§ A register shall be formed of all persons, male and female, between the ages of fifteen and sixty-five (not being members of any of His Majesty's Naval Forces or of His Majesty's Regular or Territorial Forces) subject to the exceptions mentioned in this Act.
§ Sir LEO CHIOZZA MONEY
On a point of Order. The House of Commons by a very large majority has passed the Second Reading of this Bill—a compulsory measure—to take a war census. My hon. Friend is moving an Amendment which strikes at the very root of the principle which has been affirmed by the House. In these circumstances I ask your ruling, Mr. Maclean, as to whether the Amendment is in order?
§ 6.0 P.M.
The point has received very careful consideration, and on consideration of the whole position, as I understand it, I am not prepared to rule out this Amendment, but I am quite sure that the hon. Member and those hon. Members who succeed him in Debate will not endeavour to get a Second Beading Debate upon this subject.
§ Mr. HOGGE
The Committee will understand the position of some of us in regard to this matter. I say quite frankly that we have put forward our protests on the Second Reading, and that we now propose to improve the Bill if we can. There is no idea on our part of pursuing any Amendment in a factious way or delaying the Committee, and I hope my hon. and naval Friend (Sir L. Chiozza Money) will not raise this point until he sees that there is an attempt to do what he fears. The reason I raise the matter is that we are going to make a register, and that register we have been assured by my right hon. Friend in charge of the Bill will not be used for certain purposes. I want, however, to bring to his notice the kind of thing that I have in my mind when I express certain fears. I have in my hand a letter which was sent on the 30th June, that is only a few days ago, by a major who is a recruiting officer. The letter was written from a recruiting office, and on paper which bears the Royal Arms. It is an official document, and is sent to an individual just as I presume the question paper in connection with this new register may be sent to the houses. I want to read this letter, and to show my right hon. Friend why it is that some of us are afraid of this register and the questions that are to be put in connection with it. I have brought the envelope and the stamp to show that the letter is perfectly genuine. On the front of the envelope are the words "On His Majesty's Service." The letter was sent by a major whose name I can give, and I am perfectly willing to hand 426 the letter over to my right hon. Friend. I hope the Committee will listen to this letter, and that they will protect people against this kind of thing. Here is the letter:
§ "Dear Sir,—Unless you have some good and genuine reason for not enlisting, which I am agreeable to investigate, I advise you to offer to join the Army before you are made to. This is an entirely private and friendly piece of advice. Compulsion may not be so far off as you think. I am only waiting the word—(whose word?)—to call up every man of eligible age, and, as yon see, I have yon on my list. It is possible that you may be one of those to whom this advice does not apply—there are some such to whom this letter is unavoidably addressed—but if you are, I can only tell you that I have good reason to believe that you will be mightily sorry in the end if you wait until you are fetched. Not only that, but if it comes to fetching, those who are fetched will not be asked where they would like to go.
§ Yours truly,
§ Recruiting Officer."
§ The district and the town are also given.
§ Mr. HOGGE
If the Committee want the name they can have it; but I will hand the letter to my right hon. Friend, so that he can see that I am not saying something that is not perfectly genuine. I want to say quite frankly that I am entitled to put this point as expressing a fear which obviously resides in the minds of many people, when this sort of thing is being done now by an officer of the Army, from a recruiting office, and he says he actually has this man on his list, and that if he does not go he will be fetched, and that if he is fetched he will not be given the choice as to where he is to go. Surely that is not the kind of thing that we ought to accept.
§ Mr. HOHLER
Has that letter been sent to a member of one of the Volunteer Training Corps who has promised to go wherever ho is wanted?
§ Mr. HOHLER
Is he a member of a Volunteer Training Corps who has given in undertaking to go when called upon?
§ Mr. HOGGE
I am afraid I cannot give that information, but whether he is or not, it is a very improper letter to be sent by anybody wearing the King's uniform to any person he expects to draw inside the Army. It is that kind of thing that I have in my mind when I put forward this 427 Amendment. May I give one further example, and it is the only one that I will give? It is an advertisement from a Scottish newspaper appealing for recruits, again under the King's arms, and with the King's title above the advertisement. The appeal is for recruits for the 7th Argyle and Sutherland Highlanders. I am certain of this—and you will be certain of it, too, Mr. Deputy-Chairman, as you know Scotland well—that no Highland regiment will welcome conscripts. The man who has to be conscripted into a Highland regiment will have a very rough time. This advertisement, appealing for recruits, and again signed by the officers of the recruiting stations, makes a great point of the following:—An officer in authority in addressing troops lately said, 'my list word to young men is that they had better enlist within the next three weeks, because, if they are not enlisted we are coming for them.'These things may not have any relation to this National Register; they may not or they may, I do not say that they have, but I am putting a perfectly legitimate point, and if the sense of the Committee is that they do not agree with, and that they do not desire this kind of thing, then, personally, I should not pursue this Amendment any further. I only take this opportunity of raising it because I think it is a fair point to raise, that that kind of thing ought to be stopped, and ought to be stopped at once, and that the view of both sides of the House of Commons ought to be definitely expressed in that direction, or, at any rate, it ought to be made clear that that kind of thing receives no sympathy from this House, and that they deplore a kind of letter which, if persisted in, would wreck any attempt to get this National Register.
§ Mr. LONG
I do not want for a moment to suggest that the House of Commons should shirk any reasonable debate upon any part of this Bill that calls for full discussion, but I respectfully submit that this question of compulsion underlay the whole of the Debate which took place on the Second Reading. The part of the Bill that really led my hon. Friend and his supporters in this House to oppose the Bill with great ability and great vigour was that we were laying an obligation upon the people of this country to do that which they might be unwilling to do. I do not desire to treat my hon. Friend with any want of respect, but I can only deal with his argument by repeating the arguments 428 that I used on the Second Reading. My hon. Friend, in moving his Amendment, has sought to support his argument by reading one or two letters which appear to have been addressed to men by recruiting officers. I think I have quite enough to do, at all events for the present, to be responsible for the sins of my own Department, if we commit any sins, and I do not think it is quite fair to call upon me in a Debate of this kind to reply for the War Office and all its numerous recruiting officers who are spread all over the country. I may, however, be permitted to say this, that, so far as the Government of which I have the honour to be a Member is concerned, there is no authority whatever for any man, speaking in the name of the War Office, which is represented in the Government, to go to his neighbours and exercise towards them any kind of compulsion in regard to the action they might take as to joining the Army.
In saying that I wish to make it perfectly clear that I have no authority on this occasion to speak for the Government on special matters because they do not arise, but I know the mind of my colleagues, and I say without any hesitation that, in my judgment, it would be a criminal act on the part of the Government to admit now that their hands were tied and that they would be unable at any time to take any course which might seem to them desirable in the interests of the country. To make a statement of that kind would be to do a great injustice to the Prime Minister and his colleagues. Whilst saying that, however, I say that there is no authority for the issue of letters of the kind read by the hon. Member, and I sincerely hope that they will not be repeated. So far as the National Register goes, I do not think that these matters have any bearing upon it. So far as I know there will be no attempt on the part of the people who will prepare the register to make an improper use of the information they obtain. I am ready, if the Committee wishes when we reach that part of the Bill, to strengthen it in regard to secrecy if that is thought to be desirable. As regards improper advances to men and attempts to exercise improper influence or to improperly use the information gained in connection with the compiling of this National Register, I believe there is no reason whatever for anxiety, and I hope my hon. Friend, having secured his object by the ventilation of this matter, may be 429 good enough to withdraw his Amendment and let us get to the Amendments of the Bill rather than to discussion on principles.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Mr. RAWLINSON
I beg to move to leave out the words "A register shall be formed" ["A register shall be formed of all persons"], and to insert instead thereof the words "A Census shall be taken."
I do not do this in any sort of hostility towards the principles of the Bill. I urged very strongly last August that such a Bill should be introduced, and I am equally keen upon it now as I was then. My object in introducing these words are twofold. First as regards the mere name, probably the name would be more familiar than any new name and therefore likely to cause less trouble. But that is not really my point in pressing the Government to accept the Amendment. My object is to ask the Government to see if they cannot make this Bill more nearly like a Census Bill than it is at the present time. I think they will have very great difficulties with the Bill as it stands which they would not have if it were a Census Bill. I take two points by way of illustration. The first is this: Under a Census Bill, which this Bill would be if my Amendment is carried, the Census is taken on one particular night, and the return is to be sent in by the head of the household at that particular time. You will be far less likely to lose people by a system like that than you will be in making a register which gives fourteen days, or whatever may be the particular time, in which to return the papers. It would strengthen the Bill very much if the Government would agree to adopt the Census arrangements of a single night and place the responsibility upon the head of the house for making a proper return on that particular day. In addition, it would save a very large amount of expense. Take the case of a household in which there are a large number of people, say, eleven or twelve, or probably more. You will, under this Bill, perhaps send eleven or twelve forms, whereas Under the Census principle you will simply send one form to the head of the house. There is another point upon which I prefer the Census principle to this 430 Bill, and it is a very important point, namely, the question of residence which appears in this Bill. I have had enough experience from the legal point of view to know the terrible pitfalls that; occur round that word "residence," and the difficulty of saying when you make the return where the person's residence is.
Take, for example, the case of a large number of wealthy Members of this House, who have a house in London and a house in the country, and a staff of servants who go from one house to the other. Where does such an hon. Member reside? Probably he would be returned as residing in London. At the end of the Parliamentary Session he goes to his home in the country, and all his servants go there at the same time. The fresh registration of every one of those servants has to take place, for they are probably going away for six months, and it is not a mere temporary absence. If it is done by the head of the house there is a comparatively small amount of trouble. If it is done by each person separately, then there is a considerable amount of trouble. If this Bill is to apply to both men and women, probably one of the types of women of whom you would wish to have an accurate register, more than anybody else, are trained hospital nurses. Take the case of such a nurse who has left hospital and is working on her own account. She has no residence in the ordinary sense of the word. She probably belongs to a nurses' co-operative society, or something of that kind, which acts as agents for her in London, and she is sent to different parts of the country. Where is that nurse to be returned as really residing? Obviously she is residing only temporarily in the place where she is on the particular occasion when the list is compiled. When there is a fresh case for her she goes somewhere else.
Difficulties of that kind will occur continually, and make it difficult to enforce a Bill such as this against a particular person who has failed to register in the proper way. In the case of a Census you have a particular date. There is no question of residence there. Each person is enrolled or registered on the particular day, and if he changes his residence no great difficulty arises. This Bill, of which I am strongly in favour, needs strengthening rather than weakening on any particular point. The class of person we want to make sure we shall get in this Bill is the class of person who may not be so very 431 willing to put himself down. A person may have a servant to whom he is very much attached, and whom he thinks indispensable—a chauffeur, or something of that kind. The head of the household would think twice before incurring penalties by failing to return such a person, but there will be a great temptation to the person who is receiving good wages not to make that return.
§ Mr. RAWLINSON
If the right hon. Gentleman thinks that it would be more convenient I will accede to his suggestion. I am strongly in favour of this Bill. I think that the word "Census" would be more useful than register. The prejudice may be unreasonable, but people are accustomed to Census and are not accustomed to registration. If the Government do not wish me to pursue the point I will renew what I wish to say later on, and I now merely move the Amendment.
§ Mr. LONG
I hope that my hon. and learned Friend will not think it necessary to pursue the Amendment. With regard to the subject to which he refers in the latter part of his speech, I submit that that should be raised under Clause 4. Unlike my hon. and learned Friend, I attach great importance to the word "register." I am most desirous of impressing on the country that this is not a Census. A Census is taken in peace time, and is used mainly for statistical purposes. I made it clear on the Second Beading that one of the reasons for making this proposal is that we want something more than a Census. We want a register in which shall appear the names of the people in this country who are available for work. If we call it a Census we shall not only have confusion between the ordinary Census and what is proposed by this Bill, but we should not arouse in people's minds what we want to arouse, namely, the conviction that they are being asked to do something special which they will not be asked to do in peace time.
§ Mr. LAMBERT
Personally, I think that it is rather an improper thing for the right hon. Gentleman to say that he will accept nothing from me. I may assure the right hon. Gentleman that my object now is to try to improve the Bill. I accept the position in which it was left at the end of the Second Beading, and I accept the Division. My sole desire is to try to improve this Bill and to try to make it a workable measure. I should have considered it a great improvement if the word "Census" were substituted for the word "register." I believe that a great many people would prefer the word Census. Register is a name which they do not understand. Census is a name which they do understand. For that reason I hope, in spite of the fact that the right hon. Gentleman does not mean to accept anything which I suggest, that he will reconsider his decision.
§ Mr. PRINGLE
I hope that the right hon. Gentleman is not going to treat everybody who speaks in this part of the House in the same spirit as he has treated my hon. Friend (Mr. Lambert). In reference to the Amendment of the hon. Member for the Cambridge University (Mr. Rawlinson) I really think there is some importance in the question. In all countries we live to a large extent under the tyranny of words, and after all the word "register" has acquired a special meaning in regard to this particular proposal. It has been elevated into a shibboleth by certain sections of the Tress. The word "Census" is a word with which the people of the country are acquainted. It covers a definite kind of investigation. It is one to which the people of this country take no exception. In these circumstances I think that from that point of view it deserves some favourable consideration, but I submit a further point of view. In the very able speech with which the Chancellor of the Exchequer wound up the Debate on the Second Heading, his main contention was that the object of this Bill was statistics, that it was to obtain information, to get at facts. Obviously a Census is the appropriate term for such a method of obtaining information. If it is only facts that we desire to record surely Census is the appropriate term, and if it will, to some extent, allay suspicion or diminish prejudice, surely the Government will be well advised to accept an Amendment on a small point like this, which will do some- 433 thing to improve the reception which the Bill will receive at the hands of, at least, a small section of the people of this country.
§ Sir STEPHEN COLLINS
I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will accept the frank statement of the hon. Member who spoke just now and that at the commencement he will endeavour to throw oil on the troubled waters and thus help the situation very much. It is unlike the right hon. Gentleman to make the remark which he made just now. I hope that he will accept the suggestion. He will get all that he wants if he does so. I trust my hon. and learned Friend will not withdraw his Amendment.
§ Sir WALTER ESSEX
I should prefer the Amendment to be accepted. Still, Jet us get on. I would ask the right hon. Gentleman the meaning of one statement which he made—that he desires certain specific information on the register. Of course, if he wants it he will probably get it, but are there among the items of information which he desires any which are not included in the ordinary Census?
§ Mr. LONG
I am not familiar with the ordinary Census, but I am assured by the Registrar-General, who is responsible, that the Census would not give the information which we want. If we require this particular information we must have it in the form of registration. I should like to say at once quite frankly that I regret very much the remark which I made a moment ago, which certainly ought not to have been made, and without any qualification I wish to express my regret.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Mr. WHITEHOUSE
I beg to move, after the word "all," to insert the word "male."
I think that the right hon. Gentleman who is in charge of the Bill will acknowledge at once that, although an Amendment of considerable importance, this is an Amendment which is relevant to the? Committee stage.
§ Mr. WHITEHOUSE
I am very glad to have the assent of my right hon. Friend to the statement that it was a matter which could not be adequately dealt with on the 434 occasion of the Debate on the Second Reading. The effect of my Amendment—
§ Mr. LEIF JONES
On a point of Order. It was ruled on the occasion of a Bill introduced a Session or two ago that the insertion of women into the Bill would so change its character as to constitute a new Bill, and that therefore that Amendment could not be moved. In view of that ruling, I would ask whether it is in order now, it having been decided that a register be taken of all men and women in this country between the ages of fifteen and sixty-five, to make the proposed alteration, which would change the character of the Bill so as to become a new Bill, with the result that it would have to be sent back?
§ The DEPUTY-CHAIRMAN (Mr. Maclean)
On the occasion to which the hon. and learned Gentleman refers it was an extension of the Bill which was proposed. This is a restriction of the Bill, and on that ground I sec no reason why the Amendment should not be moved.
§ Mr. LEIF JONES
On that ground would it be in order afterwards to move that men be excluded from the Bill? I venture to point out to the Chairman that the mere fact that it is a restriction does not bring the Amendment within the rules of Order, because it could be such a great restriction that it would really nullify the principle decided by the Second Reading.
§ The DEPUTY-CHAIRMAN
The ruling from the Chair must be taken with an ordinary common-sense interpretation, and to propose to leave out the word "male" would be simply to make the Bill ridiculous. If I was in the Chair I would rule, and I think that others who would follow me would also rule, such an Amendment as that out of order.
§ Mr. LEIF JONES
I do not know as a fact whether there are more men or women coming on the register, but I rather think that it is a larger Amendment to leave the women than the men out of the Bill.
§ Mr. WHITEHOUSE
The effect of my Amendment, with a consequential one also upon the Paper, would be to remove women entirely from the operation of this Bill, and to make a register only of male persons in this country. If my right hon. Friend is not prepared to accept this Amendment in the sweeping form in which it stands, he will, I know, be ready to admit that there are many difficulties in 435 connection with the registration of women which will have to be met and faced and dealt with in the Committee stage of this Bill. So far as I am concerned, my own opinion with regard to the devotion and self-sacrifice of the women of this country during the War, is that their conduct has proved the justification, and triumph, and glory of the voluntary system. I think the same will be true of the men. But I am dealing now with the question of women, and I suggest, if for that reason alone, that it is unnecessary to include women within the operation of this Bill. My right hon. Friend knows well enough, and I think he has given the information to the House, that when the women of the country were asked voluntarily to register themselves for War service in this country, enormous numbers did so, and about 100,000 women are being registered at the Labour Exchanges. It is well known that it has only been found possible to avail ourselves of the services of a very small proportion of these women. So that on the general aspect of the question, I would respectfully submit that you have only to ask for the services of women in any capacity in which they are fitted to serve, to receive offers from overwhelming numbers of them. Therefore, on those grounds, I think the inclusion of women is unnecessary.
But I want to point out to the President of the Local Government Board some real difficulties which would immediately arise if you desire to apply this register to women. My hon. Friend who raised the point of Order (Mr. Leif Jones), said the Bill would affect a larger number of women than of men. It will affect school girls of fifteen years of age, and old women of sixty-five. [An HON. MEMBER: "Young women of sixty-five."] I am reminded that they are young women at sixty-five. I want to ask the President of the Local Government Board whether he intends to apply the register to girls of fifteen. There are some tens of thousands—I am very anxious not to exaggerate the number—of school girls between the ages of fifteen and eighteen who are at this moment at boarding schools throughout the country. Is it seriously suggested that those school girls, if they have to fill up this form, each individually, and state the work they are prepared immediately to undertake, and, failing to do so, will be brought before the tribunal and be fined £5. and a continuing fine of £1 per day? 436 You have only to state the case with regard to this aspect of the question to show that the Bill as it stands must be modified in order to meet a very real difficulty that would affect many thousands of children.
But I pass from that point to a more general point. There would be brought within the operation of this Bill some millions of women, who are wives with young children. I submit very respectfully for the consideration of the Committee that we do not desire women, the wives of workmen, with young children, to do anything else in this time of war than care for their families. We do not wish to present a form of register to these women, whose time is fully occupied in doing the best service they can to the country in this time of war by raising a healthy family. We do not wish them to do anything else than attend to their children. To submit this form to them, and ask them what work they are willing immediately to perform, and the nature thereof, is to bring a most disturbing influence into our social life, of a kind and character that will bring us no compensation. [An HON. MEMBER: "Divide."] I do not know, Mr. Maclean, why — having received the assurance of the right hon. Gentleman who is in charge of this Bill that my point is relevant, and one he wishes to see discussed—my relevant observations should be interrupted in this rude manner by the hon. Member for Pontefract (Mr. Booth), who distinguishes himself so frequently by preventing the business of this House being proceeded with when in accordance with the desire of Members. I do not allow myself those unmannerly interruptions. However, that is a digression into which I have been led.
I continue my argument as to what the Bill would gain by the omission of women. In the constituency of my hon. Friend, if he will allow me to call him so, the hon. Baronet the Member for the City of London, should this registration be taken there, I believe the form would have to be filled up by thousands of aged charwomen, cleaners, and caretakers. Can it be seriously suggested that it will in any sense be an organisation of our resources to have all over the country these full details concerning the affairs of aged charwomen or office keepers? I am not speaking in any sense disrespectfully, but I am perfectly certain when I say that the difficulty relating to, at least, these people is that they cannot in any way aid us in 437 the work which this Bill seeks to do. For these reasons, and because I feel that many thousands of women, many hundreds of thousands of women—I think I might say, without exaggeration, many millions of women—would feel the utmost difficulty in replying to the questions on the form, and in any sense suggesting how they could be better employed than they are at present. For these reasons I think the Bill would be more efficient, more workable, and more capable of organising the resources of this country if this Amendment were accepted.
§ Mr. COWAN
Further down on the Paper I have an Amendment in the same sense as that of the hon. Member for Mid-Lanark (Mr. Whitehouse), but I differ from him in some of the reasons which he has given for excluding women from the Bill. I understand he is against the measure on principle, but I am strongly in favour of it. In my Amendment to which I have referred I propose the exclusion of women mainly because that would very largely reduce the cost of making the register. Out of 33,000,000 included in the register some 13,000,000 would be women, and that would reduce the cost of making the register by about half, while facilitating its completion very much, and it is regarded, I understand, as a very important matter. As a proposition of abstract justice I think there is much to be said for the argument that so long as women are deprived of any exercise of political rights it is not fair to lay upon them additional obligations. On the point of age it ought not to be expected that women over thirty will give, or can be expected to give, a correct answer. It is neither fair nor reasonable to expect it. On the other hand, if women of sixty-five are registered, they will be of no value for the purposes of national service. If the object of the Bill, the remote object of the Bill, is ultimately to facilitate the introduction of a measure of compulsion that, I submit, would be an additional reason for excluding women from the purview of this measure, because there is no idea in any quarter of the House of compelling women to do anything. We all know that we cannot compel women to do anything. We have no great hope that we can do much in those directions. We cannot compel them to do anything whatever, and we cannot compel them even to register. If this Bill is passed in its present form I 438 predict with entire confidence that women will refuse to register, and that they will not be penalised for refusing. If you want a Bill for the purpose of registering and taking stock of the resources of the country it would be a pity to cumber it with a, provision that would not be operative and would be very unnecessary.
§ Mr. THOMAS
I rise to oppose the Amendment, because, with the greatest respect to my hon. Friend, I consider that many of the arguments he adduced are not arguments relevant to this particular matter. There may be good or bad reasons for dealing with women of fifteen or of sixty-five, but these are matters of detail in regard to ages which can be dealt with on the Committe stage. In regard to the hon. Gentleman's argument as to boarding school girls, nothing would prompt me more, and convince me that I was right in my opposition, than this very objection which he raised. Once you let it get abroad that a particular class is to be exempted it would be fatal to the whole thing. Surely if you are going to exempt boarding-school young women of eighteen years of age [HON. MEMBERS: "No, no!"] The Mover of the Amendment adduced as an argument that one of the difficulties, and one of the primary reasons of his moving the exclusion of women, was because there were tens of thousands, to use his own phrase, of young girls between fifteen and eighteen at boarding schools, and surely, he said, it was not contemplated to ask information from them. That was his argument. I submit that if they are not to be asked then the hundreds of thousands of young girls from fourteen years upwards, who are compelled to work long before that age, have no right to be asked. I submit that that was the argument of the hon. Member [HON. MEMBERS: "No, no!"] You may say "no," but that was one of the reasons he gave for the exclusion of women from fifteen to eighteen. That is one of the reasons I am giving for their inclusion, and instead of women resenting, as the hon. Gentleman said, more responsibility being placed upon them because they have not the franchise. I think all the evidence goes to show that they would resent being excluded, and that they are anxious and willing and trying to do all they can. If I understand the object of this register at all it is to be able to have information so that suitable people can release suitable men for the Army. If it is not that it means nothing. 439 It is true to say that since the War large numbers of women have taken up positions that men formerly occupied, and entirely different to their previous positions, with the result that unless you know the real "work that women are doing to-day, as you will by the register, it would be impossible for you to use your information to any advantage. The next point urged in favour of the Amendment was with regard to wives and young children. I contend that that is all a matter of dealing with the form that is to be issued, and how the form is to be used. That refers to the administration of the Act, and has nothing whatever to do with the principle that we are now discussing. First, on the ground of an effective register, and, secondly, on the ground that the women of this country would resent being excluded, and on the more important ground still that any register of men alone would be useless for practicable purposes, I oppose the Amendment.
§ Mr. W. LONG
I desire to submit the position of the Government with regard to this particular question. When I first made it my duty to prepare this Bill I did not include women. My reason for that exclusion was that it was extremely desirable to get the return as rapidly as possible, and I thought it would be best to confine the register to men in the first instance, and follow it up by a register of women. The information as to what the Government propose to do, as the Committee are aware, is really in the possession of the Government themselves alone, but they learn a good deal of what they are going to do from people outside. This information came into the possession of other people, and the result of that was, as the hon. Member for Derby (Mr. J. H. Thomas) has correctly surmised, that women, quite regardless of old differences on the electoral question, made an almost unanimous demand upon my colleagues and myself that they should be included in the Bill. They assured us, many of them, and if I could give their names it would be seen that they are most representative of women, that women would not only resent being excluded but would look upon it as a serious rebuff and wholly unjustifiable in face of the splendid services they have rendered already in the prosecution of the War. I think that by itself would justify their inclusion.
The Proposer and Seconder of the Amendment asked were we going to take 440 the names of girls at school and mothers of families, and then came a phrase, to which I do most earnestly ask the attention of the Committee. I am no pessimist, I am quite the reverse. I am an optimist, and over and above an optimist I have an unconquerable belief in my country and my race. But I do believe that my country has never been faced with a graver situation than the one we find ourselves in at this moment. I would beg hon. Gentlemen, when they are discussing these questions, not to look at them through our own glasses but to try to look at the situation through the glasses of our Allies. What did my hon. Friend behind say? He said, referring to women as if we were in peace times, "We do not wish them to do other than they are doing, attending to their babies and their homes." Then he said that to bring this idea of a register for national service into their minds and homes would be a disturbing element. A disturbing element at this moment, after eleven months of war! Indeed, we do not wish women to be diverted from their ordinary domestic occupations, and we do not wish or desire that they should desert their children, but must we not remember and try if we can, and it is difficult for those who have not seen the scenes, to realise what is the fate of women and children in many parts of France and Belgium at this moment. It is not enough for us to thank Heaven with all our hearts that the fate of our women and children is better than theirs. It is for us to spare nothing, to spare no effort, to leave no stone unturned, which will enable us to prevent our women and children being overtaken by the cruel fate which has overtaken the women and children of those countries. Therefore I submit we cannot look on these questions as we approach them in ordinary times. Women would resent being excluded. But further than that, women are already doing the work of men in many capacities, and doing it wholly admirably. May I venture to interpolate the remark that men will have to look to their laurels after the War is over if they are going to return to avocations which women have now adopted in their place.
When I was discussing this Bill with a friend the other day, he said, "What is your register going to do? Are you going to apply to this body of men and that body of men, because if you do you will interfere and possibly stop existing social services which are most important?" My 441 answer is that it is not mine or the Government's register that is going to stop them. How do you know if things do not alter that circumstances are not going to stop those social services, and how do you know that you may not have to turn into war service all the work that is now being done in ordinary domestic or commercial concerns? That is the fact, the great solemn fact, which we have got to realise to-day, and we are forced to take exceptional measures not only to deal with the present but to deal with the future. In that future service women may not only be of the greatest value, but we may not be able to do without them. Therefore I think the Government were justified in their decision that this register ought not to be confined to men alone, and I hope the Committee will support them in that decision.
§ Mr. PRINGLE
I think it is quite desirable that the Government should hear the views of at least some members of the Committee. I did not understand that the right hon. Gentleman desired to close the Debate upon this question. I only wish to put one or two practical points as against the decision at which the Government have arrived. In my view the inclusion of women is a mistake in the interests of the Bill, and I wish to discuss every Amendment on which I speak on the basis of improving the Bill. I am not arguing as regards the principle. [An HON. MEMBER: "You protest too much!" and other HON. MEMBERS: "Divide!"] I am quite content for my conduct to be judged on my action through the Committee stage. The objections to the inclusion of women are, I submit, three. The inclusion of women means loss of time and loss of money, and diminishes the efficiency of the register. Undoubtedly if you include 13,000,000 women, and that is about the number, you are greatly increasing the time which will be taken in making up the register, and consequently in making it available for the purposes of the country. In the second place, the inclusion of 13,000,000 women will undoubtedly very largely increase the cost of the operation. And then, most of all, there is the question of the utility of their inclusion. At present there is a voluntary register of women for war service, and 87,000 women have registered themselves. That register has been opened since, I think, April, and the Government have only been able to place 442 2,000 of those 87,000 women. [HON MEMBERS: "Divide, divide."] I think, under those circumstances, viewing the result of that voluntary effort, and the inability of the Government to use the services of those who have volunteered that it is absolutely useless to have this compulsory register, which I think will be absolutely valueless for the purpose the Government have in view. Those who do not wish to see the Bill effective would prefer to see this provision as to women included, but as I desire improvement I hope the Amendment will be accepted.
§ Sir S. COLLINS
I think it would be a great mistake to leave out women, and I think the young girls in our boarding-schools would be greatly disappointed not to be in this register. They are willing, active, full of intelligence and strong to do all that they can. They would be willing, I am sure, in our national emergency to do anything if called: upon. I did not like the attack that the hon. Member made on those fair ladies represented by the hon. Baronet the-Member for the City (Sir F. Banbury). They are not all old women. The hon. Baronet will bear me out that some of those ladies who tidy out the offices are some of the youngest and the fairest and the strongest in the City of London. They also would feel it a very great slight on them if they were let down. I am sure they would be able to take up-and do their part, and I oppose the Amendment with all my heart.
§ Mr. OUTHWAITE
Hon. Members-opposite who are in favour of conscription seem to think that no Members on this side have a right to be heard.
§ The CHAIRMAN
I would ask the hon. Member not to make remarks of that kind, I will see that he has a hearing.
§ 7.0 P.M.
§ Mr. OUTHWAITE
I would not have made that remark, but my hon. Friend the Member for North-West Lanark (Mr. Pringle) was also interrupted. I do not agree that the exclusion of women would be an improvement. As I understand, the only object of getting the names and the employment of these people is to find whether their services can be better utilised in another direction. The chief object of getting a list of men's names and 443 employments, and a list of women's names and possible employments, is that you will be able to go to employers of labour and say, "You have such a number of men in your employ who we think would be better employed in another way, and here we have a certain number of women who are capable of taking the jobs of these men." It is only by having a register of women that you will be able to supplant the labour of these men by the employment of women, and draw the men out to other services.
§ Amendment negatived.
§ The following Amendment stood in the name of the hon. Member for North Somerset (Mr. King): "To leave out the words 'male and female,' and to insert instead thereof the words 'of either sex.'"
§ The CHAIRMAN
The Amendment of the hon. Member for North Somerset does not appear to me to add anything to the Bill.
§ Sir LEO CHIOZZA MONEY
I beg to move to leave out the words "male and female, between the ages of fifteen and sixty-five," and to insert instead thereof the words "in the case of males between the ages of fifteen and fifty-five, and in the case of females between the ages of fifteen and forty-five."
I freely confess that the point to which my Amendment is addressed is an exceedingly difficult one. In a matter of this kind one is bound to set up arbitrary limits of some sort, and I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman, in framing this measure, found very great difficulty in deciding what those limits should be. The arbitrary limits that I suggest are probably open to criticism on many grounds. I put them down, not by any means in a dogmatic way, but merely to raise the subject for discussion. Their chief point of recommendation is that we want to bring this measure into effect at the earliest possible moment, and obviously, quite apart from any arbitrary line that you may draw, the lower ages would include a larger number of the people whom we want to register. I have been furnished with the numbers who would be excluded if my-Amendment were accepted, and I find that about 4,500,000 names would come out. If we add, say, 2,500,000 of enlisted males— I cannot name a definite figure—we arrive at 7,000,000 names to be taken out of the 25,000,000 who would probably require to be dealt with under this measure.
§ Sir CHIOZZA MONEY
Yes, that includes the whole of the United Kingdom. On that ground there is a good deal to be said for the Amendment. Fears have been expressed that the work in connection with this Bill would take a very long time—so long as to make the measure impracticable. That is not the case. Even with the ages in the Bill as it stands—and this is to some extent an argument against my Amendment—the probability is that useful information would be available in about eight weeks. If my Amendment were accepted it is probable that we should take a week or two off that time. That week or two is a very valuable period, as time is of the essence of everything that we do in connection with this War. I rejoice that the Committee have rejected the view that women should be left out of the Bill. I think that women would clamour to come in. The same remark applies, in some measure, to some of the people, both men and women, who would be excluded if my Amendment were accepted. Here, again, the argument is against my own Amendment, but I want to put the whole case fairly as I see it. It seems to me that a considerable number of men over fifty-five, and of women over forty-five, would like to be included in the register. If, therefore, my Amendment or any modification of it is accepted, I hope the Government will devise some form of words to enable men and women outside the arbitrary limits, whatever they are, to come in and be registered if they so desire.
§ The CHAIRMAN
Before I put the Amendment, I had better draw the attention of the Committee to the fact that I propose to put it in such a way as to save the question of the ages. It seems to me that the real first question raised by this Amendment, and the only one needing to be decided here, is whether a difference as to age shall be made between men and women. Later we shall proceed to discuss the ages. That is the businesslike way of proceeding.
§ Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out, down to the word 'fifteen' ['between the ages of fifteen and sixty-five'], stand part of the Clause."445
§ Mr. ROCH
I think there was great force in what the Mover of the Amendment said as to the difficulty of knowing where to draw the line. While I think it desirable that women should be included in the Bill, I think it is equally desirable to limit the numbers as far as it can fairly be done. That is to say, you should limit the number of women to be registered to those who can be really effective when you have the register. In the interests of the register itself, it is desirable that the number should be limited as far as possible. After all, the practical difficulties are not in the way of getting the register, but in classifying the register when you have it, and of having your material in such a form that you can handle it properly. The difficulty that employers of labour are finding is not in getting a mass of men on their books, but in weeding them out and getting effective men. In the same way, the practical difficulty in regard to this register will be to get it so tabulated that it may be easily accessible, and to have it classified in such a form that you can readily ascertain where you can put your hand on the people you require. Therefore, while I have not sufficient knowledge of Census returns or of ages to know how far the Government can wisely limit the Bill, I am certain that the more they limit it the less will be the difficulties of classification and the more effective the register will be.
§ Mr. THOMAS
This is the most impracticable Amendment on the Paper. In the first place, we are only as old as we feel. If you start, as you would by this Amendment, to fix the age at fifty-five for men, it is just likely that you would rule out the very people you require to get. For instance, there are thousands of men who, years ago, came into superannuation schemes which have enabled them to retire at fifty-five—very often men in the best of health who, by means of a little garden and their superannuation allowance, are able to eke out a living. This applies in many cases to engineers, especially at sixty years of age. Those are the very people you want to include, because large numbers of them could be utilised at their old trade. But the Amendment rules them out. On the other hand, a new situation arises so far as women are concerned. It is very questionable whether women over fifty-five would be useful. That is an arguable point. There is nothing in the contention of the Mover of the Amendment on that score. 446 I submit that, if this register is to be effective, it must embrace those large numbers of men who have left the avocations which they followed in their early days, but could usefully go back to thorn for emergency work, and thus relieve other people.
§ Mr. CAVE
I gather that my right hon. Friend would like to hear the views of the Committee on this subject. There is much truth in two points put forward by an hon. Member opposite. First, it is important to reduce the number to whom the register applies, if by so doing you do not destroy or impair the efficiency of the Bill. Secondly, if you reduce the number, you save time, not so much in preparing the register as in working it out and getting the results together. Therefore the point the Committee has to consider is, will the ages given in the Bill give exactly the right limits? If you exclude from the register men over a certain age, you do not therefore prevent yourself from getting their help. The older men would be most likely—indeed, quite certain, if they are able to render assistance—to volunteer their services.
§ Mr. THOMAS
That destroys the very object of the Bill—if you can do everything voluntarily. The great argument has been that you want it done in an organised way. The real complaint is that you have square pegs in round holes.
§ Mr. CAVE
I do not think that the remark of the hon. Gentleman destroys the point I was making. I am strongly in favour of making the Bill compulsory. I am pointing out that by excluding men over sixty you do not necessarily lose their help, because you may still get it by their volunteering. The second point I want to make is that I do think there should be a difference made between men and women. A difference is made in many Acts of Parliament. A man of sixty may be fit for a special kind of work, though a woman of sixty is not so. Therefore I hope that the suggestion will not be ruled out that some distinction should be made in the matter between the two sexes. As regards the exact ages to be chosen it is very difficult to come to a decision. I do think it would not be far wrong if the age were fixed for men at sixty and for women at something over fifty, say fifty-five.
§ Mr. LEIF JONES
I hope the right hon. Gentleman will not accept this Amendment, and for two reasons: one is that I 447 think that the register would be much more readily accepted by the country if it covered every man and woman between the ages named. There would be no distinction. Everyone would feel that his neighbours of both sexes were subjected to the same compulsion. There would thus be no grievance of any kind that one was let off. Whilst I appreciate what has been said about the possibility of the difference in capacity, if you lowered the age for women to forty-five you would cut out a number of women who are just the people free now to render service to the country. They have finished with the cares of their young family, who have grown up, and they have a good deal of leisure, and are ready to render what service they can to the country.
§ Sir J. D. REES
It would be very unfortunate to introduce into the Bill the age of fifty-five, which, for instance, is the age at which many active young fellows, who have spent about a quarter of a century abroad in the public service, come back to this country feeling full of zeal and willing to do what they can. What about men like Lord Cromer, and others in the other House? The age of fifty-five is altogether too early. I sincerely hope ray right hon. Friend will stick to the ages in the Bill, It would be a very great advantage, for reasons given by my hon. Friend the Member for Rushcliffe (Mr. Leif Jones), that the project should be made as comprehensive as possible.
§ Mr. LONG
This is really the most difficult question to decide in the Bill. I am not going to go into the field so completely covered by hon. Members on both sides of the House as to the merits or demerits of particular statements in regard to the private history of the women of the country The ordinary objections in this matter, in so far as the women are concerned, will at the present time, I think, be entirely swept away by the profound desire of the women to serve their country in any capacity for which their strength and ability fit them. It was curious to note, when we had the preparation of this measure in hand, how different was the feeling outside to that inside the House. Directly after the introduction of this Bill, when it was known that the ages were fifteen to sixty-five, I received some abusive—perhaps that is too strong, but, say, angry—letters, like one from a gentleman who said to me, "Why, I am seventy-one, and I am still as fit and strong 448 as ever I was. I am longing to do some work for my country. I can do work which younger men are doing. Why leave me out?" I can assure gentlemen like the one I refer to that he can voluntarily add his name to the list.
The fact—I believe it to be a fact—that many of the older men in the country will voluntarily place their-services at the disposal of the country through the register, or in any other way, does not dispose of the case of, or the necessity for, the Bill. There is undoubtedly a certain number of people in this country—I am not going to say how large that number is; I do not know, but I hope and believe it is small—who have not yet placed their services at the disposal of the country and who are of the right age in the sense that they are full of activity and are young. Compulsion is needed for them. I have never concealed the fact that it is the intention of the Government deliberately to compel these people to enter their names on a list so that there may be proof of their existence, and where they live, should the opportunity come to avail ourselves of their services. What the ages should be is very difficult to say. I am very sorry that having gone out of the room for a little while, thinking that the previous Debate would run for a few minutes longer—to be frank with the Committee, I went to have a cup of tea—I did not hear the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for North-East Hants (Sir Leo Chiozza Money) because I understood he put the case for his Amendment, as he always does, with great clearness and in a very attractive manner. The impression left upon my mind after listening to this short and businesslike Debate is that on the whole the numbers indicated by the Government in the Bill are the numbers that should stand. They were the subject of careful consideration on our part, a great deal of investigation, and not a little communication with people who would be likely to know. On the whole, therefore, I would ask the Committee to allow the numbers to remain as they are, and not even to make any distinction between the sexes. No doubt there will be critics. Some will say the adoption of the Amendment would save time and labour. But, on the whole, I think the Government are upon the side of leaving the numbers as they are, and not making a change, which we should be making somewhat hurriedly at the present time, in view of the very careful consideration which we gave to the preparation of the Bill.
§ Mr. WHITEHOUSE
May I put one question to the right hon. Gentleman in order to shorten the Debate? Will he be able at a later stage of the Bill to meet the point of the school children who are not under their parent's roof—children at boarding and private schools?
§ Mr. LONG
My hon. Friend means school children—girls—[An HON. MEMBER: "Boys as well!"]—who are at various schools. I confess I myself am strongly in favour of their registration. Let me remind the Committee that this register is to be taken now. I hope it will be taken within a very few weeks. I hope it will be operative, if required, during the next eighteen months or so. It may be essential to have all in. No one can say the various purposes to which these girls of sixteen or eighteen can be put to to relieve people who are older from different kinds of work. I do not think the inconvenience will be great. I am sure no harm will happen to these girls by their being included. Let us have all the information and numbers we can, and then let us make the best of it.
§ Mr. DUKE
I only intervene for one moment. I have great misgiving about these ages, as have other hon. Members, but after what the right hon. Gentleman has just said, I am completely satisfied. "With regard to the potent argument of the hon. Member for North-West Hants, might I suggest to the right hon. Gentleman that to save time perhaps it would be practicable to cast out at present the outer limits of age, in which case you? could classify the inner limits and deal with them first, and the outer limits somewhat later.
§ Sir S. COLLINS
I think I understood the right hon. Gentleman to say that those who wish to put down their names might do so voluntarily, even though they are beyond the age limit. If that is so would it not be as well if the right hon. Gentleman said that clearly, so that it might go out to the country generally?
§ Sir W. ESSEX
I have an Amendment down presently asking that the age should be seventeen, instead of fifteen. Might I ask the right hon. Gentleman whether he means to be inflexible upon that point? I feel very strongly upon it, but I do not want, at the moment, to multiply words. I feel if he takes into 450 the register tender children of fifteen or sixteen, even in a time of extremity like this, he will make heartburning, even if he does not make his Bill ridiculous. I beg him to make the beginning age of these children sixteen or seventeen at the very least.
§ Sir CHIOZA MONEY
After what the right hon. Gentleman has said, and having in view the general sense of the House on my Amendment, I beg leave to withdraw it.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Mr. KING
I beg to move to leave out the word "fifteen" ["ages of fifteen and sixty-five"], and to insert instead thereof the word "eighteen."
I hope the right hon. Gentleman will very seriously consider whether the age might not be raised. I am quite certain that the age of fifteen is too low. Even if we want to have a number of these young people of both sexes working for the good of their country in various callings and avocations, the best way for them to get to work is through their parents and through local or personal influences and relationship, and not through the National Register. I also want to call attention to this fact: There will be, in connection with this register, undoubtedly a very large number of ineffective offers of service quite beside the mark. People will offer to do work for which they are totally unsuited. The people who are most likely to make these offers are young people who have enthusiasm and great ideals, but who have no real experience or ability to serve except in the way which their parents or superiors indicate, and their voluntary offers of service will not, to my mind, be of any real use to the country. I do seriously ask the President of the Local Government Board to consider whether he will not raise the age, if not to the eighteenth year, which I suggest, at any rate higher than he has already gone in his Bill.
§ Mr. DENMAN
I only want to raise one practical point. This register may have a life of several years, and I should like to know whether, subsequently to the original taking of the census, a person reaching the age of fifteen years is thereupon under the obligation to register. I venture to suggest the Bill is not very clear. 451 So far as I understand it, anybody becoming fifteen after the passage of the Bill is liable to register, but I should like to have an assurance on that point.
§ Mr. THOMAS
The one point I want to put is this: If, unhappily, an application of this Bill was to occur in two years' time, this Amendment, if accepted, would prevent the utilising of people of twenty years of age. There is another point. Whilst I agree it would be very inconvenient to allow the suggestion to get abroad that we were going to use boys and girls of fifteen years of age, I think the answer to that is, that is not the intention, but having obtained the information, those who are fifteen now would be seventeen in two years' time, and it would be absurd to say that you have got a National Register if that National Register neither included those of twenty years of age nor enabled you to use them.
§ Mr. DICKINSON
Before the right hon. Gentleman replies, may I ask him what he means exactly by the words he used just now, that the register will not be operative until eighteen months?
§ Mr. DICKINSON
Then may I ask when he expects it will be operative, because that does affect very considerably, of course, the commencing age? Does my right hon. Friend anticipate that the register will be operative within a few months?
§ Mr. HOLT
I do not want to press for this Amendment, because I think there is a good deal to be said for the argument that this is to apply for a good many years hence; but I would like to ask the President of the Local Government Board to secure that the children—for they are children—between fifteen and eighteen, instead of registering themselves, should be registered by their parents or some one responsible for them. I do think it is rather an objection that small children, whether at school or at home, should be filling up these forms entirely on their own responsibility, without consulting their parents or other people responsible for them. If the right hon. Gentleman could put in some words to provide that persons between fifteen and eighteen shall 452 fill up their forms through their parents or others responsible for them, I would feel rather more friendly towards the Bill than I do at present.
§ Mr. WHITEHOUSE
I would put this. practical point to my right hon. Friend, as I think it will show him the real difficulties we feel "with regard to this age of fifteen: If no Amendment is carried with regard to this minimum age of fifteen, the position will be that many thousands of children will fill up their own forms without the guidance of their parents, and when they leave school at the end of the term to go home, it will be necessary for them to send their certificates of registration to the registration authorities for the district where they are situated, which will almost invariably be a different registration authority from that in the district in which their school is situated. If the children, numbering many thousands, fail to carry out this regulation, they will commit an offence under the Act and be liable to a penalty of £5, and a fine of £l per day while the offence continues. That, I am quite sure, is not my right hon. Friend's intention, and he will see, I think, that some Amendment is necessary in order to-meet this difficulty. I have had a very considerable experience, like many more, with the youths of this country, and I can assure the Committee, regrettable as it may seem, they are very ignorant of Acts of Parliament, and I am quite sure very ignorant of the proceedings in this House. There will certainly be many thousands of unintentional breaches of the Act on the part of those children, and I suggest the difficulty will be entirely overcome if at a later stage my right hon. Friend would indicate his willingness to accept an Amendment in this spirit—that the Act shall not apply to a child or young person at school between certain ages who is not under the roof of his parents. I am not suggesting the terms of the Amendment, but only indicating the spirit of the Amendment, which I think would substantially meet our views.
§ Mr. LONG
Two or three questions have been asked which I would like to dispose of first. The hon. Member for Carlisle (Mr. Denman) asked me whether this process was to be a continuing process. Certainly it is not contemplated that the register should go on being made during the next two or three years. It may be necessary, and, of course, we renew a great deal of legislation passed as emergency 453 legislation, of which this is a part; but the object we have in view is to secure the making of this register as soon as possible to give us reliable information, and to enable us to know what are the resources of the country. We may have to make many changes; we cannot tell. But for the present this is sufficient; and, undoubtedly, if you were to raise the age as suggested in the Amendment before the Committee I think you would be really making a mistake. May I give one example? I do not think anyone would be likely to accuse me of trying by legislation, or in any other way, to interfere with the laws to protect children of tender age, or do anything which would be likely to expose them to risks, dangers, and drawbacks to which they ought not to be exposed. At this moment the Government are being pressed to alter regulations which prevent children under the age of sixteen or seventeen from being employed in certain occupations which they are perfectly well suited to perform, and we are pressed not on the ground that it is desirable that they should be so employed, but because the sources of supply of people who can do this work are drying up in certain directions. One of the things I want to find out through the register is whether that is true, or due to ignorance— whether it is not possible to move labour from one part of the country to the other, and in some cases, instead of taking children to do this work, to find older people who can do it with perfect safety. I only mention this case to show that there has been very strong pressure brought upon us to include those of the age of fifteen.
The hon. Member for Hexham (Mr. Holt) feels that it would be very undesirable that children who are at school, or institutions of that kind, removed from the care of their parents, should have to fill up this return without the assistance of their parents, and it was suggested by the hon. Member for Mid-Lanark (Mr. Whitehouse) that we should introduce exemptions. I hope that no proposals of exemptions of this character will be made. They are the pitfalls of legislation. Once you get into exemptions you impose all sorts of difficulties on the people who have? to carry out the law. I considered it with my advisers, and we do not think it requires a special enactment in this Bill. My hon. Friend may possibly have omitted to notice that the difference between this register and the Census is that this is going to be done by the local 454 authorities—that is to say, this is going to be a local collection of local information. Really we must give the local authorities credit, to which they are abundantly entitled, for common sense and intelligence in the performance of their duties, and for not attempting to force upon the children the duty of making these returns independently. We assume—and I am quite sure we are right—that in those cases the local authorities would invite the aid of the scholastic institutions, the masters and teachers. It was never suggested that children should be exposed to extreme demands of that kind, and I am quite confident that where children of that age fail to make their returns there is not a local authority in the country that would dream of starting a prosecution. Might I call attention to the fact that in this matter of prosecution the Bill is most carefully guarded? We have sought in every way to make prosecution only possible where the offence involves a real attempt to avoid doing what the law says you shall do. I shall be quite willing to consider the suggestion of the hon. Member for Hexham if it is found that some words ought to be added in order to make it clear that, to obtain information as to children away from their parents, assistance shall be invited from those responsible for them. I believe myself it is rather a counsel of perfection, but, on the other hand, I am most anxious that we should not run the smallest risk of placing, burdens on those children which they ought not to perform.
§ Mr. LEIF JONES
I should like to point out that there are a large number of young persons between fifteen and eighteen in the country who will require assistance who are not at public schools, and probably not so well able to fill in forms as boys and girls in public schools. Therefore any instructions to be given as to help should include all people who require that assistance.
§ Sir W. ESSEX
I do not want to be ruled out from getting a concession, and would ask whether we are going to register 455 children of tender years. It is not a question of school children away from home. You must not make a distinction in this national matter between the children of the rich and the children of the poor. It is a matter of child life, and children of fifteen—those who are fathers and grandfathers know what we are talking about— are of a tender age. If you like to put in a proviso that, on attaining the age of sixteen or seventeen—if we can make a bargain with my right hon. Friend—they shall then register, I will not object. There is another point. I do not care what the Germans think of us, but I do care what the rest of the world will think. Will they interpret this as a cry of "England in extremis"? We are registering our infants fifteen years of age. I do not want to oppose my right hon. Friend, but he promised that he would give us a lot of concessions and do all he could to make this Bill effective. I ask him for two years. I will split the difference gladly, and if he will meet us he will add another halo to the many he wears.
§ Mr. J. A. PEASE
I hope my hon. Friend will not press this Amendment to a Division. On this matter I take an opposite view from that expressed by the hon. Member who has just spoken. I think we can obtain a great deal of information by these statistics, which will show how children are now employed. It is not children at the age of fifteen who will be affected, but children at the age of sixteen, and fifteen is not included.
§ Mr. PEASE
I want to obtain information in regard to the occupations of these children, and one use of this register will be to divert children from unsuitable to suitable occupations. I think it will also induce people to keep their children longer at school. I know that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Wimbledon (Mr. Chaplin) thinks it is in the interests of agriculture that the children should leave school earlier, but I think they ought to be kept at school longer. These children are growing up, and many of them will be specialised in one subject or another, and it is important for the State, if we are to 456 have this register, that we should know the specialisation under which some of these children have had experience, and the business in which they are being trained.
§ Sir J. D. REES
May I point out that registration is not a painful process, and as regards it being undertaken at a tender age, may I point out to the hon. Member opposite that children are now registered at a much more tender age.
§ Sir J. D. REES
They are registered soon after their birth. This is merely a registration, and it is not more painful than the registration of birth. It is perfectly well known that there have been many school boys at the age of sixteen and seventeen who have done splendid service for their country, and this mischievous Amendment on no account should be accepted.
§ Mr. NIELD
I should like, in reply to the observations which were recently made by the hon. Member for Stafford (Sir Walter Essex), to give particulars of two cases which are within my personal knowledge and are appropriate to the discussion which is now proceeding. The first case is that of a lad who is very little more than sixteen years of age and yet has been persistently besieged by recruiting sergeants, who are daily to be found in the Strand, in order to induce him to enlist—not crediting his statement that he is considerably below the recruiting age. The other case is that of a lad, also sixteen years of age—who, however, is 6 feet in height—who has been very keen to take some part in what is going on around him and has been anxious to serve his country. His parents have endeavoured to dissuade him on account of his years, but the lad has taken the matter into his own hands and answered advertisements which he has seen in the newspapers, with the result that he is an applicant for admission to the Anti-aircraft Corps. The proposal of the Mover of the Amendment would treat these lads as mere children, incapable of filling up the statutory form, and would, if carried, cause a widespread indignation among those who, though young, are eager to undertake some service which, however humble, may ensure for the benefit of their country.
§ Question put, "That the word 'fifteen' stand part of the Clause."
§ The Committee divided: Ayes, 120; Noes, 21.457
|Division No. 6.]||AYES.||[7.50 p.m.|
|Abraham, William (Dublin, Harbour)||Hardy, Rt. Hen. Laurence||Pryce-Jones, Colonel E.|
|Agg-Gardner, James Tynte||Henderson, Rt. Hon. Arthur (Durham)||Rawlinson, John Frederick Peel|
|Agnew, Sir George William||Henderson, Sir A. (St. Geo., Han. Sq.)||Rea, Rt. Hon. Russell (South Shields)|
|Baldwin, Stanley||Henry, Sir Charles||Rea, Walter Russell (Scarborough)|
|Banner, Sir John S. Harmood-||Herbert, General Sir Ivor (Mon., S.)||Rees, Sir J. D.|
|Barlow, Montague (Salford, South)||Hibbert, Sir Henry F.||Roberts, George H. (Norwich)|
|Beale, Sir William Phipson||Hohier, Gerald Fitzroy||Roberts, S. (Sheffield, Ecclesall)|
|Benn, Arthur Shirley (Plymouth)||Holt, Richard Durning||Roe, Sir Thomas|
|Bentham, George Jackson||Hope, James Fitzalan (Sheffield)||Rowntree, Arnold|
|Bird, Alfred||Home, Edgar||Runciman, Sir Walter (Hartlepool)|
|Birrell, Rt. Hon. Augustine||Hudson, Walter||Rutherford, Watson (L'pool, W. Derby)|
|Black, Arthur W.||Jardine, Ernest (Somerset, East)||Samuel, J. (Stockton-on-Tees)|
|Booth, Frederick Handel||Jones, J. Towyn (Carmarthen, East)||Scott, A. MacCallum (Glas., Bridgeton)|
|Bridgeman, William Clive||Jones, Leif (Notts, Rushcliffe)||Shortt, Edward|
|Bryce, J. Annan||Kellaway, Frederick George||Simon, Rt. Hon. Sir John Allsebrook|
|Bull, Sir William James||Kenyon, Barnet||Spear, Sir John Ward|
|Burdett-Coutts, W.||Kinloch-Cooke, Sir Clement||Starkey, John Ralph|
|Butcher, John George||Lloyd, George Butler (Shrewsbury)||Taylor, John W. (Durham)|
|Cave, Rt. Hon. George||Long, Rt. Hon. Walter||Thomas, James Henry|
|Cawley, Sir Frederick (Prestwich)||Lonsdale, Sir John Brownies||Thorne, G. R. (Wolverhampton)|
|Chancellor, Henry George||MacVeagh, Jeremiah||Tickler, T. G.|
|Chaplin, Rt. Hon. Henry||M'Neill, Ronald (Kent, St. Augustine's)||Toulmin, Sir George|
|Coates, Major Sir Edward Feetham||Magnus, Sir Philip||Tryon, Captain George Clement|
|Collins, Sir Stephen (Lambeth)||Markham, Sir Arthur Basil||Turton, Edmund Russborough|
|Cornwall, Sir Edwin A.||Marks, Sir George Croydon||Valentia, Viscount|
|Craig, Ernest (Cheshire, Crewe)||Millar, James Duncan||Walker, Colonel William Hall|
|Craik, Sir Henry||Morton, Alpheus Cleophas||Walsh, Stephen (Lanes., Ince)|
|Crooks, William||Munro, Rt. Hon. Robert||Wardle, George J.|
|Dairymple, Hon. H. H.||Needham, Christopher T.||White, Col. G. D. (Lanes., Southport)|
|Denman, Hon. Richard Douglas||Neville, Reginald J. N.||Williams, Llewelyn (Carmarthen)|
|Denniss, E. R. B.||Newdegate, F. A.||Wilson, Rt. Hon. J. W. (Worcs., N.)|
|Dougherty, Rt. Hon. Sir J. B.||Nicholson, Sir Charles N. (Doncaster)||Wilson, W. T. (Westhoughton)|
|Duke, Rt. Hon. Henry Edward||Nicholson, William G. (Petersfield)||Wing, Thomas Edward|
|Edwards, John Hugh (Glamorgan, Mid)||Nield, Herbert||Wortley, Rt. Hon. C, B. Stuart-|
|Esmonde, Sir Thomas (Wexford, N.)||Nolan, Joseph||Yate, Colonel C. E.|
|Fenwick, Rt. Hon. Charles||O'Brien, Patrick (Kilkenny)||Yeo, Alfred William|
|Ferens, Rt. Hon. Thomas Robinson||O'Connor, T. P. (Liverpool)||Younger, Sir George|
|Galbraith, Samuel||Pease, Rt. Hon. Joseph A. (Rotherham)|
|Goldstone, Frank||Pennefather, De Fonblanque||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—Lord E.|
|Gretton, John||Pollock, Ernest Murray||Talbot and Mr. Gulland.|
|Hancock, John George||Priestley, Sir W. E. B. (Bradford, E.)|
|Adamson, William||Hogge, James Myles||Sutton, John E.|
|Baker, Joseph Allen (Finsbury, E.)||Jowett, Frederick William||Watt, Henry Anderson|
|Bowerman, Charles W.||Lambert, Richard (Wilts, Cricklade)||Whitehouse, John Howard|
|Byles, Sir William Pollard||Morison, Hector||Young, William (Perth, East)|
|Esslemont, George Birnie||Outhwaite, R. L.|
|Ginnell, Laurence||Pratt, J. W.||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—Mr.|
|Harvey, A. G. C. (Rochdale)||Pringle, William M. R.||King and Mr. Clough.|
|Higham, John Sharp||Sherwell, Arthur James|
§ Mr. PRINGLE
I beg to move, to leave out the words "(not being members of any of His Majesty's Naval Forces or of His Majesty's Regular or Territorial Forces)."
Later on the Paper there is an Amendment down to obtain returns from householders of those resident in each house, and consequently this exclusion would not apply if the returns were obtained from householders rather than from individuals. If the householder were to make a return regarding those belonging to his family, it would be advisable to have on record those who are members of His Majesty's Naval or Territorial Forces.
§ Mr. LONG
Our object in this Bill is to avoid taking a double register of the same people. The names of the people referred to are already enrolled on the list of the 458 Navy and the Army, and most of them are now away from this country. Those that are here are moving about from place to place, and we already have a full record of all of them, and every particular connected with them. Therefore, it would seem unnecessary to add to the work of registration by again taking these particulars in regard to a large body of men like this.
§ 8.0 P.M.
§ Mr. HOGGE
Might I ask if the right hon. Gentleman could not meet the point in another way, later in the Bill? It is highly desirable that every family should have the credit for its contribution, either to the Navy or the Army. I do not know whether with the papers which have already come from that household my 459 right hon. Friend will be able afterwards to put it on paper, but, if he cannot, will he meet it by having it in the form of the questions, so that we can know what contribution the household has made to the Army or Navy?
§ Mr. LONG
My hon. Friend is really conjuring up a very strange fancy. It is merely suggested that where a household has contributed to our Forces, either on sea or land, the fact should be put on record. It will not require any fresh papers; it will not be a very difficult task, and it will only mean some few words added to the existing questions.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ The CHAIRMAN
The Amendment of the hon. Member for West Meath (Mr. Ginnell) — [after the word "forces" ("Regular or Territorial Forces") to insert the words "Irish volunteers"]—fails, because it is not definite enough to put in an Act of Parliament, but if he desires to bring any such exemption he should bring it up on Clause 11, and then I will consider it.
§ Mr. KING
I beg to move, after the word "in," to insert the words "the Schedule to."
I would appeal to the right hon. Gentleman to put the exceptions in a Schedule and not in a Clause. It would be much more convenient. There are certain drafting Amendments which are met in that way, and in the Schedule which I have put on the Paper I have included one or two other classes of persons who, I think, ought to be excepted and who are not named in the Bill.
§ Mr. LONG
I hope that my hon Friend will not press this Amendment. It is really a question not of principle but of draftsmanship, and, as he knows. I am not responsible for the draftsmanship. It is in much more capable hands than mine, and I should not like to accept an alteration without consulting those who are my advisers in the matter.
§ Amendment negatived.
§ Clause ordered to stand part of the Bill.