HC Deb 14 July 1915 vol 73 cc930-3

The functions of local committees shall be:—

  1. (a) to inquire into any case referred to them by the statutory Committee, and to report to the statutory Committee their advice and recommendations with respect thereto;
  2. (b) to collect and furnish to the statutory Committee such information as may be required by the statutory Committee with respect to any matter;
  3. (c) to distribute any supplementary grants made by the statutory Committee, the distribution of which has been delegated to the local committee;
  4. (d) out of any funds at their disposal for the purpose, to make contributions towards the funds administered by the statutory Committee, to increase pensions, grants, and separation allowances and to make grants or allowances where no pensions, grants, or separation allowances are otherwise payable;
  5. (e) to solicit and receive from the public contributions towards any such purposes as aforesaid;
  6. (f) to make provision for the care of disabled officers and men after they have left the Service, including provision for their health, training, and employment.


I beg to move, at the end of paragraph (b), to insert the words "and to furnish applicants for pensions or grants or separation allowances with information and advice."

This is a matter which the hon. Member for Stockton (Mr. J. Samuel) put very well in Committee. We could not meet him altogether, but I think that these words put into the Bill will enable much to be done in the direction he desires. The words provide that the local bodies shall furnish applicants for pensions or grants or separation allowances with information and advice, and generally shall assist them in obtaining such pensions, grants and allowances as they are entitled to.


I should like, if the right hon. Gentleman will agree, to omit the word "separation," so that it would read "grants or allowances." That would include motherless children. It is very important in regard to motherless children without anyone to look after them that the person who is interested should make the application.


I will agree to the Amendment in that form.

Words, "and to furnish applicants for pensions or grants or allowances with information and advice," inserted in the proposed Amendment.


I beg to move, after the words inserted in the proposed Amendment, to add the words "especially in the event of payments being unduly delayed." The War Office and the Admiralty have both agreed to this Amendment. There is a strong feeling that these words should be added.


I beg to second the Amendment.


I should be glad to accept it.

Words, "and to furnish applicants for pensions or grants or allowances with information and advice, especially in the event of payments being unduly delayed," inserted in the Bill.


I beg to move to add to the Clause a new paragraph: (g) A local committee, if it appoints any officer, shall consider in each case whether the nature of the duties to be performed make it desirable that such officer shall be a woman. In moving this additional paragraph, I hope that it will not be out of order for me to say that I am not suggesting it out of my own mind, but that it has been suggested to me by one of the most important bodies of organised women in this country. It is the object of my proposal that when appointing an officer the committee shall consider whether it is not more suitable to appoint a woman. It does not bind the committee to appoint a woman, but it does bind the committee to consider that question. The reason for my Amendment is that these officers will in the main have to make inquiries in regard to women and children. The women of this country quite recognise that it would not always be possible, or perhaps always advisable, to appoint a woman to make these inquiries, but they do think it is very desirable that it should be incumbent upon the local committee to consider in each case whether a woman or a man would be the more suitable. Women are recognised in this Bill to a very considerable extent, and I am sure that the women of this country are not ungrateful for that recognition. But it is not enough to have women on the statutory Committee or on the local committee, perhaps only a very few in each case. It is certainly a very important thing that where suitable women are available and where the duties are to inquire with regard to women and children, almost exclusively, a woman should, if possible, be appointed. I think that if this new paragraph is put in it would not tie the hands of the local committee, but it would ensure that when on the local committee it was suggested that a woman should be appointed it would not be passed over as it might otherwise be by people saying, "We have not heard of this sort of thing, and we think a man is more suitable for this kind of work." It will ensure a real consideration of the matter if it appears on the face of the Act of Parliament that it is the duty of the local committee to consider the question of the appointment of a woman in each case.


I beg to second the Amendment.


We cannot really give directions to the committees to consider whether it is better to appoint a man or a woman. There will be women on every such committee, and though there may not be many I believe their voices will be heard and will compel attention, and that when it is desirable to appoint a woman, a woman will be appointed.


I am as anxious as anyone can be that the interests of women should be safeguarded, but I think it would be perfectly useless to do it in the form of this particular Amendment. I think it would not be at all suitable to merely say that the committee "shall consider." Of course, the committee will be perfectly free to consider, and we think they will consider the circumstances of each case, and that where a woman is the best person to be appointed I am sure that will be done without these words being inserted.

Amendment negatived.

Bill to be read the third time upon Monday next (19th July).