§ It shall be lawful for His Majesty by Order in Council to extend to female persons any of the provisions of this Act applicable only to male persons, subject to such modifications in dates as may be fixed by the Order.
§ The CHAIRMAN
Does not the Amendment of the hon. Member for North Somerset (Mr. King)—after the word "persons," to insert the words "above the age of sixteen years and not employed in agriculture"—follow an Amendment rejected earlier in the Bill—on Clause 1, I think?
§ Mr. KING
No; it does not quite cover that point. This would refer to sixteen only in the case of females. It is a different point. I beg to move, after the word "persons" ["to extend to female persons"], to insert the words "above the age of sixteen years."
We now come to this question of the bringing of females under the provisions of this Act. In the first place, I think we are entitled to ask the Government for some more definite expression of their intentions. Do they intend really at a com- 931 paratively near date to bring in the whole or some portion of the female population under the provisions of this Act by an Order in Council? From one expression used by the President of the Local Government Board I gather that when the amount of registration contemplated for the male population is complete, then by Order, or Orders, in Council it is contemplated to bring the female population in. Or must some emergency arise?
§ The CHAIRMAN
That is a point on the Clause, and not on the Amendment standing in the hon. Member's name.
§ Mr. KING
I quite understand that, but perhaps I may say that it may make a considerable difference how far I may press this Amendment, which would put the age of females to be brought in at sixteen, if I knew the intentions of the Government. I think it is obvious that it will be quite early enough to bring females under this Act at sixteen years. It may, on the other hand, be felt that there ought to be uniformity, that if boys are brought in at fifteen, so girls ought also to be brought in at fifteen. I do not believe there will be anything gained by having a large number of girls, some 350,000 for England and Wales alone, and some 70,000 for Scotland, brought in under the provisions of this Act, and in any case I think it is well open to consideration whether, if women are to be brought in, it is not quite sufficient to bring them in at sixteen years of age.
The original Act named the period of fifteen to sixty-five, and I see no reason whatever for not adopting those two ages. I also see no reason whatever for adopting the age of fifteen in the case of girls and the age of fifteen in the case of boys. There may be something to be said as to whether Clause 7 ought to be put into operation at all. That is another matter, though when we come to it I shall be quite prepared to argue that the power should be given to the Government.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Mr. WHITEHOUSE
I beg to move, at the end of the Clause, to add the words, "If any such Order in Council is issued Sub-section (b) of Section 6 shall not be applicable."
932 I may be too optimistic, but I understand that the Government is going to meet this point. The Parliamentary Secretary, in the absence of the President of the Board, said that the question of the application of the Act to females and the provision which relates to males at present, by which males between fifteen and sixty-five may be accosted by the police and certain particulars demanded—that as to the advisability of extending that provision to females it should be considered on this Clause. I hope very much that the President of the Local Government Board will accept the Amendment that I move, because it simply has this effect: The Clause that we are discussing gives power for an Order in Council to be issued making applicable to females between fifteen and sixty-five all the Clauses of this Bill which at present are applicable only to males. If, therefore, this. Clause passes without a change, an Order in Council may make applicable to females the particular provision which met with so much criticism and condemnation from the Committee earlier in the sitting, by which any policeman will have the power to stop all females between fifteen and sixty-five and to demand their certificates of registration or that they should give an account of themselves on the lines provided in the Act. We gathered from the hon. Gentleman's speech that the extension of these police duties to females should certainly be considered when we reached this Clause, and my Amendment will simply, while still giving the power to issue an Order in Council extending the provisions of this Act from males to females, in the event of the Order being is sued, present the extension to females between the ages of fifteen and sixty-five of the provision under which they can be accosted by any policeman, as provided in the earlier Clauses. I think I have fairly stated the exact object of my Amendment, and I feel that to state the object of the Amendment is also its justification.
The object of the Clause is to empower the police to stop a person and demand, if necessary, that he should show his certificate, or to state his name, address, occupation, and so on. In the great majority of cases the power will be properly exercised by the police, but there might be exceptions, and some requests by the police might be open to suspicion. If the hon. Gentleman does not press his 933 Amendment, I can promise that between now and Report to endeavour to meet his wishes.
§ Mr. WHITEHOUSE
I am very much obliged to the right hon. Gentleman for making this promise to meet the point of the Amendment. Of course, I very gladly ask permission to withdraw.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Clause stand part of the Bill."
§ Mr. KING
Now is the opportunity for the Government to tell us whether they are going to keep this Clause for an emergency, or whether, under present conditions, it is their intention, as soon as they have the opportunity, to put it into force. I rather gather that the latter is the case from some remarks that fell from the President of the Local Government Board. I think he might very well now just give us the intentions of the Government—no pledge, of course, is expected—but as to what is the object and intention with which this Clause has been put in the Bill.
§ Mr. MORRELL
Is it really necessary for the right hon. Gentleman to press this Clause at all? After all, we now know what we did not know at the beginning, that as regards the great majority of the people that will be affected by this Bill, that is to say a million or so of lads between the ages of fifteen and eighteen, that the Bill is voluntary—that is to say, they will register themselves if they can be got to do it. I am quite prepared to agree that a large number of them will be so induced; but I think it is quite obvious, without taking a very low view of human nature, that, as the right hon. Gentleman suggested, if these provisions are voluntary, there will be a very large residue who will not conform to them. There will be many who have not a high sense of responsibility towards the country in this class between the ages of fifteen and eighteen, and who will not take the trouble of going to the post office to get and subsequently to fill in these rather elaborate forms and send them in again. I assume that there will be no penalties imposed then. For that reason it is quite clear that this register cannot be a complete register. Therefore, all the arguments used as to the importance of having complete vital statistics concerning everyone between the ages of fifteen and sixty-five as being of importance to the Food 934 Controller to know exactly how many there are to be supplied throughout the country, would probably not have been served up for discussion if we had known at the first what we know now: that this is a voluntary measure. Throughout the first part of this Debate every one of us was under the impression that this was a compulsory Bill. We know now it is not. For that reason, in view of its being a voluntary Bill, the register will not be complete. Another point of the Bill is that it is only for the duration of the War. I ask the right hon. Gentleman to consider the necessity and importance to the country of not having unnecessary officialism and unnecessary expense. I would ask, is it really desirable that the right hon. Gentleman should claim the power which he will then be tempted to exercise, to extend this Bill to girls between the ages of fifteen and eighteen? Can the right hon. Gentleman say that there is really any object to be gained by this Clause not for military but for social purposes? Can he say what social purposes will be served or what advantage will be obtained by the country during this extreme crisis by having an incomplete register of young women between fifteen and eighteen Is there any reason why he should ask the House to give him these powers? He may not exercise them himself, but his successor may be tempted to do so and thereby cause a lot of perfectly gratuitous expense and trouble to the country in time of war. This Clause seems to me to be totally unnecessary, and no sort of reason has been given for the Bill. Granting that it is for the purpose of the War and that the register must be incomplete in these circumstances I say that this is an unnecessary and a foolish proposal, and I suggest that it is a power which the Committee ought not to give.
There is nothing I regret more than the hon. Member's attitude to this Bill. He first abuses the Government because he thinks that the penalties are intended to apply to persons under the age of eighteen, and then he finds out that there are no penalties. He then suggests that the Bill is only voluntary, and that the boys affected have no sense of their obligations to the country. For my part, I believe that they have, and whether there are penalties or not I think the boys of this country, if they are required to be registered, will do their utmost to conform if they can in any way aid their country towards the winning of this War in the 935 crisis through which we are now passing. As to whether this Bill ought to apply to females, that is a question for the Minister of National Service. If at a later period he thinks it would be useful to have a continuous registration of girls of fifteen, then he may use the powers under Clause 7.
No man here knows the extent of this War, or whether it is going to last one, two, or three years. No man knows what he may have to do yet in the way of organising the labour and industries of this country, and I think we should be ill-advised if we did not take every possible measure to prepare ourselves for a date at which we might have to utilise all our available labour, male arid female. hardly need point out that girls of seventeen to-day are doing some of the noblest work in the country. Wherever you go you see these young girls performing work which before the War you thought they were not, capable of performing, and they are now doing splendid service. Under these circumstances it may be exceedingly useful to have a record of these girls, the work they are doing, and what they are capable of, so that you may be able in an emergency to transfer their labour where it is most wanted. By this means the Minister for National Service will be able to find a large amount of labour which will not only be available, but will be willingly given in order to carry us through an extreme moment which may be the most vital moment for deciding the great issues of the War. For my part, I think that this House can quite well arm the Government with this Order in Council, conscious that it will not be used unless it can be used for a good purpose, and that no man will desire to put an extra duty upon the local registration authorities in this country unless by doing so he can confer upon the Government a means of information which otherwise is not at their disposal.
§ Clause ordered to stand part of the Bill.