral Darlan?
I am bound to say that General Giraud has merits which Admiral Darlan did not possess. I admit that, but I am bound to say that the apparatus which General Giraud has fought very hard to maintain was the apparatus of Darlan in North Africa. Indeed, the appointments made subsequently, some of which had to be revoked by pressure, were the appointments of General Giraud. In any case, not only are there positive demerits in the support given to General Giraud in North Africa, but there are positive menaces in the way in which the Free French Movement in London has been treated over the North African situation. There are suspicions, and it is here where the suspicions arise. I am not a 100 per cent. admirer of de Gaulle; the gentleman has awkward corners, like we all have; but there is a suspicion that the reason why General de Gaulle did not find favour with the British and American Governments was because associated with him were all the underground Left movements of France. Upon the Free French Committee in London were represented Socialists, trade unionists, Communists, Catholic Action groups and all the underground Left movements of France to whom subsequently we looked for assistance. Therefore, the suspicion which existed in the country about that has been reinforced by what happened in North Africa. Now it is suggested, with what truth I cannot say, that the elected representatives of French North Africa are going to proceed to North Africa as a consultative committee upon which General de Gaulle and General Giraud sit as joint representatives. I hope that that is not the case, because it will be extremely unfortunate if the Free Fench Movement makes North Africa its locale, because what we still require, and shall require more and more as the war develops, is to have in London authentic representatives of the underground movement in France, so that when we move towards the Continent of Europe we shall not be deprived of our friends rising at the back of the Germans. They will not be able to do that if they are cut off from the underground movement.Our anxieties and misgivings about this were reinforced by what happened in Sicily. Have right hon. and hon. Gentlemen realised that very many British and American lives have been saved by the refusal of Italians to defend Mussolini in Sicily? Indeed it is to the credit of General Alexander that obviously his original plan of campaign was immediately modified by what happened in the South and Eastern parts of the island. Instead of driving North and engaging the Germans at all costs, as soon as it was seen that the Sicilian and the Italian armies were what is called "soft," which really meant that they would not fight for the Italian régime, immediately it was seen that the Canadians and Americans were welcomed wherever they went, General Alexander did what any good general would do in those circumstances, he engaged the Germans and prevented them from disengaging until the Americans and Canadians could go along to the East and the North, and now there is a possibility, to put it no higher, that the Germans will be in the same trap as they were at Cap Bon It is therefore perfectly clear that in this theatre of war the political arm is as important as the military arm, and that if our political dispositions are sound, if our attitude is correct, we can save many British and American lives in Southern Europe. If, on the other hand, we do not realise that our friends are among the Sicilians and Italian people and we try to conspire, then it is our boys and the American Army and Canadian Army who will have to pay the price for our lack of wisdom. I speak here as a Socialist, as one who has spent all his life in the Socialist movement, and, I do not apologise for saying it, as one who still believes in the soundness of the principles of international Socialist co-operation, and to me it is a source of immense gratification that the final blow was delivered at the Fascist dictatorship by the ordinary steelworkers and miners of Italy and Sicily. It is to me a source of immense pleasure to find that our Allies, our real Allies, are among those people; but I was extremely disturbed when I heard of the establishment of A.M.G.O.T. It is an ugly word to cover an uglier deed. [Interruption.] The Noble Member says "Tut, tut." Why on earth place this responsibility upon General Eisenhower? The Prime Minister has already told us that the general scheme within which General Eisenhower is operating is a scheme laid down by the Prime Minister and the President. They are political representatives. Why cannot the House of Commons be told what the principles of that scheme are? Why should we always be fobbed off by the statement that whatever is done is a consequence of the military decisions of General Eisenhower, when in fact we have imposed upon him very important political obligations? Would it not have been far better if we had accepted ourselves the responsibility for the political occupation of Sicily and for our attitude towards Italy rather than —and this is a crueller thing to do, you know—shelter behind a general who has no public responsibility, who is elected by no one? Why make a scapegoat of a general, because a scapegoat he has been made? The American Press and the British Press in the last few days have been full of criticisms of the statement made by General Eisenhower the other day—not only the Radical Press and the Liberal Press, but "The Times" also.[Interruption.] I know it is now customary to sneer at "The Times" because it is not edited by the Primrose League. General Eisenhower said this:
We understand from that that the greatest obstacle which separated us from the Italian people was the existence of Mussolini. That surely is political illiteracy of the worst kind, but unfortunately in this matter illiteracy is not confined to General Eisenhower. Let me read this well-known quotation. I quote it to put it on record in Hansard. The Prime Minister is so anxious for things to be put in Hansard that I had better put this, which is the reverse of General Eisenhower. General Eisenhower says that the chief barrier between ourselves and the Italian people was Mussolini. We are asked, remember this, to go home for the Recess and to trust the conduct of these matters to the political honesty and sagacity of the Prime Minister. The Prime Minister has got very many virtues, and when the time comes I hope to pay my tribute to them, but I am bound to say that political honesty and sagacity have never been among them. In 1927, the Prime Minister visited Rome in his capacity as Chancellor of the Exchequer, and this is what he said:"We commend the Italian people and the House of Savoy on ridding themselves of Mussolini, the man who involved them in war as the tool of Hitler and brought them to the verge of disaster. The greatest obstacle which divided the Italian people from the United Nations has been removed by the Italians themselves."
[An HON. MEMBER: "That was years ago."] Yes, but Mussolini's major crimes had already been committed. [HON. MEMBERS "No."] Oh, yes. The chief risings in Turin and in Milan were in Matteotti's time, and Matteotti had been murdered by that time. All the chief crimes, including the crime of murdering the freedom of the Italian people, had already been committed, and all this subsequent history of Mussolini is the logical consequence of that act. This is what the Prime Minister said—because not only did he show his remarkable interest in the character of Mussolini, but he also went on to lay down obiter dicta about the whole Fascist movement. I admit that he is an older man now, but not much older—[An HON. MEMBER: "Only 16 years."] But people do not learn very much beyond that age. He said:"I could not help being charmed, like so many other people have been, by Signor Mussolini's gentle and simple bearing and by his calm, detached poise, in spite of so many burdens and dangers. Secondly, anyone could see that he thought of nothing but the lasting good, as he understood it, of the Italian people and that no lesser interest was of the slightest consequence to him."
He did not even finish there. To show how remarkable his analysis was, I will read this:"If I had been an Italian, I am sure that I should have been whole-heartedly with you from start to finish in your triumphant struggle against the bestial appetites and passions of Leninism."
Does any hon. Member believe that it is possible for people like myself and others who share my view to go home for the Summer Recess and leave the future political structure of Italy to a mind that reasons like that?"Italy has shown that there is a way of fighting the subversive forces which can rally the mass of the people, properly led, to value and wish to defend the honour and the stability of civilised society. She has provided the necessary antidote to the Russian poison. Hereafter no great nation will be unprovided with an ultimate means of protection against the cancerous growth of Bolshevism."
It is better than a mind like that of the hon. Member, which impedes the war effort.
Let us make no mistake about this. There are people who always confuse a readiness to destroy the German military army with the fight against Fascism. There are many Members in this House who have no complaint against Fascism, except when it is strong enough to threaten them. They do not want to quarrel with it. There was no complaint either against Italy or against all her sins and vices. The whole Fascist set-up was supported by a majority of this House and connived at by them, because Italy was not strong enough to threaten Great Britain. It was not bestiality that Italy lacked; it was material power to do us damage, and so long as she lacked material power there was not a voice raised against her.In the case of Germany there were in this House and the country men who connived at the establishment of Hitler until he started to arm against Great Britain. Why therefore should we go home for the Recess and trust a Parliamentary majority who have been the chief architects of the war and who secretly sympathise with the principles of the Fascist enemy? [interruption.] If hon. Members wish to challenge me, the whole record of the past 10 years is against them on that matter. I acquit the Minister of Information, who, I know, enjoyed the discomfiture of his friends in this matter. I know he was not one of those who made that same mistake. I agree with that. But I am bound to say that the evidence, as history has already recorded it, is such that if I wanted to establish it more strongly, I could quote speeches of the Prime Minister against his present policy.
The Prime Minister in those days was looking for recruits and got none from the segment of the party the hon. Member represents. His conver sion to the Prime Minister's new point of view is very remarkable. We are glad to see that at last he has repented of the Pacifist doctrines which have done so much to harm this country.
We have heard that silly canard now for too long. It is really unworthy of the Minister of Information. My record as an anti-Fascist is much longer than that of the Prime Minister. We must face the facts clearly. Let not Members imagine that the disquiet exists only among some of us on these benches. It is shared in the country. On this matter hon. Members do not represent the country. [interruption.] Look at the by-elections. The fact of the matter is that hon. Members have not represented this country for many years. The people of Great Britain are hoping, desperately hoping, that in Italy the ordinary people of Italy will overthrow the existing régime. They are hoping that they will establish the authority of the common people of Italy, but according to the broadcast of General Eisenhower if Badoglio had accepted our terms, his would now be our Government. [Interruption.] There is no other meaning to the broadcast. First of all, he commends the House of Savoy for getting rid of Mussolini. The House of Savoy did no such thing. Mussolini was got rid of by the Italian people, who would not tolerate him any longer. It was not the House of Savoy that got rid of him. I think the reaction in some parts of the House is significant. Is the House of Savoy commendable to hon. Members opposite? Are they prepared to do a deal with King Victor Emanuel? We cannot answer for the President of the United States: we can only answer for our own Government in this House. But the President of the United States—who is, the Prime Minister informs us, in close communication with him—has already rebuked the Office of War Information for calling King Victor Emanuel "a moronic little king." Indeed, all talks upon King Victor Emanuel have been ordered to stop. Are we to understand from that, that King Victor Emanuel is to be the British and American quisling in Italy?If that is so—anti here we come to the gravamen of the situation—if Badoglio and King Victor Emanuel are regarded by us as satisfactory representatives of the Italian people, with whom we can do a deal, let hon. Members consider what will be the reaction of the Italian people. What will be the reaction of the people of France, of Yugo-Slavia and of Hungary? What we do now in Italy will decide how easy it is going to be for our Armies to penetrate into the rest of Europe. In deciding to support King Victor Emanuel and Badoglio, we are, in fact, throwing away millions of potential allies in Europe, and in doing so, we are sacrificing our own people. That is why this Italian situation is so frightfully important. That is why it is impossible for us to go home without having some assurance from the Government on what their attitude is going to be. Once an Italian Government receives the recognition of the Allies, that Government becomes the one we must support in Italy. The Prime Minister said that he is not prepared to shoot people. There were passages in his statement that were very good indeed. It certainly would be disastrous if we accepted the responsibility, inside Italy, of shooting down Italians who are quarrelling with their masters. But if we recognise the Badoglio Government, or a Government of similar complexion—because it is not enough to change the noun and keep the verb the same—if we get rid of this man, to bring in another, representing the same social set-up just because his own particular name is innocuous—then our recognition of that Government becomes a firstclass domestic asset for that Government. It was the American recognition of Petain that was for a long time his chief asset in France. We could make little headway inside France for a long time because of that. After all, American friendship is a great tradition in France: the name of Lafayette is still remembered; and for Washington to throw the mantle of its approval over the shoulders of Petain was a first-class political asset for him in holding down France for a long time. Therefore, if we recognise a Government in Italy, of the same political complexion as that which exists, our troops will step in and then we shall find that we have to shoot Italians in order to support our own puppet Government. We shall find ourselves on the side of anti-revolutionary forces in that country. It is clear that our own officers, and especially those of A.M.G.O.T. are not clear—or, rather, they are clear, but clear about the wrong thing—about what we want to do in countries which are occupied. British opinion was shocked the other day at stories sent out that two young officers had quelled an anti-Fascist rising in Italian villages. A friend told me only yesterday that in a certain village, our men went along and found some men in prison who were there, they thought—so the story goes, and it was repeated twice—for murmuring anti-Fascist slogans. But they found to their delight that the men were in only for demanding bread, and so they let them free. To be anti-Fascist in Sicily is still regarded by many of our people in occupation there as a crime. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] The hon. Member shakes his head. In Sicily at the present time the Fascist Carabinieri are still allowed to carry on. We still leave arms in the hands of the Fascist deputies and anybody who has seen what the guardia civile meant in Spain knows what the Carabinieri mean in Sicily. Look at the situation concretely and do not run away with abstract phrases about what our people do there. We enter a village. We have very little knowledge at all of who is who in that village. We put in duress all the well-known Fascists who have not run away. The Carabinieri, which have been the chief agents and instruments of Fascist dictatorship for 20 years, know that among the civil population there are men only too anxious to get their own back. Are they going to name these men to our people as well known anti-Fascists? They have an interest in concealing from us the very vital information we want, namely who are our friends. If that is not the case, why are we not allowing anti-Fascists to go into Sicily at the present time? When the Kaiser fled and the German generals were defeated, there was a palace revolution in Germany. It got rid of the top. It removed from power, temporarily, the men responsible for governing Germany. But the Social Democrats who got into power did not press on far enough afterwards. They did not make any radical changes of any fundamental importance. It was merely a palace revolution. A few years afterwards Hitler came along and said to the German masses that the German army was not defeated in the field but was beaten by the Social Democrats who stabbed it in the back. That was the slogan which rallied millions to him from 1923 to 1937. What happened in Russia? In Russia the army dissolved under the influence of revolutionary forces, but those revolutionary forces pressed on and radical social changes resulted. The consequence is that in Russia to-day this system, with all its defects, is firmly rooted in the affections of the Russian masses. Not only did they get peace in 1917 but social changes too. Italy might get peace, but with peace Italy does not get the radical economic changes for which she yearns, for Fascist demagogues will come forward in a few years' time and put Italy on to Fascism again.
May I interrupt the hon. Gentleman?
No, let me finish. I am sorry but I was about to finish what I was about to say and there are other Members who want to speak. I say that for the future peace of Europe it is essential that there should be no Fascist or neo-Fascist régime in Italy which denies to the Italian people the full fruits of the revolt in which they are at present engaged. It is essential, if we come bearing peace with us, that we should tolerate those fundamental social changes which will establish stability in Italy. I beg and implore hon. Members to realise that what we do in Italy will mean so much to Europe. We on this side have not come into the war merely in order to destroy the armed might of Germany. We are in it to destroy Fascism root and branch, and the conditions which give it life. Therefore, I ask the Government when they approach this matter again to realise that the British people are watching them very carefully indeed. They will watch to see that the Government do not carry on a different kind of war from the one in which the British people are engaged. Before we go home for the Recess I ask them for heaven's sake to bear in mind the fact that there are many Italian people at the present time with great hopes. Do not let us accept the responsibility of frustrating those hopes.
The hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Bevan) has made a speech which is most able and very mischievous. What has he done? He has gone back to the old story of North Afarica. How a single word he has said about North Africa can do good to-day, I fail to realise. I know that whatever expedients may have been used in North Africa, we got our landings there without loss of life and that to-day, in spite of what the hon. Member has said about our feelings towards France in this war, General de Gaulle and General Giraud are working in closer harmony now than at any other period. Any hon. Member, whatever side he belongs to, who says one word at this time likely to arouse bitterness and controversy between these two great men is doing harm not only to the cause of France but to his own country as well. I wonder what advantage it was for the hon. Member to hold up a speech made by the present Prime Minister in regard to Mussolini in 1927? Mussolini, I agree, had been guilty of crimes before 1926. So may other Allies of ours to-day, but Mussolini's great crime—the crime for which he will face the bar of history—was that by having joined with Germany in the years before the war he helped to create an Axis which brought blood, tears and misery to the whole civilised world. I believe, with General Eisenhower, that the collapse of Mussolini meant the fall of the single greatest enemy against peace between our people and the people of Italy.The hon. Member went on to say, "What next?" He said that Mussolini was destroyed by an uprising of the common people. It is true that if the people of Italy had not felt a burning desire to get away from this war and the Fascist regime, Mussolini would not have fallen. But it is also true, from the point of view of expediting the fall of Mussolini, that it was a great advantage that there was some force, even though it may have been found in the House of Savoy, which was able to take the initiative, to quicken the fall and thereby, maybe, save the lives of a good many people who would otherwise have been killed. Speaking for myself as an ordinary Member, I hold no brief for the House, of Savoy or any Government which may arise in Italy, but it is our duty, if we get capitulation, to take capitulation from any Government which is prepared to give it, to go out of the war, and to enable us to play our part through whatever military advantages we may secure in Italy in destroying the common enemy. The suggestion that you can only have peace with a Government of some particular political complexion, which was inherent in the hon. Member's mind, means that, if we could get peace, if we could get capitulation, if we could get every term that we want from Italy to carry on the war, the hon. Member would turn it down and be prepared to see, not himself, nor me, nor any Member of the House risking our lives but the lives of the men who are to-day in Sicily and will be in Italy, perhaps having to carry on the fight for a few weeks longer than would otherwise have been necessary. I do not carry party politics as far as that. Finally, the hon. Member in that gentle taunt at the party to which I belong, said that if the United States carries on the war he cannot leave the future of Italy in the hands of a Government whose most numerous representatives belong to a party who were the chief architects of the war. If I wanted, I could say a good deal the other way. I profoundly believe, whatever mistakes may have been made—and mistakes were made by most of us at one time or another in the days before the war—do not let us at this time try to bring back the old discords of the past. Do not let us make this an opportunity for trying to say one way or the other this party or that made errors. As a Council of State we should welcome the development of any expedients in Italian affairs which may bring the war to a successful conclusion, and, after that, maybe we can go back to party politics, but let us avoid the mischief and discord which are the breath of life to the hon. Member for Ebbw Vale.
I rise because, in conformity with my duty, last Thursday I asked the Leader of the House whether he could arrange a Debate for this week on the political aspects of the war. Unfortunately, as I think it still, the Government did not feel, from their point of view, to which they are fully entitled, that it would be in the best public interest. I hope hon. Members will accept my word for this. I had no other thought in my mind than a Debate which would assist the fuller prosecution of the war by giving hopes to the people who may be liberated and beginning to fulfil those promises which have been so solemnly made. I will not go back into the past, though it is undoubtedly true that the North West African incident complicated the situation, as one can well understand. As I said on an earlier occasion in the war—I am not saying this out of disrespect to any Ally—war, like adversity, makes strange bed-fellows, and we have to learn to live with our Allies, large and small, as they have to live with us with all our sins on our heads. I had thought that it might be possible in a Debate in this House to get a statement rather more specific than that which the Prime Minister made last week, one which would give comfort to the people of Sicily, give hope to the people of Italy, give them moral support in fighting the battle in which they, with us, are now engaged in common, and would revive in all the over-run countries of Europe a spirit which would intensify their operations against the hated Nazis who now hold them down.I thought that a Debate in this House, in this ancient Assembly, might perhaps inspire other members of the United Nations and might lead the United States people to understand, as many of them do over here, that the vast majority of the people of this country honestly believe in the pledges which have been given in our name. The primary pledge is the pledge of freedom. I can understand the circumstances of Sicily to-day, where the island is not yet won, where there may be a bitter struggle still ahead of us, but where we believe that victory will crown our arms at no distant date. One can realise that there military government must be supreme. What is troubling a good many people—and I am not importing any personal feeling in what I am saying—and what is disturbing me are the names of those people who have been charged under the military government with civil authority. I do know Lord Rennell of Rodd, and I do not know his associates, but having looked at or having had reported to me their past histories, their experience does not fill me with enthusiasm as the kind of people who can properly be regarded as having at heart the interests of the workers and peasants of that little island. When, as we hope and we all trust, there will be a complete surrender of the present Italian Government, we hope that some sort of arrangement will be made. I suggest that there can be no departure from the repeated declarations of this and the United States Government, with the support of all the United Nations, that surrender must be complete and unconditional. It should never go from this House that there is even a tiny group of people who would play peace with the people who have caused so much tragedy on the Continent of Europe. A good deal depends on the character of the Government at the time. Mussolini has gone, and gone for ever. We now have a Government—true, the only Government that is available now in Italy—headed by King Victor Emanuel. I do not want to be rude to the head of a Royal family, but he has not proved himself a prince of democrats in the past. Then there is Marshal Badoglio, against whom I say nothing except that his services to the progress of democracy have not been conspicuous in the last 20 years. Surrender by them might mean, I do not say would mean, the imposition of certain further terms which could not properly be asked from a Government of rather more democratic tendencies, more closely in touch with the mass of the people. And it is important that in the new battleground of Italy, for I do not suppose that Hitler will allow this important peninsula to pass into our hands without a struggle, the people resident there, having thrown off the hated yoke of Mussolinism, should be our friends and not very sullen non-participants in the war. In other words, it is important that the administration which follows on military occupation should not be of the German kind, with its Gestapo and all the agencies following on the Gestapo. The machinery, I do not say of Government, but of administration which follows the Army should be the type which strikes in the hearts of the people of Italy hopes of complete ultimate liberation. It should convert people who may still question our bona-fides into friends helping us to drive the Germans over the Northern frontiers of Italy. If we could achieve that I believe we should inspire every overrun country in Europe. I have some little knowledge of what underground movements are to-day, and I make no apology for possessing such knowledge. They are movements of people who in the darkest days have still kept in their souls the flame of liberty, fighting not under the conditions of the battlefield, not subject to intermittent blitzes, but hour by hour, moment by moment, living under the greatest terror the world has ever seen. There ought to be an Order for heroes of that kind, given by the free nations of the world to the men and women—and children—who, in circumstances which are inconceivable in a country like this, have still kept alive the things for which this war is being fought. If we can help them, if we can fortify their spirits, if we can give them new hope, we are doing a great deal to win the war quickly and to win it successfully. If it should be thought in the North of Italy, where men and women to-day are now rising, facing the peril of being shot by Fascist soldiers, or Italian police or German agents and German soldiers—if those people who are now carrying the flag for us in the North of Italy, before we have got a landing there can he given new hope that when we put our foot on the toe of Italy we stand with them, then we have won a great Ally. I would go further and say this. I hope I am not indicating anything to the enemy, but I should assume that those fighting, democratic movements, now underground, are pretty well in touch with one another. I should imagine that what is going on in Northern Italy to-day is known in far more detail in the South-East of Europe, and in Poland, and in Germany, than it is in this country; and what we do in the coming weeks, the steps we take and the spirit we show, will have an enormous influence on the future conduct of the war. It may shorten it by many months, or it may make it longer. One cannot tell. My plea is this: As I have said, I am not bitterly criticising anybody. There have been mistakes in the past. I am concerned about stepping off with the right foot now, when we are at the stage of making a real foothold which may bring the war to a pretty speedy conclusion; and it would be, I am sure, a great help to those of us—all of us here who are concerned with a victorious end to the war—and to all those millions of people all over the over-run countries of Europe who have been struggling against colossal difficulties and are still keeping their swords clean for the day when they can come out into the fight, it would be an enormous inspiration to them, if, in our conduct of operations in Sicily and in Italy, we showed that we meant to fulfil the Atlantic Charter and bring to those people, at the earliest day, the freedom they so richly deserve.
If the right hon. Gentleman who has just spoken will allow a very insignificant Member of the party opposite to say so, this House and the country have had cause more than once to be grateful to him for his patriotism and moderation; and the speech to which we have just listened is of exactly the type which experience has taught us to expect from him. The hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. A. Bevan) relied upon the fact that one-third of the Members of this House had asked for a Debate on the war at the present time. Let me say at once that with such a demand I would naturally have been in sympathy; but the relations between the House and all parties in it on the one hand, and the Government, at the present time must not simply be one of watchfulness, it must also be one of confidence. The Government have stated that a full Debate upon this subject would not be opportune at the moment. How far have we got now? It is less than a month since our troops first entered into Sicily. The battle is still in progress for the North-East of the island, and our troops are fighting against well prepared defences and a determined enemy. I do suggest that a demand for a full explanation of what is going on is premature at the present moment, to say the least.The hon. Member for Ebbw Vale knows that I am not insincere when I say that I have the greatest possible respect for his Parliamentary ability, but I think it is not inappropriate if I, as a back bencher, without anything like his talent or experience or anything like his distinction or facility of phrase, say that I very much deplore the course which he has taken and that I have—at least, so I think—rarely listened to a more mischievous or irresponsible speech, even coming from him.
When the hon. Member has been here a little longer, he will find that every Opposition speech is always described as mischievous and irresponsible.
No doubt when I have been here a little longer I shall have had the advantage of listening to even more irresponsible speeches from the hon. Member. In a democracy there is a moment for speech and there is a moment for silence. There is a moment for action and there is a moment for reflection; and if there had been an example of a moment when silence was desirable, I should have thought it would have been at the moment when the hon. Gentleman thought it right to attack that gallant and distinguished Frenchman with whom General de Gaulle is now willingly and friendly in association, at the head of the French Committee of Liberation, and for whom his official organisation in the country has worked for our Government's recognition. During a part of last year I had a certain responsibility for liaison with the French in a part of the world, and I must say quite deliberately that I can conceive of no course of action more likely to spill French blood later on than an irresponsible statement of that sort from Members of this House in open Debate.If there was another example required when silence is better in a democracy, I would suggest that the hon. Member's attack on the Prime Minister was an even better example. The Prime Minister has not always been right in the past, but what is vicious about this attack is not that the Prime Minister should not have been right but that the attack was calculated, designed, and I say intended, to throw doubt upon his sincerity and ability to deal with the present situation in Italy, and anything more mischievous or irresponsible than to do that at the present time to a person in whose sincerity and ability the country has full confidence it would, I think, be difficult to conceive. I take it that it is not improper to remind the House that whatever the Prime Minister may have said in 1927, the hon. Gentleman the Member for Ebbw Vale is a new convert to democracy. As recently as 1930 he was fostering a movement in left wing politics which he openly confessed was not democratic in its full sense. Had I had the slightest idea that he was going to make this attack to-day, I would have brought from my house the full documentation of that allegation which I have made.
Will the hon. Member show it to me, because it is a surprise to me?
:I shall be happy to search it out and show it to the hon. Gentleman.
:And if not, will be withdraw his allegation?
If it is not substantiated, I shall certainly take an opportunity of withdrawing what I have said. When we come to the question of Italy, we are obviously treading on slightly more withdrawing what I have said. When we come to the question of Italy, we are obviously treading on slightly more dangerous ground. The hon. Member for Ebbw Vale has criticised various Members of this House and the Government for political illiteracy. Most Members of the House did suspect that his own knowledge of Italian politics is not as wide as one would have supposed simply from listening to his speech. I think it, is not improper to say that even at this time in Italian politics the House of Savoy means a great deal more than Victor Emanuel; it means the house which was associated with Garibaldi, the Liberator of Italy. It is not altogether wrong to insist that there is a prestige attached to that house in the minds of many perfectly liberal-minded Italians which does not attach to the present monarch.The hon. Gentleman told us what Italy was yearning for at the present time. I am not sure that I am quite as certain of Italian public opinion as he appears to be, but I should have thought that there were other considerations to be borne in mind. The Italian people have been the victims of Fascist censorship for the better part of a generation. They have been told nothing but what was false, and have had kept from them what was true. I should have thought it was obvious that public opinion in such a country, even at the present time, would not swing over completely in the twinkling of an eye, that there must be among a people whose Government has been at war with us and is at war with us at the present time a very considerable proportion of anti British feeling still existent. I should have thought there were obvious objections to putting a fully independent administration manned by Italians, who belong to a nation at war with us, in charge of our lines of communication at present. I cannot waive aside so lightly as the hon. Gentleman has done, the principle of trusting the generals on the spot. We are, at the moment, in course of military operations in Sicily, and our first consideration must naturally be the safety of our men and the victory of our Armies against the Germans in that island. The general on the spot has his political advisers: they form part of any general staff dealing with territory of that kind. It seems to me that any suggestion which might have the effect of causing us to detach a division or an army corps from the front line of the battle with the Germans to deal with internal disorder of any kind, would require very powerful political arguments to justify it. If we were dealing with the final settlement of Italy after the war, I should be the first to criticise the suggestion that we ought to put military in front of political considerations. In such circumstances, such an argument would be wholly misplaced.
The main point of my argument was that political considerations have already proved of the utmost military value.
I agree with the hon. Gentleman, and I should cite the military value of those political considerations as an example of the way the Government are to be trusted in dealing with the present situation. But we are not dealing with the settlement of Italy after the war. We arc dealing with a purely temporary situation in an island which is the subject of military operations, and I suggest that to intervene at the present time and demand a full-dress discussion and a full explanation from the Government would be extremely mischievous and unwise. It is precisely because I feel that the attitude of the hon. Member for Ebbw Vale does not represent the opinion of the vast majority of hon. Members on all sides of the House, that I rise to protest against what he has said, and to say that I hope the Foreign Secretary will stand firmly against it.
I intervene for a few minutes only, because I assume that the right hon. Gentleman the Foreign Secretary will want to state the Government's position before we conclude the discussion. I had considerable sympathy with the desire for a discussion before the Recess, but I was content to accept the assurance of the Leader of the House that no important political decision would be taken before the House had an opportunity to discuss the position. In other words, the Government have given a solemn undertaking to summon us together if there is any new development in the political situation, even should it happen only a few days after we disperse. No one will charge me with being sympathetic to the Fascist regime. During the last 21 years I have been consistent in my attack on Fascism, whatever form or shape it has taken, and in whatever country it has made its appearance. But I realise, as every thoughtful man must, the difficult situation in which the Government find themselves.During the past 21 years one of the main tasks of a Fascist regime has been to murder every political leader of liberal or Socialist views. Every political leader, who 21 years ago had reached maturity, has now been swept out of the country. It is very difficult to say, but I have a shrewd suspicion that it is almost impossible to find men of any political status in that country who could speak from the liberal point of view and who could negotiate any Armistice terms on the part of the people of Italy. But I cannot help thinking, in spite of the speech of the hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. A. Bevan), that there is a good deal to be said in favour of some people associated with this regime, indirectly being made responsible for the humiliation of suing for peace and accepting terms of unconditional surrender. The experience after the last war was that those responsible for the government of the country were only too glad to shift the responsibility for the armistice and the peace terms on to the democratic and liberal forces in the country. It would suit those who are at present responsible, to hand over the responsibility of negotiating armistice terms to other people. It is very significant that Mussolini and his followers, when they saw defeat facing them, cleared out and disappeared in the hope of being saved the responsibility of suing for peace. I do not think the matter is as simple as my hon. Friend suggests. Whatever may happen in the course of the next few days, our main duty is to give support to the military authorities on the spot who are in the middle of a great battle. But assuming that there is surrender, it will obviously be necessary, common sense tells one, to negotiate with some responsible authority who can enforce the conditions of peace and bring the army into its terms. I only intervened to say these few words. So far as I am concerned, I am prepared to accept the Government's undertaking to call us together when the situation has developed and before they are irretrievably committed to support any kind of political regime in that country.
While my hon. Friend the Member for Oxford (Mr. Hogg) was speaking I felt carried back four or five years. I was not a member of the House at the time, but from the public gallery I heard him make one of his first speeches after his election and the words he used to-day were almost the same. We were then treading the dangerous path of appeasement; there was a Debate on foreign affairs and my hon. Friend greatly regretted that the Debate should have taken place. I remember some irreverent Member on this side of the House interrupting and asking him why he was speaking, to which he had a ready answer, as he always has. I hope the example of that unfortunate period in the history of our foreign affairs will help to convince hon. Members that this Debate may serve a useful purpose.After the speech of my right hon. Friend the Member for Wakefield (Mr. Greenwood) and the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for South-West Bethnal Green (Sir P. Harris), I trust that it is evident by now that this Debate is desired in the House and can be useful in the counsels of the nation. I shall certainly endeavour to say nothing that will do harm to my country's interests or to the cause of democracy throughout the world. I do not think it was very wise of the Government to resist the demand for this Debate. The Government profess that they wish to re-establish democracy throughout Europe. Yet they resist a demand for debate in this House. Charity surely begins at home and so does democracy. Surely the Government can trust hon. Members of this House, including my hon. Friend the Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. A. Bevan) to use their privilege discreetly, and I think he has used it discreetly. I cannot agree with some of the criticisms made of my hon. Friend. He has been attacked for saying a number of things which he did not say and for others which would not have been drawn out, had it not been for intervention from the opposite benches. I see no reason why, at this time, we should not be discussing the political aspects of the war. We do not ask to discuss the military aspects; we are well content with the progress which is being made. Indeed, I think it only generous to felicitate the Government on the conduct of military operations. The Prime Minister is following in a great tradition, literally in the path of Belisarius—and, I have no doubt, will conduct this operation as successfully. But this House is surely entitled to be heard on the political aspects of the matter. After all, that is our metiér and I think some of the things we say may be useful. At any rate, we ask that the Government should be willing to consult with us to-day on some of these important subjects. Some of the things that we say may prove valuable in the important decisions they have to make. A few days ago a well-known Italian commentator, Aldo Valori, writing in the "Corriere della Sera," said:
I would not agree with his interpretation of events in Africa and Sicily but what he said was perfectly true. What we are doing in Sicily is a model for what will happen in Europe, and it is most important that our actions there should be circumspect and right. It is in the wish that our actions will give hope to the, whole of Europe, that we have asked for this Debate to-day. I do not want to sound suspicious, but I think there are some grounds for suspicion of the Government in regard to the action on which they may be embarking. I would like to make suggestions which I think ought to be carried out there and I hope the Government will give due consideration to them. Although the Government have resisted this Debate, I think they have shown signs of repentance in that there are so many right hon. Gentlemen on the Front Bench now. I think we ought to be grateful to them for having come to listen to the Debate. There are a few things that have given us justifiable reasons for suspicion. The first I would mention is the personnel of A.M.G.O.T. as it is now called. The progenitor of this body was called O.E.T.A., which means Occupied Enemy Territory Association. I do not know why the name has been changed, possibly because the ribald had taken to calling it the "Old Etonian Tie Association," for which there were certainly some grounds. The personnel of the new body does not inspire any new confidence. The object of our policy seems to be to make the world safe for bankers. It is no use turning out the Roman fasces, if you only put in a British Rodd for Italian backs. One of the leading members of this organisation is a member of the firm of Morgan, Grenfell and Co., and has been associated with the Bank of England and also with the Banco Italo-Britannico. Another member has been associated with the Banco Italo-Britannico, and also with Robert Benson and Co, and with Lloyds Bank, and a third member in high office has been associated also with the Bank of England. [An HON. MEMBER: "How very wicked."] The relevance will be seen by what I am going to say next. A rate has been fixed for the lira in occupied countries. We have given very strict injunctions to our soldiers since the time of the Duke of Wellington that they are not to loot, and those instructions are generally enforced very strictly. But by fixing a rate for the lira which is about five times the peace-time rate, we are, in fact, conducting a system of authorised loot. One pound sterling will now in Sicily buy 400 lire, instead of 92 which it would have bought in peace time. In consequence, our soldiers will be able to buy far more goods than otherwise would be the case. I am certainly for giving a generous reward to the soldiers who have fought in this campaign, but let us at least do it by methods which will not rankle in international relations when the war is over. I think the principle has already been conceded by the Government, who must have a guilty conscience in the matter, for the rate, which was fixed originally in Africa at 480 to the £, has now been reduced to 400. I do not see why we should not be informed of the principles on which this rate has been fixed. What reason can there be for secrecy in such a matter? There may be good reasons, but in any case I think the House of Commons is entitled to hear them. In actual fact this rate corresponds roughly with values in the Italian black market, but that is no proper foundation for a rate of exchange. We all know how inflated prices are in the black market. This rate, if it is perpetuated, may be a great cause of grievance in years to come. I was rather shocked a few weeks ago by a reply I received from the Foreign Secretary. We all say things when we are on our feet which we ought not to say, but they are not so serious when said by a back bencher as when said by the Foreign Secretary. When the right hon. Gentleman replied that before very long he thought the Italians would be glad to get any number of pounds they could for their lire, I do not think he was doing justice to his high office. This will be a matter of the utmost consequence when the war is over. Surely hon. Members remember the discontent that was caused in Germany by inflation, which was one of the causes of the success of Hitler's movement. I trust that we shall look beyond any immediate advantage, to the establishment of permanently good relations between a liberated Italy and this country, and the question of the rate of exchange will have to be considered in this connection. Another matter that gives us some ground for suspicion is the fact that the Soviet Union appears to have been ignored in all these matters, and the Soviet Press has complained to that effect, with a pretty clear indication that if the Anglo-American Forces claim a free hand in Italy, they will claim a similar free hand in Eastern Europe. I do not think that is good for the future of international relations either, and I hope that those complaints in the Soviet Press will be met. What is the Italian problem with which we have to deal? What my hon. Friends and I want to urge is this Debate is in the most general terms that we should take no action which will limit the freedom of the Italian people to choose their own form of government. The problem of Italy is, like the problem of Germany, a problem of a union between Army chiefs, big industrialists and big landowners, reinforced in the case of Germany by the influence of a bueaucracy which is not so strong in Italy.. It is now widely agreed that our great mistake in the treatment of Germany after the last war was that we did not break those great social forces. We had the facade of disarmament, but behind that facade the great social forces of the Rhenish industrialists, the East Prussian junkers and the Army chiefs went on as before. In Italy we have now the opportunity to break those forces, or rather to let the Italian people break them. What we on this side are concerned about is that the Italian people should not be prevented in their efforts to break those social forces as they are now attempting to do. No one can fail to realise the significance of what is going on in the North of Italy. There is no reason to disbelieve the reports, for they come from German sources. I have been reading the Transocean reports, where it is frankly stated that Leftist workmen have broken open a prison in which several hundred anti-Fascists were incarcerated. That is the kind of thing which is going on all over Northern Italy. We used to hear these things by underground means, and they were generally disbelieved until the information came about the general strike in Turin last May, which was later confirmed by Mussolini himself. That is a pretty good indication that the underground movement in Italy has been stronger than most people are prepared to allow. What we are concerned about on these benches is that these forces shall be given a fair chance and that by some deal with the present ruling forces in Italy we do not nip this revolution in the bud. I have mentioned the possibility of some deal with the present ruling forces in Italy. Let us consider how the present situation has come about. There was a meeting of the Grand Council of Fascism, at which an order of the day was proposed by Count Grandi. There was another motion proposed by Farinacci and a third by Scorza. Farinacci's motion got only one vote, Scorzi's was withdrawn, and Grandi's was carried by 17 votes to seven. It was in consequence of that vote that Mussolini resigned. Let us look at some of the persons who voted for that resolution. Among them were Grandi himself; many people who used to sip his cups of tea at the Italian Embassy in London said he was a gentleman, but actually he is up to his neck in Fascism. He is a Fascist of the first hour and an enemy of democrats, and I trust we shall have no bargaining with him. Among others voting were Federzoni, one of the big figures in the world of business, De Bono, who figured in the early stages of the campaign against Ethiopia, De Vecchi, who was one of the original Fascist quadrumvirate, Ciano, who is as deeply implicated as Mussolini himself, and that most illiterate Minister of Education, Bottai, Those are the men who have set the present Government in Italy in power, or at least in office, and I think that ought to warn us about having any dealings with them. What is the present Government in Italy? Substantially the King and Marshal Badoglio. The King has been implicated in Fascism from the first hour. There need have been so Fascism in Italy if the King had only signed a declaration which he had promised to sign; but he then refused, and his fortunes have been bound up with the Fascist system. Marshal Badoglio was evidently opposed to Mussolini personally, but he for many years past has been implicated as much as anyone in the military adventures of Fascism. I suggest that they are not the people whom we ought to set in permanent power in Italy. If we do so, we shall be running counter to the wishes of the Italian people themselves. What ought to be our action at the present time? I can only give my own views, and they are in substance these, that when the military success is consummated, as it will be consummated, there should be for some period a military occupation, during which the organs of democracy shall be allowed to function again. My view is that at the present time we should treat with no Government in Italy, but set up a real military occupation. I mean a real military occupation, not an occupation by civilians who happen to be wearing soldiers' uniforms. What is important is that in this occupation the wheels of democracy should turn round once more. I believe the British soldier is the best ambassador we have. Let him move about among the people, and there will quickly be good relations again. What do I mean by asking that the wheels of democracy should turn round freely once more? In the first place, there must be freedom of the Press and freedom of assembly. These are essential if, after the long night of Fascism, 21 years of Fascism, we are to get a democratic Italy again. The newspapers must be able to publish freely and comment on political matters. Fascist editors must be turned out and democratic writers put in their place. There should be freedom of assembly and freedom for party activities. Let hon. Members note the significance of what has happened in Milan. Overnight, as it appears, five parties have sprung into existence again. It shows how easily party activity will revive in Italy if it is given the opportunity."What the enemy has prepared for us in case they should be victorious, can be seen by what has been done to the Italians in Africa, and what has been done to harrowed Sicily."
On a point of Order. I have been watching hon. Members opposite for the last 10 minutes, and there has been going on a conspiracy of conversation. We have been compelled to raise this very important matter at this hour of the day. The other subject, far less important, went six hours. This is the only opportunity we have. If hon. Members do not want to listen, they can leave the Chamber.
On that point of Order. I have been trying to listen to the best of my ability to the speeches delivered. I understood this was to have been a Debate on the political aspect of the war. Hon. Members opposite have been dealing the whole time with the military aspect of the war.
I, obviously, understand a little more clearly than the hon. Member opposite the distinction between political and military matters. I have carefully confined myself to political matters, and I make no apologies for what I have said. A matter to which I personally attach the utmost importance, and I know many of my hon. Friends do, is that distinguished anti-Fascist exiles should now be allowed to return to their country and, I would say, invited to do so. There are, especially in the United States of America and in other places I shall not name because it might be dangerous to do so, a number of people who have been driven out of Italy by Mussolini, some of them bearing names that will stand very high in the history of Italy. It is my submis- sion that these gentlemen. should now be allowed to return to their country, where they are sure of a warm welcome and where they would play a prominent part in the liberation of their country.I will mention a few of their names. Naturally, at the head of them, is Count Sforza. There, one would think, is a man who ought to be acceptable to hon. Members opposite. He bears a name famous in the history of his country; he possesses the collar of the Annunciata and is therefore a "cousin of the King"; and he is a former Foreign Secretary. What could be more acceptable to hon. Members opposite? But there may be an objection. He is a democrat. He wants to see a social revolution in Italy—at least he has no desire to prevent the Italian people effecting such a revolution if that should be their wish. In all seriousness, surely here is a person who is acceptable as we well know, inside Italy and to the Italian emigration outside, and who might be of the utmost importance at the present time. I can safely say that he would be willing to return. But it is not for Count Sforza to go cap in hand to the Allied Governments and ask for facilities to be given to him to go home. They ought to be offered. I mention also Don Sturzo. He is particularly relevant because he is a Sicilian. When he founded the Partito Popolare in 1919 it swept the country. If he returned now, old man though he is, his influence would sweep the country once once. I wish to mention also Professor Salvemini. I know that some of the things which he has said about English and American Tories are not very acceptable to hon. Members opposite, but he is acceptable to his native people. He understands them. I know that he would be willing to return to Italy, and he should be given every facility to do so. There are others. There is the distinguished writer Signor Borgese, who would be most acceptable, and Signor Emilio Lussu. I could pass on to those who are inside Italy and are being liberated from its prisons, but it might be dangerous to mention their names. There are many such persons, and they ought to be allowed to take up their work for democracy once more. This is not the policy of the Government. We are told that all political activities are to be forbidden. To forbid all political activity is in one sense only another form of Fascism. No good purpose is going to be served by creating this political vacuum in Sicily, and I most sincerely suggest that political activity should be allowed under the protection of the military authorities to the fullest extent compatible with military security. [An HON. MEMBER: "The military have to carry on the war."] I have undertaken not to talk about military matters, or I should have a reply to that interruption. I look forward to a period when the wheels of democracy will once more be turning round in Italy. Then I suggest that, again under the protection of the military power, elections should be held for a constituent assembly. We must allow the Italian people to choose their own Government and their own form of government. Let us have in Italy a constituent assembly which would decide these matters on behalf of the Italian people. I am not going to say whether Italy ought to have a Monarchy or a Republic. It is not for me to say—[HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear"]—nor is it for hon. Members opposite to say. It does not lie in our mouths. But I would like to correct a misapprehension in the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Oxford. He appears to judge the House of Savoy by the House of Windsor. I can assure him that the House of Savoy plays no such part in Italy as the Monarchy plays in this country.
I did not say it did.
It is looked upon as a Piedmontese house. It has never been a force in Italy like our own Royal house has been here. The hon. Member mentioned Garibaldi, and he corrected the hon. Member for Ebbw Vale on Italian history. I felt inclined to ask, Quis custodiet ipsos cuslodes? He should know that Garibaldi was by nature and temperament a Republican, and it was only on the sheerest grounds of expediency that he offered the Kingdom he had won at the foot of the Piedmontese king.
It is time the hon. Member followed his example.
Therefore the hon. Member is wrong. The House of Savoy does not play in Italy the part he imagines. It is not for me to say whether Italy should be a Monarchy or a Republic. But I think it is within my rights to say I cannot imagine that, even if the Monarchy is retained in Italy, we could have any dealings, or the Italian people would be likely to have any dealings, with the present King or the Crown Prince. If the Monarchy is retained, I imagine that it could only be in the form of a Regency in which the Crown Prince's young child would succeed to the throne. But these questions are for the Italian people. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] I am glad for once to have so much assent from hon. Members opposite. We have not always had it on this question of Italy. I am provoked into saying something I might perhaps have avoided. There is disagreement on the question, because the lines of party cleavage are becoming manifest once more. It is no use the hon. Member for Oxford (Mr. Hogg) shaking his head. We often hear nowadays about the Progressive Conservatives. I think it is manifest that they will be progressive only in so far as they are allowed to be and that where the class structure of this and other countries is concerned the hon. Member will be found on the same side as the hon. Member who sits behind him. I am afraid we can have little faith in the Progressive Conservative.This question raises the whole issue between the Labour Party and the Conservative Party, and it is bound to become clearer as the war draws to an end. The parties have always been divided on this question of Italy. I could go back to the 19th century, if I wished. [HON. MEMBERS: "No," and "Go on."] I see no reason why I should hurry over my speech. The Government could have had this Debate at a much more convenient time if they had wished. I am a democrat, and I propose to exercise the rights of democracy. I do not propose to go into detail about the 19th century, because it would be out of Order, but I am entitled to use an illustration. I would point out that Disraeli refused to meet Garibaldi in this country. When we talk about the traditional friendship between Great Britain and Italy, it was in fact the Liberal Party, not the Conservative Party, that was traditionally friendly. [An HON. MEMBER: "There is one still there."] Be that as it may, I want to come to more recent times. I can never forget the name of Matteotti, which has already been mentioned on this side of the House. Let us not forget that when Matteotti was murdered by order of Mussolini, as is now beyond doubt, for the chief of the murderers, Dumini, was captured by the British in Derna, the whole Fascist régime tottered to its foundations. Almost every civilised country throughout the world made a protest. What happened in this country? It so happened that the Labour Government had been overthrown, Mr. Austen Chamberlain, as he then was, had become Foreign Secretary, and almost his first action was to go out to Rome and shake the hand of Mussolini while it was still dripping with the blood of this great Socialist leader. That action more than anything else kept Mussolini in power at that time. That was in December, 1924. On 3rd January, 1925, Mussolini felt confident enough to go into the Italian Parliament and say that he took full responsibility for all that had happened, and immediately he started to establish totalitarianism throughout the country. That is how the Conservative Party treated Fascism in those days. I do not want to dwell at any length on the Prime Minister. My hon. Friend the Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Bevan) has done it, and everyone of us makes mistakes—although I can honestly say that I have nothing to retract from what I have said in the matter of Italy. I am now only continuing a battle which I have fought, inside closed doors and outside, for many years, a battle which can be summed up by saying that the Fascist régime is a régime clamped upon an unwilling people by a small gang in that country and supported by foreign diplomacy. That is the battle which has now to be decided once and for all. It pains me to some extent to say this, and I hope that my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary will not take it amiss, but I have felt that whenever he speaks on the subject of Italy there is an element of pettiness in it, which I regret. The right hon. Gentleman has had many brushes with Mussolini. There was a famous occasion when Mussolini was, shall I say, more than rude to him, and the period of sanctions is, I imagine, not a period to which my right hon. Friend looks back with pride. I can understand all that, but I feel that in his references to Italy at the present time he is not living up to the full status of a Foreign Secretary of this country. Friendship between England and Italy is a European necessity. We both have to use the Mediterranean Sea, and it is absolutely vital to both sides that there should be the best relations between us. It appears to me—I am willing to be corrected—that my right hon. Friend has transferred to the Italian people some of the antipathy which he naturally feels for Mussolini and the Fascist régime. If he is able to tell me that I am wrong, I shall be happy to accept the assurance, but possibly I have drawn his attention to something which he has not even noticed himself. As to the Prime Minister, I think his utterances on Italy have shown a progressive improvement, if I may say so. I am not going back into pre-war history, but I will confine myself to the present war. In his first speech to the Italian people, uttered about Christmas-time, 1940, he said:
That was a great mistake of judgment, in my submission. Mussolini is not the only nefarious element in Italy. He could go and the system remain very much the same. It is the whole Fascist régime, which is objectionable, and not merely Mussolini himself. I think that the Prime Minister realised that on reflection, because on later occasions he said, "There is where one man and the régime which he has created have led you." That is very much better. I hope that the Government will live up to that revised judgment. What we fear may happen in Italy is that the label will be taken off the bottle, but the contents remain the same. It is no use merely dropping the name "Fascism," or even dissolving the Fascist Party, if the system remains the same, if the power of the ruling class still depends on the great industrialists, the army chiefs and the great landowners. The power of Italy has laid not only with Mussolini but with the great industrial families—Pirelli, Donegani, Agnelli, Volpi, and so on. I am glad to have mentioned the name of Volpi, because I saw a report not long ago that Count Volpi, the head of great Venetian industrial interests, had gone to Rome. I sincerely hope we are not getting rid of Mussolini in order to set Count Volpi in his place. I have spoken at some length, though not so long as I might have spoken or might still be tempted to speak, but I hope we shall have a reply from the Government on this question. Therefore let me end by saying that a Foreign Secretary, whom I have already mentioned, belonging to the party opposite, once said that he loved France as a man loves his mistress. That is not the term I should use for my affection towards Italy. I would rather describe her in the words of one of our poets, Algernon Charles Swinburne, I believe, as"There is where one man, and one man only, has led you."
That is how we ought to feel towards Italy. A great deal of all that is valuable in this country comes from the Italy of the past. From the time of Chaucer to the present time, there has been a constant stream of inspiration coming into the country. It has helped to convert the Anglo-Saxon from a beer-swilling boor into a relatively civilised being. I speak with gratitude of what we have derived from Italy in the past, but I cannot expect these cultural matters to appeal very much to hon. Members opposite. I would appeal to them on the grounds of self-interest, which may make a stronger appeal. The friendship of these two countries is absolutely essential to the future. If we have a democratic Italy, there can be friendship with this country. Therefore, I implore the Government not to do anything which would prevent the Italian people from setting up a democratic Government in that country. Italy has been through a "dark night of the soul," but that night is now drawing to an end, and I would like to conclude with the words of that same great lover of Italy, who wrote:"Mother most beautiful, lady of lands."
"Italy, what of the night?
But he went on to say that there cameAh, child, child, it is long."
"Eastward, not now very far,
A song too loud for the lark,
That is what Italy is looking for to-day. She is looking to the outside world to see we do not cheat her of her birthright. I appeal to my hon. Friends on these benches. We have to be loyal to Matteotti, to Amendola—murdered by Scorza, last secretary of the Fascist Party—to the Rosellis, to De Bosis, and to many another gallant soul who has given his life into the hands of this brutal Moloch.A light too strong for a star."
I am sure we all feel the depth and sincerity with which the hon. Gentleman has just spoken on the subject of Italy. He spoke with real sincerity, and I tried to follow the scheme of the policy we were asked to follow, and I confess I found it hard to do so. The hon. Gentleman said—I think with absolute truth—that we must leave Italy to choose her own Government. Then he proceeded with great knowledge of Italian personalities to do that for himself. He said it was for Italy to decide whether she should be a Republic or a Monarchy, and he put forward various possible alternatives if the Monarchy were to continue. Then he turned to me, but I did not quite understand what his complaint was. First, let me assure him that I never had a row with Mussolini at all. Contrary to popular legend, that never happened. I am sorry to destroy a newspaper story of many years' standing, but I did not have a row with Mussolini in the sense that the hon. Member meant it.
Let me make my speech now. I am sorry to interrupt for a few moments, but I did not interrupt any hon. Member's speech. That is not my habit.
The right hon. Gentleman has interrupted.
There was no row in that sense. But there was between not only myself but the Government and Signor Mussolini a difference as to his behaviour. My views have not changed in the least. I tried, as did many of my colleagues in successive Governments, to persuade myself that Mussolini was negotiable. I tried to believe it, because it so happens that, like the hon. Member, I know Italy fairly well and for many years have had a great admiration and affection for her. I found that Mussolini was not negotiable, and he is still so, fortunately in another sense. With the departure of Mussolini and the Fascist regime, the hon. Member will find me only too ready, providing we can get what we want for attacking Germany, to aid her, which I hope he will regard as reasonable and for which I hope we shall have his support.Let me now turn to the issue of this Debate. First of all, the Government never took the position that they wished to stop the House making use of what are ordinary Parliamentary opportunities. When we were asked to provide a special day the Cabinet considered the point and decided unanimously—and, I am convinced, quite rightly—that in present conditions a Debate could not serve a useful purpose. I will explain in a few sentences why. Last Tuesday my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister made in this House a carefully considered statement on our policy towards Italy. Much thought and work went into that statement. It is quite impossible for me or for any other Member, or for the Prime Minister, to get up and try to make another such statement, to try to improve upon it, to touch it up or modify it. That statement stands as our policy, and we thought there was little value in having a Debate to which the Government could not contribute. Let me now say a word in reply to the actual criticisms that have been made. May I begin with a comment in reply to my right hon. Friend the Member for South-West Bethnal Green (Sir P. Harris)? I want it to be quite clear that what I told the House at Question Time recently was that maybe the House would have to be recalled. I cannot tell what will take place during the next six weeks; nobody can attempt to forecast. It will have to be for the Government to judge whether the issue will be sufficiently important to warrant us summoning the House. We have tried through very difficult years to carry the House with us, and we would not be so foolish as not to summon the House if it should be summoned. But that does not mean that we can abrogate the executive powers of the Government, although it may be we shall have to call the House together to ask it to endorse or support our policy. The hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Bevan), I notice, has made a certain evolution in criticism in this House as compared with last year. Last year everything was wrong—strategy, weapons, and generals. The politicians were wrong. Everyone was wrong. If he poses as having selected the victorious com- manders, I can only offer him my congratulations.
The Government endorsed the criticism by removing him immediately afterwards.
It never occurred to me to seek for that chain of thought. I am obliged to the hon. Member. Now it is not the commanders. It is the politicians. I am getting a trifle nervous, because at this rate of progress we shall have the hon. Member's support by next year. I am anxious for the Government's life. But I must reply to one or two points. First of all, there is a correction that I must make. He cited as an example of the correct action of political direction in the war what he described as the Prime Minister's action in advising General Wavell to go to Greece. I do not think he meant it, but, from what he said, the impression might have got out that that action was against General Wave11's own advice. That is not so.
I did not say that.
No, but I got the impression that he meant to convey that political direction was opposed to military direction. Anyway, I wish to correct it, because it was not so. In fact, I-cannot recall a single occasion when we have discussed these matters when the Prime Minister has not carried his military advisers with him.
I at no moment said that General Wavell had been over-ruled by the Prime Minister.
There is no dispute. If the hon. Member did not wish to give that interpretation, the matter is easily cleared up. I think there was some confusion in some of his points of criticism, and I will give one or two examples. He linked Giraud with Darlan. I am glad that General Giraud was not here to hear him. I cannot imagine two men more antipathetic than those two. I do not know General Giraud well, but I know that there is no greater hater of Germany. He has twice escaped from prison in Germany, and his main mind and thought are of fighting the Germans. That would not be true of Darlan. I believe that now, when we have General Giraud and General de Gaulle and their Committee beginning to function, our purpose should be to try to strengthen its authority. The hon. Member described the advance of the Allied Armies in Sicily, and described it very well, but he did not seem to appreciate that the argument that he was using was a good argument to show that the political policy followed in that territory was good military and political policy vis-Ë-vis the Italian troops, that the broadcasting of propaganda was well done and had its effect. He said A.M.G.O.T. was a sinister name and another Member asked why we had changed 0.E.T.A. into A.M.G.O.T. The only reason is that A.M.G.O.T. is an Allied organisation, whereas O.E.T.A. was a purely British organisation, so we changed the name to show that it was Allied.I promise the hon. Gentleman that there is nothing more sinister in the difference between the two names than that. The hon. Gentleman produced absolutely no evidence of his suspicions of A.M.G.O.T.—not a shred. What is this organisation? It is a purely military organisation which is under political authority and direction, and previous to the invasion of Sicily directives were given to General Eisenhower by the British and American Governments which were carefully prepared and considered for that reason. I must read three paragraphs from General Alexander's own directives in the Proclamation that he made on arriving in Sicily. One of them is:
That is obviously right and what the hon. Gentleman who spoke just now would wish. Another paragraph was:"All powers of Government jurisdiction in occupied territory and over the inhabitants, and final administrative responsibility are vested in me."
Is there any objection to that?"The exercise of the powers of the Crown of Italy shall be suspended during the period of military operations."
Is there any objection to that?"All persons in occupied territory will obey promptly all orders given by me or under my authority, and must refrain from all acts hostile to the troops under my command or helpful to our enemies."
That is exactly what the hon. Gentleman has been asking for. These are General Alexander's own pronouncements, and I cannot understand what all the complaints are about."Your existing property and personal rights will be fully respected and your existing laws will remain in force and effect. The Fascist party will be dissolved and all discriminatory decrees and laws annulled."
I put a question to the Secretary of State for War last week, asking as to what progress had been made in the removal of Fascist officials, and the answer was that no information had been received. I should like to have some assurance that there have been some removals. If the right hon. Gentleman will proceed, he will find there is a complete ban on political activity.
There is a ban on political activity, but there is also at this moment a battle going on. Surely the hon. Gentlemen is not going to suggest that this is a good moment to have a general election in Catania. We are doing exactly what he himself asked, not only for Sicily, but for all Italy. He said that he wanted a military régime for all Italy, and he wanted the soldiers to run it. What we are doing is to have a military régime in Sicily where fighting is going on. The last reports I have are that this administration is going well. I have no doubt that it is. I cannot telegraph General Eisenhower or General Alexander and ask how many Fascist mayors they have removed and how many prefects they have turned out, and how many they have left and why. They have other things to do. Reasonable instructions have been given, and I have no doubt that they are being carried out to the best ability of the administration. Broadly, what that régime will try to do is to deliver the people of Sicily from the Fascist régime which led them into the war and to restore to Sicily, as we subsequently wish to restore to Italy, her freedom as a nation.I have one final word. The hon. Member seemed to be in some confusion as to the effect of accepting unconditional surrender on the recognition of the Government. If we accept unconditional surrender from anybody, I do not regard it as thereby recognising them in the least. Indeed if, by our recognising Hitler in that way to-morrow, he gave us unconditional surrender, I should be extremely well pleased. There is no recognition in the acceptance of unconditional surren- der, and the hon. Member seems to be in a state of very considerable confusion. In a few words I have tried to answer some of the points that hon. Members have asked, and I will conclude by saying this. We are just as anxious on this side of the House as are hon. Members opposite; and let me say my Labour colleagues in the War Cabinet play their part. The hon. Member was speaking just now as if there was not a member of his party in the War Cabinet. They are our colleagues, sharing responsibility with us—we discuss these matters with them—and we are as a War Cabinet anxious to see Italy accept the unconditional surrender she has been offered, anxious to see facilities given to us so that we can turn the war on to Germany even more vigorously than to-day, and anxious to see after that a peace in which Italy, as the Prime Minister said, can play her part as a respectable nation once again.
I was very much surprised to notice on the occasions last week when hon. Friends of mine on this side of the House asked for a Debate before we adjourned for the Recess that the refusal to grant it was met with such cheering by hon. Members opposite. I felt then, and I am certain that I was right from what I have heard from the right hon. Gentleman just now, that this Debate was essential, and further that we had every justification for all our apprehensions in the refusal to grant this Debate. We have succeeded in using the proper methods of procedure to stage this Debate, and when the House looks back I think it will feel a desire to congratulate the hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. A. Bevan) for initiating the Debate. Two or three hon. Members opposite have referred to his speech as mischievous. I challenge any Member opposite to say what it was he said that could be regarded as mischievous. If they do not accept the challenge, I need not go on with the point any longer. I think the position in Italy is rather similar to the situation which existed in this country after Charles I had been arrested and tried and was languishing in gaol. Three gentlemen met for the purpose of deciding the form of Government or how the House of Commons should be constituted. They were Colonel Rainsborough, Colonel Ireton and Oliver Cromwell, and they carried on a discussion as to whether or not everyone in the country should have a vote or only those who had property. This seems to me to be the essential diagnosis of the present trouble. Rainsborough was what was referred to at that time as a Leveller. He would be regarded in these days as someone on the Left, He said, "I think everyone should have one vote." Oliver Cromwell, on the other side, who was a Conservative, said, "No, if you do that, it will be wrong, because I think that only those with property should have a vote. If you give a vote to everyone, more people will have the vote than have property, and, arising from that, property will run the risk that poverty will use democracy to destroy property, and alternatively property, frightened of poverty, will destroy democracy." That is Fascism, that is what the war is about at the present time, and that is why, in the declaration which the right hon. Gentleman referred to a few minutes ago in which General Alexander guaranteed the property rights of the Sicilians—
He must, under international law.
I cannot overhear the shout of the hon. Member who represents Cambridge University (Mr. Pickthorn). Perhaps he will allow me to go on without interruption. That is the real thing to my mind, and I am certain from my contacts, not only in London but in my constituency and other parts of the country to which I have been redently, that thinking people are very anxious indeed as to what we shall find this war has ultimately been fought for. Frankly, I do not expect very much from the Government. In the Prime Minister's speech, which the right hon. Gentleman said was very carefully prepared, and not only by him but with the whole of the War Cabinet, we find the expression, "We will let them stew in their own juice." What did that mean? What kind of social content did his speech have? What kind of hope did he hold out to the Italian people? Hon. Members also gave loud cheers when he added: "Then we will heat it up for them." For whom? For the Italian people whom you are trying to save? Here are people who have been under a Fascist dictatorship for 21 years and who, because of outside circumstances, in the nature of a world war, were compelled to fight for the continuance of that system which was anathema to them. They now throw it aside. Yet we find the British Government talking in those studied terms, not only to the Italian people but to the people in occupied territories and to the people in Germany. The Minister of Information will probably know what use Dr. Goebbels made on Tuesday night on the wireless of that statement of the Prime Minister. I can imagine Dr. Goebbels using it with very great effectiveness, saying to the German people, including many who are anti-Hitler or who are Socialists or who are rebellious in nature: "That is the way the British and American Governments will treat you if you throw over Hitler." That in my opinion will strengthen Hitler in his internal position in Germany.Obviously, hon. Members on the other side of the House are more frightened of revolution than of Fascism. Ever since 1931, and I think we could go back before that, they have pursued, regularly, a policy of appeasement, and I see no reason why we should expect them to change their outlook. They are in the majority. I have not the slightest doubt that Labour and Liberal Ministers struggle as far as they possibly can in the Cabinet. I suppose there is democracy in the Cabinet and if there is a division of opinion the majority opinion will prevail, just as it did in the Fascist Grand Council. In a reply given last Friday to my right hon. Friend the Member for Wakefield (Mr. A. Greenwood) it was stated that the War Cabinet had considered unanimously and very definitely, that it would not be in the best interests of the Allied cause that the war situation should be debated at this stage. What is the Allied cause? That seems to me to be most important. From the expressions that came from hon. Gentlemen opposite they presumably feel that we should go away happily for six or seven weeks and that all matters of a political nature are in safe hands. In those circumstances I say, frankly, that when I heard the cheers at the refusal, two or three times repeated, to grant a Debate I should have loved the outside public to have heard that cheering also. I hope—and I say this quite seriously—that the excuse will not be used as I am afraid it seemed to be used the other day, that because the Italian people have not practised democracy for more than 21 years, it will take them a long time to get into the position of doing so again. I mention that, because I remember the Deputy Prime Minister, speaking of Newfoundland saying: "After all"—I am not using his exact words but I am sure that I am not misrepresenting him—"the people have not had a government for to years and they will need a certain amount of education before they can get back into exercising democracy." The same argument can be used in the immediate postwar situation but I hope that nothing of that kind will happen. Suppose we had adjourned last week and that this week there had been acceptance of what were considered unconditional surrender terms. Would the right hon. Gentleman have called the House together, or would he have said: "We do not consider this matter sufficiently important and, in the circumstances we will let the Recess run its normal course"? It seems to me to depend on what the Government think is important enough to call us together. We probably have different views about this. I am certain that the great majority of my hon. Friends are very anxious indeed that no false political step should be made. War, especially in modern times, involves not only questions of military importance but also political questions. The resistance by the Government to our demand for a political discussion about the war, seemed to me to reveal a most extraordinary but nevertheless, ominous sign. The only other thing I want to say also seems to justify us in what we have been pressing for. The right hon. Gentleman who has just gone out, the Foreign Secretary, said almost in words that the Government were unimpressionable to the views expressed in this House. I hope that if the Debate has done something—and I think he has heard two or three well-reasoned, eloquent speeches—he will report the feeling of those hon. Members—all of them spoke from this side of the House—to the Government and that some regard will be paid to the sincere anxiety many of us have in having struggled to get this Debate, because we shall go home to the Recess very much more reassured if we can have some kind of reassurance that the views held by at least 170 of the Members of this House are to be considered by the Government.
I make no apology for speaking at this hour nor do I flatter myself at this hour when the tocsin of the soul is ringing in every man's bosom or a little lower in his anatomy, that there is anyone who wishes to hear me. But I think there arc some things which ought to be said on this subject if this subject is to be discussed in this House, and which have not yet been said, and though I have not prepared them very well or thought them out quite clearly, I think someone ought to make some attempt at saying some of them. I begin by asking for some sympathy from hon. Members opposite. I hope they will not accuse me of being "progressive." I think "progressive Conservative" is almost as foolish as "democratic Socialist." I have another reason for asking for their indulgence, and that is that I have also been a little disquieted by the Leader of the House on this topic. I thought he came very near in answering questions the other day to enunciating the doctrine that at any rate in the field of foreign affairs facts were no business of this House as long as they were ductile and that only accomplished facts ought to be brought to the attention of this honourable Assembly. I think he cane near that doctrine. I think that is an extremely dangerous doctrine, I think that in foreign policy especially the worst dangers come from ignorance, and I think that our countrymen at the moment are more ignorant about foreign policy than they have ever been before. I think it has not been beyond possibility for the Government to have kept our countrymen better informed than they are at the present time. I think they are worse informed now than ever before. I think we run a very great risk when we come to crossroads in foreign policy of making mistakes as bad as were made in the bad period before this war.I do not want to go into the controversies of those times. I think there are things—I remember once, if the House will forgive an anecdote which has just come into my mind, a witty Frenchwoman of my acquaintance who said that she did not like somebody, and I said, "Why not? He is a most charming creature. He is entertaining, he is young, his manners are good," and she said, "Oui, maisil dit des choses desobligeantes, et vraies." Similarly, I think that if you are going to start discussing the foreign policy of the ten years before the war there is not one of us who is not a wide open target for a combination of justice and cruelty. I do not think that there is one of us, including several of us who were not in the House in those years, who has not made mistakes, or been ineffective—which is the worst damnation of ail for a politician. I include myself: I think I was generally right, but certainly I was wholly ineffective. On this matter stones can be thrown in all directions, and they do not help us very much. No one of us but was wrong enough or ineffective enough to deserve the worst that could happen. I think there is a great line of cleavage in these matters, a cleavage which corresponds to the cleavage—I will not explain the precise relation of the two at this moment—between those who believe in original sin, who are in every sense right, and those who do not, who will get left before everything is finished. The line of cleavage in this matter is between those who think that foreign policy is mainly a matter of power, for the most part nationally organised, and those who think that foreign policy is a matter mainly of words, mostly ending in "ism." I myself belong to the former school, which is often accused of being low and grovelling. That cleavage corresponds to another line of cleavage. The hon. Gentleman who spoke last twitted me and my friends with being more afraid of revolution than of Fascism. I am not afraid of either. I have always been as anti-Fascist and anti-Nazi as he or anybody could be; but a distinction between Fascism and, revolution is a silly distinction. They are the same thing. Our grandfathers called it Jacobinism: you can call it totalitarianism; it is absolutism. It is the belief that there is some absolute right, and that only you know what it is, and that if only this or that were twisted a turn or half a turn, everything would go well, and every man would be happy. To people who sit on those benches I make one appeal—not when war is on to use military metaphors. I think that military metaphors are silly when there is not a war on—I think I never slip into them—but when there is a war on certainly they should not tell us that they have been in the battle of Fascism for 20 years. They should use words strictly, they should have some concreteness in their imagination, and when they say "battle" they should know what it means.
We did not use that metaphor.
Oh yes, the hon. Member did; and his friends did. [Interruption.] I am not concerned about whether an hon. Member was in the British Army, but I say that military metaphors and all this stuff about "We are all in the front line" have done infinite harm, and may do more, and we had better drop it. I am afraid this speech is going to be very disjointed. I would appeal to the hon. Gentleman the Member for Nuneaton (Mr. Bowles), next time he quotes Oliver Cromwell and Rainsborough, to quote them exactly, because I assure him that both their ideas and their language were very much better than his paraphrase. I think it was much less than fair to the House to offer a sort of modern paraphrase.The main line that is wrong is this: When there is peace, hon. Gentlemen opposite say that they renounce war as an instrument of policy. As soon as there is war, they say that the war will get no countenance from them unless it is to produce all the policies which they have always wanted. This is neither logical nor moral, and, what is more it is doomed to disappointment. Wars cannot be used to produce all that hon. Gentlemen opposite promise themselves and other people. There must be in the end, disappointment if you use that argument, and there may be such disappointment as will fling you all away. It may be me, but it really does not matter whether it is you or me. We are men of some age and no great importance and it does not matter. There may be one lot or both lots of us flung away. War is not an instrument by which all these objects of policy can be obtained nor would it be wise, proper or good, or in any way commendable, that we should try to use war to enforce, as some hon. Members opposite seem to recommend, or, as some certainly said, to incite democracy in Sicily. I do not know whether it is possible to arrange for the growth of democracy in Sicily. So far as I know, that has not been done yet and the history of Sicily has been known for 3,000 years. But anyway that cannot be the proper object of our war and a proper reason for us to send our sons and nephews to battle. The suggestion must inevitably produce disappointment. Hon. Gentlemen opposite talk as if this were not a war with England and United States against Germany and Italy, but a war, they tell us, for democracy, for Socialism against Fascism. All these are very debatable propositions indeed.
I was misled into using the language of the Prime Minister for a short time.
I neither defend Ministers nor attack hon. Members opposite. I want to put a point of view on this matter which I do not think has been put. This may be a war for Socialism or it may be a war for democracy. It certainly can at least with as much verisimilitude be called a war against Socialism. Fascism is a sort of Socialism, and Nazism is another sort. Incidentally another hon. Gentleman opposite talked about the primary reason of this war. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Wakefield (Mr. Greenwood) said the primary object of this war was freedom; do not let us forget that the primary object of this war was the guarantee of Poland.It is not a war for Socialism. I think it could be argued that it is war against Socialism. In so far as it is not a war between national entities, which I think it is, it is a war for law, Law with a capital L—legality, predictability, that men should know where they are, where they stand, and so on. On the matter on which the Government are being criticised to-day, I would invite the hon. Gentleman to read—I am sorry to turn this into something like a university lecture, but the hon. Gentleman read from academic authority, and perhaps I can do the same—the sixth edition of Oppenheim's "International Law." I fortified myself by consulting some of those lawyers that I know, and I asked whether I should read any other books or take Oppenheim as being agreed to be right. They told me that his is the view on which the authorities agree. I think they will see not only that the Foreign Secretary and the Secretary of State for War should not promise more of what they are asking, but in my judgment the Foreign Secretary has already gone rather further than international law will allow him to go. As an occupying Power our business is simply to occupy. Our business is with merely military administration; we have no right to do anything else as a Power in military occupation of Sicily, or of Italy, and when it is suggested that the rules about property should be altered and so on, that is grossly contrary to international law. If the argument is that we must do what will prepare a welcome for us all over Europe, nobody can tell with certainty what we ought to do. The hon. Member for Ebbw Vale explained Italian, French, and Spanish politics, and his hon. Friend the Member for Keighley (Mr. Ivor Thomas) explained a good many sorts of politics. The hon. Member for Ebbw Vale spoke with great skill and great effect, and I thought his most characteristic passage was when he told us that we all knew what a guardia civili was, and could infer what a carabinierè was, thus combining a perfect example of his brand of argumentation, a false assumption of fact followed by a complete inconsequence of logic.
What was the false assumption of fact?
That we all know all about the guardia civile.
I attributed too much knowledge to the hon. Member.
But I did not attribute any to him. Other Members have explained European politics to us. I could explain them with as much plausibility as hon. Members opposite. There is one thing I might tell them which they always seem to forget, namely, that Darlan was a man of the Left, a creation of the "Front Populaire." There is a lot to be said for him, and against him, and in my judgment that is one of the things to be said against him. Do not let us forget that Fascism is a disease of the Left. The Doriots, the Déats, and the Lavals were men who came from the Left. This attempt to turn this war into a bloody combat between the Left and the Right is, In my judgment, foolish and immoral. If hon. Gentlemen opposite succeeded in that they would be surprised at finding half the people they expected to be on one side of the barrier on the opposite side, and they would not know which way to point their rifles This is not an occasion when we can discuss foreign policy at length, but it is the occasion when some of us—and apologise to the House for having done it late and disjointedly—can point out that it is not proper to use a war, to use military occupation of territory, to try and alter social arrangements. Secondly, I think it ought to be said to Ministers that in the opinion of this House it is not proper to use a war to try to persuade the whole of Europe that what we in this country want to do and will do when we get victory is to cause revolution all over Europe. I do not care whether hon. Members want to do that or not, but it is at least an even bet that the impression would attract more opposition than support in Europe in that way. If hon. Friends opposite had been living through the melodrama and misery in which Europeans have been living for the last four years, they would want above all any form of tranquillity. The thing they would most look forward to would be Law, and the greatest mistake now would be not to keep well within the rules of international law in any territory which the valour of our soldiers enables us to occupy.
I am always fascinated and stimulated, although sometimes irritated, by the speeches of the hon. Member the Senior Burgess for Cambridge University (Mr. Pickthom), but on this occasion I think he has been a little less barbed and more conciliatory than usual. I like his speeches because he is what I may call the Right with the lid off—the naked Right: there is no progressiveness about him at all. That is very refreshing. I am much tempted to follow him into some of his more abstract and philosophical discursions. For instance, I think I could argue with him that those who believe in original sin believe also in the perfectibility, in the sense of sanctification, of each individual human being. But we will drop that and get back to the main debate. I must join issue with him on a point on which I think he misrepresented, no doubt unintentionally, the right hon. Gentleman the Mem- ber for Wakefield (Mr. Greenwood), who had referred to the "primary pledge" of this war being "for freedom." The hon. Member said the primary pledge of the war was the guarantee to Poland. Surely Poland was the immediate provoking cause of the war; and what the right hon. Gentleman probably meant by "primary" was "main"—the main purpose of the war is as defined in the Atlantic Charter, to establish the Four Freedoms throughout the world.Despite the Foreign Secretary, I think it has been useful after all that this Debate should have been held. In the first place, it gave the Foreign Secretary himself a chance to make a very interesting speech, reaffirming the honourable intentions of the British Government, and adding at the end of it that very valuable assurance, which I do not think we have had before, of the non-recognition of whatever Government happens to be in power in Italy—or rather, that they are not necessarily recognised because they have surrendered unconditionally to us. I think it is valuable to have secured that, and I think the right hon. Gentleman's speech was a distinct advance on the Prime Minister's statement on Tuesday. It was also extremely important and valuable to have from him some further details of the work of A.M.G.O.T. For one thing, it was important that we should have this for the enlightenment of Members of the House. Even those who are not here now will presumably read it to-morrow. I was rather shocked earlier to-day when no fewer than three Members—I will not say who they were or where they sit—came and asked me what A.M.G.O.T. stood for. They did not know what it was all about. That indicates a rather deplorable lack of touch with public affairs, and anything that might enlighten us on that point is welcome. I have myself been somewhat perturbed about A.M.G.O.T., which, we are told, is a military organisation working under a political directive. I think A.M.G.O.T., as at present constituted, will tend always to leave in office rather more of the official Fascist functionaries than we would wish left in office. I think that A.M.G.O.T.'s exclusive preoccupation in maintaining civil order, seeing that the drains work and so on, will always tend to make it take the line of least resistance and 0say, "This town clerk has been here for 22 years. He probably knows how the drains work; let us leave him in office." Probably A.M.G.O.T. will make a show, so to speak, of lopping off a few heads at the top, but I should like to see the lopping-off process carried considerably further down. A friend with whom I was discussing the point the other day, à propos of town clerks and leaving them in office, said that one of the failings of intellectuals and those who have never done any manual work in their lives is that manual and mechanical work is a great mystery to them. When the drains go wrong they send for the plumber in a great hurry and flurry. Similarly in Sicily they probably think, "O Lord, if we do not leave this Fascist town clerk in office, the drains will all go wrong," whereas probably the town clerk knows nothing about them and they are looked after by perfectly ordinary workers down below. The third main reason why I think this Debate has been useful is that it does show, and will show encouragingly to the people of occupied Europe, including the people of Italy, that the House of Commons, or a small but substantial section of it, can compel the Government to have a Debate and to discuss against its will a matter of foreign policy of great importance to the future of Europe and of those people themselves. When that news gets through to Italy and Europe, it will be encouraging to them to know that this House is not a mere Reichstag, assenting dumbly to everything that it is told to. I should like to amplify the anecdote quoted by the hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Bevan) because there were a few murmurs of incredulity from hon. Members on the other side of the House, and because I happen to have heard the actual anecdote to which he was referring on the B.B.C. programme on Sunday. It was an anecdote about our men letting go some prisoners from a gaol in Sicily. The curious thing about it was that the B.B.C. laid special emphasis on it, repeated it a number of times in the course of the day, and said that it was regarded by their correspondent on the spot as a particularly significant incident. The point of it was that our men had released some prisoners who had been gaoled on the allegation that they had engaged in anti-Fascist talk, but, said the B.B.C. correspondent, "they had actually only been asking for bread for their families, so of course we let them out." The implication, whether it was intentional or not was clearly that anti-Fascist talk is after all a grave offence in the eyes of the B.B.C. correspondent and that if they had really been guilty of anti-Fascist talk, we would not have let them out. Perhaps it was unhappily worded and a trivial incident, but it is rather sinisterly indicative of the way A.M.G.O.T. is working.
What has it to do with the Government? The Government do not control B.B.C. correspondents.
I said that it seemed indicative of the kind of policy A.M.G.O.T. is pursuing in Sicily
The B.B.C. has no connection with A.M.G.O.T.
The B.B.C. is a quasi or semi-official organisation which puts over the air views of many kinds, and when they repeat and emphasise an incident of that kind, it seems to me significant. The right hon. Gentleman cannot disclaim all responsibility for the B.B.C., and I know he will not wish to.I was a little disappointed in the speech of the hon. and gallant Member for South-East Essex (Flt.-Lt. Raikes), who had, I thought, begun to show signs of coming on a bit, and becoming one of those progressive Tories, since he came to speak against me a year ago at my by-election at Ma/don. I thought he had improved considerably—
The rake's progress!
Yes, I am afraid he has slipped right back again. One of the main points of his speech was that Fascism in Italy was perhaps not altogether desirable but that the principal crime of Mussolini's Fascism was simply that it had joined itself to the Axis and declared war against the Allies; that was really what had put Fascism beyond the pale. That reminded me of a remark made by an acquaintance of mine who might be described as a typical member of the golfing upper classes. He said to me, early in the war, "Well, of course, this chap Hitler was absolutely O.K. by me until he went and signed a pact with the Bolsheviks." That, to his mind, was the only offence that Hitler had ever committed. And similarly, or conversely, to the hon. and gallant Member for South East Essex, by far the worst offence of Mussolini and his brand of Fascism is not the crimes we have heard about, the murder of Matteotti, the suppression of trade union rights, newspapers and all that, but simply that Italy happened to go in on the wrong side in this war.Personally, I do not regard Fascism in that rather relative or qualified way. I have always hated and opposed Fascism absolutely, not relatively. I have always listened impatiently when people have told me that Mussolini has made the trains run on time, built good roads, drained the marshes, built wonderful public buildings—all the usual tourist talk about him; because I know that when he made the railways run on time be simultaneously enslaved the railway workers and destroyed their trade unions; and that when he built the roads he built them primarily for military and strategical purposes, for the war that Fascism always leads to in the end. As to his much-boosted draining of the marshes, in which he was photographed so often naked to his podgy waist, I do not think he actually drained very much more round Rome than any one of our county war agricultural executive committees would reclaim in a single year; and of course the public buildings were built for the sole purpose of glorifying the dictator's personal egomania. All those things are just the superficial efficiency, if you like, of Fascism. The real underground thing is absolutely rotten, and never should we have allowed ourselves to be deceived by the mere superficialities of it. I am not sure that I altogether agree with the hon. Member for Ebbw Vale in his dragging-up of the Prime Minister's "black record" on the question of Fascism because if we started that game, I think we should be talking for a very great deal longer. The records of hon. Members in this House, chiefly on the other side, are very bad indeed on the issue of Fascism and Nazism, of friendliness for Fascism and Nazism before the war; so I am not sure I think that that is altogether wise or kind. At the same time, there are one or two points that I was exercised about in the Prime Minister's answers to-day to Supplementary Questions. On one point he said that all these matters were subject to consultation with our principal Allies. Like the hon. Member for Keighley (Mr. I Thomas), I sincerely hope that that now includes the Soviet Government. Only last week we were told that we consult with the Americans and we inform the Russians. I hope that now there has been some amendment in that respect, and that what the Prime Minister said to-day does imply that to him at least our principal Allies include the Soviet Russians. Then, with regard to General Eisenhower, the Prime Minister assured us that everything the general had said and done was within the framework of a strict directive laid down by the British and American Governments and in harmony with it. I should like to know whether General Eisenhower's reference to the King of Italy in his message is included in that. I can only assume it must have been, particularly as I tried later in the day to put down a Question asking that very point, and the Clerk at the Table very properly assured me that that was covered by the Prime Minister's statement earlier and that therefore the Question would not be acceptable.
We understood that that was the Prime Minister's point of view.
The hon. Member is now answering for the Prime Minister.
Despite the hon. Member for Ebbw Vale, I believe that the overwhelming mass of the people of this country retain their confidence in the Prime Minister. I am sure that that is true. On the other hand, despite the hon. Member for Oxford (Mr. Hogg) and several other hon. Members who have spoken, I also believe that the people of this country are not so completely indifferent as they are sometimes supposed to be to these matters of foreign policy. On the particular point of this Debate, I think that the people of this country have been slightly troubled at Parliament going away for a very long Recess, or holiday as it seems to them, without discussing this important matter. People who have never been to Parliament do not understand its inner workings, and they cannot understand that M.P.s should suddenly take a terrifically long holiday just when these important and critical issues have arisen. From that point of view, too, I think it is important that this Debate should have been held.I am finishing now, and I am sorry to have detained the House for so long at this very late hour. I should like to urge the Government and the Prime Minister to take note of what has been said in this Debate. I believe that the Foreign Secretary's speech was an advance on the Prime Minister's statement last Tuesday. I beg and urge the Government, in everything that is put out to the Italian people, and in all our dealings with the Italian and Sicilian people, to emphasise that we go there as the friends of the ordinary common people of Italy and Sicily, and not as the friends of any kind of blackshirt or stuffed shirt or dress shirt régime that may have oppressed them in the past or is desirous of oppressing them in the future. I beg them to emphasise it in their actions and speeches, and then there is a great chance that the Italian people will arise much more vigorously and will join us—to use the Prime Minister's words—in the forward march of the common peoples of the world towards their rightful inheritance.
I intervene for a few moments to express my gratitude that this Debate has taken place. I am grateful to the hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. A. Bevan) for having given the House an opportunity to debate this matter, were it only for the fact that it drew from the Foreign Secretary the very definite statement that he made. I do not think that I would have intervened at all but for the speech by the hon. Member for Cambridge University (Mr. Pickthorn). I never thought that I should be boasting of my age and expressing gratitude that I had grown as old as I am, but I am very glad that I had learned my history and philosophy and had left the great university of Cambridge, before the hon. Member started lecturing there the views to which he is now giving utterance. The point of all this is that we should determine the purpose for which we took up this battle and bear it in mind right through to the very end. It is right and proper that this House should express its views and not merely leave these matters to be dealt with in statements by the Prime Minister or other Ministers. Very often what is taken as criticism in these speeches is really an emphasis of what is probably in the mind of the Government, only that no other opportunity arises for it to be stated.The whole point of this Debate can be summed up in this way: We desire to see this war through to the finish, cost what it may. We quite realise that pinning our faith to that may mean further losses. We do not hesitate but we do not want anybody to take advantage of an opportunity, or of a particular situation of the moment, which may in the long run defeat the main object. What the hon. Member had in mind without a doubt was the understanding with regard to Darlan. That shook us. It was then said that it saved lives in North Africa and hastened the victory which came to us. The answer to that was given by the Prime Minister—and I commend that speech to the House—in a very great speech he made in 1916. He said that if one wanted to avoid loss of life it was easy enough to do it; one had only to send a telegram to the Kaiser. But we did not take up the battle for that. We took up the battle for far deeper motives than the defeat of Mussolini or even the defeat of Hitler himself. We have taken it up to do what lies in our power to remove for ever the power of Nazism and Fascism, We do not want proposals which might for a moment have the suggestion of bolstering up that power. What we fear is that the sacrifices that this generation have had to go through, may have to be gone through again, in another generation, only too soon. We wanted to make that definitely clear, and I am glad we have done so from this side of the House. It only supports what the Foreign Secretary has said.
I think that the Debate which we are having this evening was crystallised in a sentence from the speech of the hon. Member for Cambridge University (Mr. Pickthorn) who laid down the dictum, among many extraordinary statements which I would like to follow if I had time, that an occupying force can do nothing else but occupy. In other words, if the United Nations's armies enter enemy-occupied or enemy territory, all they can do or can expect to do is to occupy that country and presumably allow the existing regime to continue. That would mean, presumably, that if our forces entered Germany and conquered that territory and occupied it the hon. Member would be perfectly happy to see the Hitler régime continue. I am perfectly well aware that the House does not share the views of the hon. Member but he did, I think, put in rather extreme form a view which is held fairly widely.We are discussing to-day what action it is proper and right for the United Nations to take in territory which their troops are occupying, and which was enemy territory—even while the war is still going on. We have been told by various speakers that as the battle is still proceeding in Sicily, we should not do anything at all. It is said "Let the battle continue and leave foreign policy," as the hon. and gallant Member for South-East Essex (Flight-Lieutenant Raikes) put it, "until after the war is over." You just cannot do that. We are making foreign policy every moment, and everything we do in an occupied country is making foreign policy now, which may have very serious repercussions when the war is over, favourable or unfavourable, according to what those actions may be. What we are doing in Sicily is of extraordinary importance because this is the first bit of enemy territory in Europe which has been occupied by our Forces. What happened in Africa was important enough, and we know what serious consequences our African action had in Europe. But this-is even more important, because this is part of the enemy European territory which we have to occupy progressively if we are to win the war. You can call what happened in Sicily action taken on military grounds, but it has important political consequences—you cannot separate the two—and that is why it is so important for us to be discussing these things to-day, in the first stage, and within a few weeks of our landing. The hour is late, and I do not want to go over ground which has been covered by other speakers, or to speak at great length; but there are two matters to which I would like to refer briefly. One is the fixing of the lira rate of exchange. This is of far more than local importance. It may well affect our relationship with Italy: it may well affect the degree to which the Italian people welcome our British occupation; and it may have a profound effect on people of Germany. The German people have two great fears in their hearts. One is defeat in war, of course, with their memories of 1918, and the other is that their little properties might disappear again in a devaluation of their currency. If we make it appear that we are, deliberately, going to debase the currency of Italy and of Germany, quite unfairly, we are bound to meet far greater resistance from the people of those countries, and we may lengthen the war by months or even more. What is the history of this question? Previously the lira exchange was in the neighbourhood of 75 to 80 to the £—it was under 100. When Eritrea fell, the British Government fixed an exchange rate of 480 to the £. No reason was given. It was completely out of accord with the price levels or wage rates in Italy, and we were never able to get any explanation. I understand that the advice given by the Department of the Government best able to judge of these things was that the correct rate would be 150. That advice was rejected. Probably the advice of the local people was taken, and 480 was selected as the correct figure. That that figure was wrong has been admitted by the fact that the Government have now changed the figure to 400, but on what grounds can this figure of 400 be justified? It may be that it can be justified, but I think that if so the Government should justify it. They owe it, not so much to the House of Commons—although we are entitled to know—as to the Italian people and to the people of Europe to tell them why they consider this rate to be fair. I have put a series of questions on the matter to the Chancellor of the Exchequer. He says, first of all, that this rate of exchange is provisional. I am glad to hear that, but once you fix a rate of exchange it is very difficult to alter it later on: it creates inequalities and anomalies, which are unfortunate. Secondly, the Chancellor of the Exchequer makes the excuse that it is essential that decisions of this sort shall be taken in advance, in the light of such information and advice as are available, in conditions which preclude wide discussions. Quite obviously we cannot discuss these things openly in Parliament beforehand, and nobody wants to do so, but the fact that these things have to be discussed secretly, does not mean that most careful consideration cannot be given to them. The implication in the Chancellor's reply is, "We are sorry: we have decided on this figure: we could not discuss it openly, and therefore we came to a hasty decision, without full consideration." When the Chancellor says the rate of exchange has been based very largely on the level of wages and prices of the two countries, we ask him, "What figures have you in mind?" He says, "I will not tell you. It is undesirable that you should know." The House is always willing to accept the view of any Minister who comes along and says, "I do not want to give you this information because of security reasons and the military aspect." The House immediately says, "All right, we will not press you." But here is a matter which can have no military or security aspect whatever. It is merely what are the calculated wages and price levels in Italy or this country or the United States which can justify an exchange rate of anything like 400 to the £. If it can be justified, all well and good, and it is desirable that we should know. It may have serious consequences in our economic relations with such a democratic Government as we all hope will be established in Italy and as the Prime Minister said he hoped would be established. It is very difficult to carry on sound economic relations with a Government on an entirely false currency foundation. One of the most serious mistakes the Government have made in this question of the occupation of Italy is fixing a rate of exchange which appears to be wildly out of accord with all the facts, which they refuse to justify and give no figures to support, and which may have a very grave effect on the people of Italy, and, maybe, the people of Germany. I hope that the Government will come along and say, "In view of the criticisms in the House and the Press, we will give the reasons which made us come to this conclusion." If the reasons are good, no one will be more delighted than I. The other point to which I want to refer is with regard to A.M.G.O.T. We have been told what the general functions are, the general directives. I do not think that anyone would quarrel very much about the directives. We are still fighting, but we hope very soon the battles will be over. What I object to is that this administration which is going to look after civilian affairs should contain no individual who has any experience whatever in this or any other country in looking after civil affairs. I do not know the records of all these gentlemen. There are six people. Three of them have been associated in the past with the highest levels of banking, and there is nothing against them on that score. That does not appear to fit them for a job which must be principally social and very largely political. These people have to decide whether Mr. X shall be deposed from the position of mayor or town clerk and whether Mr. Y is a desirable person to put in his place. As far as I know, these people have had no political experience whatever. I do not know whether they understand politics. There should have been at least one or two people on this body who had experience of local government and civil administration. I would have liked to see some trade unionist who has had experience in local government and whose principles and public record in life have shown him to be an appropriate representative of the libertarian principles for which we are fighting. There is no such person there, and it is highly regrettable. I ask that at the next stage, whenever that may be, when the military battles are over or the political activities of the Allied countries become more widespread in Sicily or the mainland. we should have such an appropriate representative. These military people cannot have the Parliamentary outlook or political knowledge required for these duties, and I hope that we shall see that proper people are put there. It is profoundly important that we should have this Debate, in spite of the explanation given by the Leader of the House. He said that a Debate at the present moment was undesirable because there was nothing that the Government could add to the statement made by the Prime Minister the other day. That may be, but Parliament is not one-way traffic; it is two-way, and there is considerable uneasiness among many Members of the House about the situation. We required an explanation. We got some of it, but we did not get the rest. It is the function of Parliament to keep the administration in check, to find out what its policy is and to ensure that as far as possible it is doing the right thing. I am quite certain that Parliament, in this matter of bringing to occupied or enemy territories the principles for which we are fighting, and for which people are dying, must be vigilant the whole time. What has been said by hon. Members is true. There are people within this House and outside of considerable influence who are fighting the war 100 per cent. but who have shown themselves—and maybe still are, for all we know—fully sympathetic to the economic basis of Fascism. We must be vigilant or we may find that for one reason or another, by giving too much latitude to the military, or through sheer inertia to change the status quo in any country, the principles for which this country is waging war and for which people are fighting and dying may well be betrayed. We must see to it that no such betrayal takes place (through our own negligence.
I rise for one moment to put on record the feeling I have had throughout the whole of this Debate. I may say that I had no knowledge that my hon. Friend the Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Bevan) intended to raise this question. I came into the Chamber with a perfectly open mind. Nor have I, during this war, felt it incumbent upon me to criticise either the foreign or military policy of the Government. I have been absorbed in other things. Bin I have observed outside this House, in trade unions, clubs and elsewhere, that there is beginning to be a profound difference of opinion upon what I may call foreign policy. However, the precise reason for my intervention is due to the speech made by the hon. Member the Senior Burgess for Cambridge University (Mr. Pickthorn). I am glad he made the speech he did, because it is the kind of speech which is being made in less clear language outside this House, and is being written regularly in monthly periodicals and other magazines. There has been no chance hitherto, because war has been too grim, even to think in terms of a foreign policy, but I know perfectly well that the views held by the hon. Member are held by many other Members on the opposite benches, indeed, by some of those now sitting on the Treasury Bench. They are not the views held by hon. Members in other parts of the House; it is a profound cleavage. I liked the clarity of the speech made by the hon. Member for Cambridge University—
The reporters did not.
—even though it was pedantic in parts. I should not like the Debate to conclude without putting on record that I think the time has come to have an honest Debate, when the House reassembles, on certain major issues of foreign policy, even if it has to be a secret Debate, because I find in discussions outside the House that views are beginning to settle. Some of them are very acute at present. It has been my lot to meet every fortnight in the last year and a half members of Allied countries and Governments in an unofficial capacity, and I am more and more alarmed at the difference of views, for instance, between those expressed by "The Times" and its foreign policy and the views expressed by the small nations.Finally, I know very little, no more probably than any other Member, about the organisation that has recently been set up in Sicily and some of the schemes of training during the last 1½ years, but I am not satisfied. I am supporting the Government, but I am not satisfied with what I have heard, and if such training and organisation are to be the follow-up to the men who have been fighting and holding bridges, many of them friends of ours in the House, we have to be 100 per cent. certain that they are going to do something more than occupy, that they are not only going to bring food and concrete things to the people of Sicily and elsewhere in Europe but are going to bring some ideas and they need not necessarily be just democratic ideas if that is the word about which the hon. Member for Cambridge University feels particularly strongly. They are just ideas which every common soldier carries with him wherever he goes but to which he himself is not capable of giving expression in the countries through which our Armies are going. I only rise to put on record that the time has come when some of these issues might well be debated inside the House as they are being debated outside.
I should like to say a word on the subject of the lira rate in Sicily. In the first place, I should like to make it clear that A.M.G.O.T. did not fix this rate of exchange. It was fixed by agreement between the British and American Governments. I am given to understand that the suggestion was made at some earlier part of the Debate that A.M.G.O.T. had something to do with it. It is very difficult to fix a rate of exchange when a country is being occupied and when the ordinary free market operations which would indicate the value of the currency are not working. The pre-war rate was 72. That, of course, was an artificial and a pegged rate. There were dealings a great deal higher, but, in any case, the pre-war rate has no relevance whatever to the rate of exchange fixed under present circumstances, and it is obvious that prices and costs in Italy and in Italian territory have risen very considerably indeed. When we fixed the rate for North Africa at 480 lira the exchange rate in neutral markets was about 600. We fixed it at 480, and it worked quite satisfactorily for that part of the Italian Empire.It was rather suggested by my hon. Friend the Member for North Lambeth (Mr. Strauss) that because we selected a rate of 400 when we occupied Sicily we were admitting to a mistake in having fixed the rate at 480 in North Africa. That was not the case. The circumstances were different. On the best information that was available to us and to the Americans, 400 was suggested as being about the right rate, considering the level of prices and costs in Sicily. In fact, nothing that we have heard since we have occupied part of Sicily suggests that the rate of 400 is not appropriate to the level of prices, wages and costs in Sicily. My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister pointed out to the House the other day that the rate was provisional, and that is in fact the case. I do not think that there has been any information available in this country which leads us to suppose that 400 is not the right rate of exchange to fix. It has not been fixed for any other reason except that we thought that it was the right rate. If any hon. Member has any information which suggests it is not the right rate and is not particularly comparable with costs in Sicily, I shall be glad to receive it.
Question, "That the Bill be now read the Third time," put, and agreed to.
Bill read the Third time, and passed.
The remaining Orders were read, and postponed.
It being after the Hour appointed for the Adjournment of the House, Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER adjourned the House, without Question put, pursuant to the Standing Orders.