HC Deb 01 April 1936 vol 310 cc2017-96

3.58 p.m.


I beg to move, to leave out from the word "That," to the end of the Question, and to add instead thereof: in the opinion of this House, the time has come when the Government should give effect to the Resolution adopted by the House on the 19th May, 1920, and forthwith place women employed in the common classes of the Civil Service on the same scales of pay as apply to men in those classes. This Amendment is a very simple one, and I am particularly anxious that the Debate should be kept to the very simple issue which is raised, and that is the question whether women in what are known as the common classes of the Civil Service should be paid an equal rate of wages with men for what is admitted to be equal work. That is the point on which I wish the Debate to be concentrated, because in debates of this kind it is always easy to draw a number of red herrings across the path. Therefore, the organised women, of whom there are very large numbers, and the men, too, are very anxious to have the Debate kept to this point. The Government cannot deny, and as far as I know they have never attempted to deny, that the work these women do is, in fact, the same as that done by men. Various questions on this matter have been put in this House. In June of last year the hon. Member for South Croydon (Mr. H. G. Williams) asked the Postmaster-General, with regard to women counter-clerks, whether he would have an inquiry into the relative value of the work that was being done by them and by men clerks, and the reply was that there was no need for such an inquiry as the evidence in possession of the Post Office indicated that the relative output of men and women engaged on this work showed no difference at all. Yet a man's wage for that work is £5 1s. 6d. a week and a woman's wage £3 10s.

But the very best test of all is the test of interchangeability. If men and women are engaged in the same office, sitting side by side and working side by side, and in fact are frequently interchanged, that is surely the best test of all that the work they are doing is regarded as equal. I would remind the House that admission to these common classes is made on the same examination or the same competitive interview, and that as far as the examiners are concerned it is a matter of indifference how many men or women actually get the necessary number of marks. Because the actual equality of the work is not denied, the Treasury mind, which is a strange and wonderful thing, has adopted a theory of lesser value which, like a good deal of Treasury dicta, does not mean terribly much but sounds very impressive. I do not want to blame the present Financial Secretary to the Treasury, because all of us here are looking for great things from him. I want only to call to his mind as more or less a warning the experience of his predecessor. But in this case we cannot blame even his predecessor, because the real villain of the piece is that prim monument, the Treasury.

The Treasury made the hon. and learned Gentleman's predecessor say that one of the reasons why the theory of lesser value was maintained was that the sick leave of women was 50 per cent. higher than that of men. That really does sound terrible. Of course, one would never dare to doubt one single figure of the Treasury; if one did the British Constitution would be wrong. I pay the Treasury the compliment of saying that they are artistic in knowing how to produce figures and to place them artistically in the right light. This 50 per cent., of which a great deal has been made, has been in fact an artistic Treasury production, because when you get down to the actual figure what does it mean? It means that women's average sickness leave is 12 days, to the men's eight days. It is perfectly true that that is a 50 per cent. difference in sick leave, but for that average many highly skilled and competent women have to lose anything from £50 to £85 a year, which seems a rather heavy reduction. I do not think I am unfair in referring to the Treasury's artistry in figures because, leaving out, as we are all very willing to do, the figures of the War-disabled men and arriving at that figure of 12 days for the sick leave of women, all the women employed in the Civil Service are included The figure includes the charwomen and the elderly attendants, whose sick rate is always very high. For none of those is this claim being made. When we take the women for whom the claim is being made, that is the women of the so-called common classes, their average rate over an average of three years is sick leave of 2.1 days. Lord Tomlin, Chairman of the Royal Commission of 1929–31, gave a very definite opinion on this question of sick leave and said it was "negligible and not of any assistance one way or the other."

While we are on the question of Treasury figures there is the question of the Treasury estimates of the cost of this concession. If I was not terribly anxious to be extremely conciliatory there would be a delightful story to be told of the different estimates that the Treasury has given from time to time. I think we are on fairly common ground in accepting figures which show that it ranges from just under £1,000,000, on a certain basis, to £3,750,000 when it is assumed that all women are on the maximum or are to be raised to it. But I make the point that if only men succeeded in the examinations for any year they would be paid at the men's rate automatically. I am not so much concerned as to these various differences in cost, because we are discussing the principle. It is the Treasury's business, if the House decides on the principle, to provide for the cost.

Another point that is made is that women are on the whole less valuable to the Service over a period of years because of what is known as marriage wastage. Is it not rather hard lines on the women to use this argument against them? After all, retirement on marriage has been made compulsory by the Treasury itself, and therefore to blame the women for it is just going on the usual principle of blaming the women for anything anyhow. As a matter of fact the Treasury in practice is really better than its own theories, as is so often the case, for it is found that in the case of certain very highly skilled women who are necessary to the Department the Treasury prefers to keep them after marriage. A few cases of that kind have occurred. But the curious thing is that the Treasury does give equal pay to women in precisely those years when it might be argued that the marriage risk is high, that is the earlier years, and the divergence in pay increases as what might be known as the marriage risk recedes.

With regard to wastage, which is an odd way of putting it, take the wastage of the men. It is always assumed that every man who enters the Civil Service enters with the grim determination to stick there till he dies. As a matter of fact, taking 100,000 men in the administrative and clerical classes, 14,000 men withdrew voluntarily from the service as compared with 7,900 women. That is a pretty high relative wastage. No one would suggest reducing the men's salaries all round because of it. But in any case the greatest wastage is not in the higher skilled common classes at all, but in the routine grades, the telephone service and the lower clerical grade, for which this claim is not being made. Actually in the grades for which this claim is being made the average wastage is only 1.9 a year, which I think disposes of another of the Treasury arguments.

Then we come to the question of dependants. Here we can leave the Treasury and deal with the cave man, so to speak. It is a firmly rooted idea in the minds of a very large number of men and a still greater number of wives that most men have wives and families to keep, or are about to take unto themselves wives and families to keep, whereas the single woman wage-earner has no one but herself to keep. That is one of the convenient theories which do not stand a detailed examination. It is quite remarkable the number of single women who now have dependants. There was a time when in the large middle class there were reserves of unearned income or dividends or savings which were put by to provide for widowed mothers, elderly ladies and so on. For various reasons during the War, and reasons with which we are all familiar, those reserves have been used up. It is a fact that to-day a very large number of salaried women and wage-earning women, especially elder salaried women, have others dependent on their salaries. There is a greater tendency in the case of sons who marry to regard their wives and children as their responsibility and to leave the unmarried relatives to be looked after by the unmarried daughters.

This is really a serious problem. I am always interested when men emphasise the fact that their wives are purely dependent on them. I appeal to the Noble Lady the hon. Member for the Sutton Division of Plymouth (Viscountess Astor) to say that surely to-day, or at any time I should imagine—I speak subject to correction by those who know more about it than I do—surely to-day a wife is an asset. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] I am very glad to have such warm approval from a large number of husbands present. Whether it is the working man, whose wife cleans his home and provides his food and mends his clothes, and greets him with a smile, and soothes him after the trials and troubles of the day, or the wife of the middle class who performs what I think is the most useful function that can be performed in these worrying days, the wife who can meet her husband and discuss the trials of the day and at the end of it say, "My dear, you were perfectly right." Think how that adds to the efficiency of the man.

Now I want to turn attention to the women's case. There are many cases of elderly relatives or sick relatives who are not able to perform those functions for them. Very often the salaried woman, having finished her day's work, has to look after an. old mother, an elderly aunt or some other person. There is also the question—this is where I want to speak to those who feel that this standard should be accepted—of the single woman who has nobody else but herself and who, therefore, receives a very much higher standard of living than a man who has a wife and family. I would meet that quite legitimate argument by saying that to have women working with men, and doing work which is admittedly equal for very much less money, is a real menace to the standards of men. We have found that to be so over and over again. I urge those who are impressed with that argument to look at the case of the women to-day. We are not arguing here for equal pay for women's work. The Postmaster-General has put great pressure upon women in his Department to under- take night work, but, after voting on the question, they have refused to do so. I asked one of the leading women in the Post Office Workers' Union about this matter, and she said that the women did not want the men who are now on duty dismissed and to take their places at lower rates of pay. I do not think that that is the official point of view of the staff side, but it is a feeling held very strongly among the women who are affected. The fact that the Postmaster-General is putting pressure upon them means that the work would be done at very much lower rates.

The House of Commons, when it had to face the same problem in its own ranks, did so with great commonsense and strength. When women were elected to this House, there was no question of their being paid anything but exactly the same as the men. I do not claim that women Members of Parliament do equal work with the men; they do a great deal more than the men. If the average woman here did not do a great deal more—[Interruption.] This, I gather, is where I am not being tactful but I want to pay hon. Members the compliment that they not only gave equal pay without question but granted equality to the women Members from the first, and every hon. Member would admit that the arrangement has worked extremely well. When the House has dealt with the question of women's work, as for example in the Sex Disqualification Act and various Acts, with the one small exception of the Married Women (Nationality) Act, it has done its best to make women equal before the law. This House was elected by men and women alike, and, as controller of the public purse, it represents the employers of the civil servants.

I would draw the attention of hon. Members to a statement made yesterday by one with whom no one in this House would venture to disagree, the Prime Minister. At 10, Downing Street, speaking of the subject of Newnham College Building Fund, he said, in a reference to women in the Civil Service: Many of these women are in a position in the course of their daily work to amass secret information. Secret information has a way of leaking very often. Hon. Members really must listen to this: I have never known a case of such leakage being due to a woman. I have known cases of leakage coming from men who ought to have known a great deal better. There we have the Prime Minister making it clear that where men and women are engaged on the same work, the women, far from being of lower value in those extremely important positions, are often of more value than men. I am not, however, making that claim. The claim I make is that this is a comparatively small problem, in which the Government admit the case, and where the actual conditions of work admit of practical interchangeability. There is no doubt of the job being there. The Civil Service Federation for Men and Women are backing this Amendment. The federation is composed of members of all parties and of none. Hon. Members who have taken a leading part in this House on the question have done so irrespective of party. This is a question in which the whole House as employers are being asked to make a decision. I plead with the House not to go back on the principle which it asserted as far back as 1020. I regret that nothing has been done in the intervening 16 years. Women have proved their value. There was a time when there was no question that they were not as efficient as men, because they had not the training, the tradition or the education. They have had to make that good in a comparatively short Lime, and the younger women are now in a position to offer magnificent service to the State. I plead with the House to meet the generous, ardent desire for service on the part of these young women with an assertion that where the work is equal the pay shall be equal, too.

4.24 p.m.


I beg to second the Amendment.

The Mover of the Amendment has covered a great deal of ground. I would like to add that ounce of fact which is generally conceded to be worth a ton of theory. I am the head of an organisation which, for 30 years at least, has accepted unquestioningly in every grade absolute equality of remuneration. One of the things of which I am most proud is that when the hon. Lady who has just spoken came into the same service as that in which I was engaged, she came at the same rates and on the same conditions of employment as were enjoyed by her male colleagues. It is not an insignificant organisation, but is the fifth or sixth largest trade union in Great Britain. It has, if not the largest, one of the largest staffs of any trade union in this country, and we extend the principle very much further than the terms of the Amendment. We extend it to every grade of service, from the most junior and most routine to the highest ranks in the organisation. The system has worked admirably, without the friction which I have observed in trade unions and in business organisations where different standards of remuneration prevail.

There is the question of the relative amount of fitness. My own experience does not bear out the figures quoted by the Treasury. It may be a fact, and I think it is, that the conditions of employment, office accommodation, ventilation and other amenities that we supply are of a higher standard than those supplied by some hard-up, very careful Government service. In actual fact there is no noticeable difference in our commonly employed male and female staff in the ratio of fitness. In the routine work of the office, in the administrative work and in the more skilled work of negotiation no person knowing the work of the organisation would contend that men or women were superior in their execution of those duties. The hon. Lady spoke of the classes for whom this equality of remuneration is sought as the common classes. The word "common" in this connection means that they are recruited by the same successful examination, whether they are male or female, that they are employed on exactly the same kind of work and that in the grades for which standards of output are set, the output standards are the same for both sexes.

We have here a very suitable opportunity of starting to bring into operation the terms of a very much wider Resolution which was unanimously passed by the House, in, I believe, 1920, and which envisaged equality of remuneration for both sexes throughout, the Civil Service. In the Amendment to-day we say that here is a section of the Civil Service where the claim is as strong as it can possibly be from whatever point of view it is examined. The claim cannot be contested either on equitable or moral grounds, on grounds of efficiency, standard of output or anything else. The differentiation cannot be justified. In this clearly marked case where the position is so obviously unjust we should make a start to put the matter right. I make no secret of the fact that I believe in the principle of the price for the job. I have not the slightest doubt that if you were to carry this Amendment and put it into practice for this section, other grades would be in a stronger position for the extension of the, principle to them. I would say, let that be left to be dealt with on its merits when it comes before us.

This question has come before us. The claim is an incontestable one, and one that ought to have been made a very long time ago. As I have indicated, it is now 16 years since the broader Resolution was passed. I think there can be no question that by 1921 we should have seen the adoption of this principle in some sections of the Civil Service, but in 1921 we saw the beginning of the first economic blizzard, and it was agreed in this House to defer consideration of the matter for three years. In 1924, when it came up again, the then Chancellor of the Exchequer said that in the financial situation of that time it was quite impossible. In 1925 the Chancellor of the Exchequer—another one this time—said the same thing, and, having survived until 1929, he said it again in 1929. But we have been assured, and a very great deal of evidence has been produced to show, that the second of the two economic blizzards has now passed away, and that we are returning to a position of normality. Whatever may be true taking the country as a whole, I think it is beyond doubt that the Chancellor of the Exchequer would not find himself embarrassed if he were faced with the problem of the additional wage cost which this change would involve. There may be varying estimates, from the figure of £6,000,000 down to that of £1,500,000, of what certain things would cost, but there is no doubt about what this would cost. It would cost, as a maximum, something between £750,000 and £1,000,000.

The refusal in 1929 to deal with the problem was followed by the setting up of a Royal Commission. Neither side can take any comfort to themselves from the result of the labours of that Royal Commission, which found itself so evenly divided in its views that it could not decide anything at all. On a later occasion the suggestion was made in this House that the question should be dealt with by the Whitley Council for the Civil Service, but, whenever the Staff Side of the Whitley Council have tried to discuss it there, it has been very definitely laid down that it could not be dealt with, but that it was a matter of high policy which ought to be dealt with here. The question of the allegations with regard to wastage on marriage, with regard to efficiency, and so on, has been fully dealt with by the hon. Lady, and I do not propose to stress it further, but I do want to stress the point that these women are chosen on grounds of capacity and are promoted through the recommendations of their chiefs. If the inefficient or the less efficient are the ones who are promoted, then there may be something the matter with the methods of selection. 1 do not agree that the least efficient are promoted, but I do say that when these women, because of their capacity, are promoted to higher positions, to supervisory positions, sometimes supervising people who are getting higher wages than they are getting themselves, we have a state of affairs which calls for a speedy and prompt remedy. I had noticed what the Prime Minister said, according to this morning's papers, but the hon. Lady anticipated me. She did not, however, read one part of the Prime Minister's speech which I would like to read: I should like to pay my personal tribute to the industry, capacity, ability and loyalty of the women I have come across in the Civil Service. The part to which the hon. Lady alluded I took as referring, perhaps, to women in general, but here is a specific reference to the very women for whom we are pleading to-day. In commercial life, Mr. Gordon Selfridge has made no secret of the fact that he appoints to some of the most responsible positions in his business women to whose ability he has publicly paid a very great tribute, and the same is true of Sir Charles Higham and others engaged in industry and business. It is not the case that the Government of this country would be a pioneer if it introduced the system of equal pay. I think it can be fairly well established that the principle of equal pay has been accepted throughout almost the whole of the English-speaking world except in Great Britain—I am speaking now of the Civil Service; and even in our Civil Service this principle is applied in the earlier years of service. If it is right to pay the young women and the young men equal rates for the same job, surely nothing can happen in the later years—the years of added experience—to justify a departure from the principle.

The London County Council, throughout the whole of its higher grades and many of its other grades, has established the principle of equal pay, and that has also been done by the County Councils of Bedfordshire, Glamorgan, Montgomery, Radnor, Warwickshire, Southampton, and the North Riding, with which I have had an intimate connection for many years. Moreover, there are nine borough councils, including those of Manchester and Bournemouth, which accept this principle for all grades—not only for the higher administrative grades, but for the clerical and routine grades; and many other local authorities accept it for certain grades. The League of Nations, to which, according to the common claim in all quarters of the House, we owe such definite allegiance, accepts this principle, and it is accepted in the Civil Service itself in the case of medical officers, factory inspectors Grade II, the Board of Control; and even at Borstal it has been accepted. I agree with the hon. Lady that this question is not a party question; there are as strong supporters of the principle on one side of the House as on the other; and, with all the evidence that we have before us, we have now an opportunity to make the experiment on this somewhat restricted scale. I am satisfied that the results will show the advisability of extending it, but, be that as it may, I ask the House to give this measure of justice at least to this particular class, whose claim is so fully accepted.

4.41 p.m.


I intervene for a few minutes because for some time, with other Members of the House belonging to other parties, I have taken an interest in this rather difficult and complex problem. I do not pretend for a moment that the matter which we are discussing is an easy one. It is not possible to lay down any hard-and-fast rule that will satisfy everyone, but here we have what I might call a new service. Women have not been so very long in the Civil Service or in industry in the same numbers as at present, and I think we have to realise that they need a helping hand occasionally, and that, when there is a grievance, that grievance should be recognised and adjusted as soon as ever it is possible to do so. Unquestionably there is a grievance when women find that, having by their own efforts raised themselves to high positions in which they are doing exactly the same work as men, and are acknowledged to be doing it equally well, they are told that because of their sex they cannot draw so much wages as men. I think that, imagining the position to be reversed, if some of us men were in an industry where women were getting better wages than we were, and if we were able to do the work as well as the women could do it, it would not be long before the men put forward a demand for equal pay for equal work; and on that basis it seems to me that we are not being just to the other sex if we do not recognise the claim that they make in the Civil Service.

I know that some people say that it is only chivalry on the part of the Treasury when they agree that women are doing work absolutely equal and equivalent to that of men, but my experience of the Treasury is that they do not suffer from any false chivalry, and if it were a fact that where the work was interchangeable the women were not doing it as well as the men, they would be the first people to tell us so. Indeed, it would be their duty to tell us so, because they are the guardians of the public purse, and, if money is being wasted, it is their job to point out that fact, Therefore, if money were being wasted, if women could not do the work as well as men, it would be their duty to point it out, and the mere fact that they have not done so seems to me to be proof that the work is performed quite as well by women as by men.

We are told that higher wages must be paid to men because they have family responsibilities. That is recognised in the Civil Service as elsewhere. They may have greater expenses but that is an argument which will eventually recoil upon itself. If you have two systems of grades doing the same work, one lower and the other higher, it must in the end tend to depress the higher until it comes down to the level of the lower and, when it has come down, there is no extra margin for the man. He has nothing extra with which to maintain his family. The Amendment seems to me to go further than I should propose to go at present. The first part, for instance, refers us to a Resolution that we passed in 1920, but it gives the Financial Secretary some very good debating points. If the change is made all at once, I can see my hon. Friend producing a very formidable figure. It should be made gradually. If the Treasury would only view the matter with a little more sympathy and deal with elder women first, a scheme might be produced which would add very little to the annual cost, would give satisfaction for a good number of years and would be a basis to see how the system works for some time to come.

Why should not a woman, when she reaches the end of her grade, still continue the steps until she reaches the level of a man? I am told that that would cost between £30,000 and £50,000 in the first year, increasing by a similar amount for seven years, so that it would not be until seven years had passed that the full charge of £350,000 would come on the Exchequer. Is that an impossible figure? It has this advantage, that it gets over the difficulty of the time of the marriage age. It would apply only to women of, say, 20 years' service. It would not set any great precedent for outside. services and it would be strictly limited to those parts of the Civil Service where there was common entry by examination, and where men and women were working side by side and doing the same work. A proposal of that sort would, I am sure, meet with the approval of a great majority of Members of the House. I hope the Treasury will make a start in that direction.

We think the Amendment goes too far and we should prefer to see it limited but, when we are moving you, Sir, out of the Chair, we are unable to move an Amendment to it. I remember the same kind of position arising once before when we refused by a small majority to move your predecessor out of the Chair. The House met on the following day or two days later and another Motion was brought forward and the Speaker was allowed to vacate the Chair. We should be sorry to put you to that inconvenience. We cannot amend the Amendment so, unless the Treasury can make some concession, the only course is to vote for it as it stands and we must hope, if we are successful, that a more moderate Amendment will be generally agreed, and we shall be able to move you out of the Chair.

4.52 p.m.


I listened with interest and with some amusement to the very cogent plea of the hon. and gallant Gentleman because I remember the speech that he made when he introduced the subject on 7th June last. He was then dealing, not with the question of equal pay in the Civil Service but equal pay in industry generally, and he made the reasons for his enthusiasm for the subject perfectly plain. He drew a lurid picture of the extent—his figures were subsequently disputed by the representative of the Government—to which women were, in his view, replacing men in industry and he put forward the plea for equal pay quite openly on the ground that the result would be greatly to limit the entry of women into industry. He has not used that argument to-day. That is because he thought it would not find favour with the Civil Service organisations whose cause he is championing. What I am going to say will probably displease both sides, but that must not prevent me from trying to put forward what I consider a very important but neglected aspect of the question. The case for the Amendment is based on two grounds, first on the principle that it is contrary to justice that a man and woman who do precisely the same work should get different rates of pay and, secondly, on the legitimate desire to prevent the unfair undercutting of men's work by women. Both are excellent objects with which I have every sympathy but this Amendment is not the best way of meeting them. Let us face realities.

The hon. Lady who introduced the subject in her delightful speech made very light of the argument usually advanced by the man in the street as justifying unequal pay, namely, the men have families to keep. She pointed out that a great many women have dependants while many men have none. Further she argued that, after all, family dependency was no affair of the State. They were remunerating labour merely as labour, and the remuneration ought to be decided solely by the quality of the work. I think that is a superficial way of looking at it. Consider it from this aspect. The truth is that at present the whole wages and salary system is performing not one but two functions. Wages and salaries remunerate the work of the worker, but they are also the only way in which society provides for the recruitment of the future generation from which all workers are going to be drawn. Broadly speaking, it is the remuneration of men that bears that burden. The 1931 census showed a population in England and Wales of roughly 40,000,000, of whom roughly 17,500,000 were unoccupied wives and children up to the age of 20. The number takes no account of wives and children engaged in remunerative occupations. The whole "occupied" population amounted to roughly 18,750,000, of whom nearly 2,000,000 were unemployed. So that the dependent wives and children actually outnumbered the entire actually occupied population of employed people, employers and self employed put together. Is it not really rather ridiculous to dismiss this immense burden of the dependant wife and child as if it was of no more importance than the fact that a good many women have to contribute towards the support of aged parents or to keep invalid brothers and sisters?

On the other hand, the present way of meeting that immense burden of family dependency through the differentiation between the wages of men and women is unscientific and ridiculously inadequate. See how it works out in the Civil Service itself. I received a paper to-day, as no doubt other Members did, which shows that in all three classes of the Civil Service, clerical, executive and administrative, the lowest paid grade in each class started at the same figure for men and women. The differentiation began after that and it went up more steeply as it reached the higher grades. This is obviously a recognition of the fact that young men and women normally have no family dependency. It is in the later ages that men begin to feel the burden. Compare the rates given to the higher paid men and women in the clerical class. The top man gets £738 and the top woman gets £634—£104 less. From the woman's point of view that infringes the principle of equality. From the man's point of view, it is an absurdly inadequate provision for dependants, but if the man has a family to keep, it means that he has to take his family to Margate for a fortnight while she can take a Continental tour every summer. How is that going to be effected if you grant equal pay? The woman will be still better able to enjoy herself than the man who is married with a family and jealousy will be greatly intensified between the two sexes. We were told that in these common grades people get in by examination with the same pay for both sexes, but promotion depends on the reports of heads of departments.

I served for 25 years on a local authority, and I know how extraordinarily difficult it is to get the people who are recommending for promotion to ignore personal considerations. The woman may be known to everybody as the best person, but there is always the feeling that if a man has a family to keep and the woman has already a substantial salary, the better paid job ought to go to the man. That tendency, which is really a psychological factor, will be all the more difficult to get rid of, if you have equal pay for equal work as is proposed in this Resolution. How can these two difficulties be met? There is the real injustice of underpaying the woman who is doing equally good work, and may, in many cases, need the higher salary more than the man. And there is the general instinctive feeling which pervades the whole community that you must, if you put the burden of keeping half the population on men's shoulders, give them something with which to do it. They should not have to pay for it, so to speak, out of their pocket-money.

There is one way of meeting the difficulty. It is by giving equal pay for equal work and supplementing it by a liberal system of family allowances. Is it not rather a significant fact, that our own country and Portugal and one or two other countries and the only countries in Europe which have not family allowances in the Civil Service? This system is coupled with equal pay in Austria, Belgium, the Netherlands, France, Germany, Yugoslavia, Norway and Sweden. My figures are not up-to-date and probably require to be altered in respect of Germany and Austria by reason of political developments, but in the Civil Service of all those countries a few years ago there were either family allowances or extra pay to married men, simply on the ground of marriage and not of children, and coupled with this equal pay for men and women.

The second point elicited by the inquiry that obtained those facts was that, in respect of every one of those countries, all the bodies representative of the civil servants with one exception, one of the two Dutch federations of civil servants, approved of the system, and said that it worked smoothly and without difficulty. Compare that with the lack of progress made in respect of equal pay in this country. The effort began in 1920 when the House passed its first Resolution on lines similar to the Amendment now proposed by the hon. Lady. Has any progress been made in those 16 years? Have those who have brought forward the Amendment very great hopes of its acceptance? I do not know what is in the mind of the Financial Secretary, but I should be rather surprised if he acceded to it. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh!"] I do not want to discourage him, but I would point out that hon. Members are working along a line which offers very little hope of success.

I would utter a word of warning to women's organisations. I have worked in the women's movement for 30 years, and I do not think that anyone who knows me would doubt that I am a whole-hearted feminist. But I believe that those who are putting forward a demand for equal pay for equal work without coupling it with a demand for family allowances are either walking into a morass or running their heads into a trap. Either they will not get that for which they are asking (and that is the most likely alternative), or if they do, it may result in a very serious curtailment of women's opportunities. I do not suggest that that will necessarily be so as a result of a system of equal pay merely applied to these particular grades of the Civil Service which are entered by means of examination. But you cannot really stop there. If you pay a woman as much as a man in the grades where men and women both work, is it not illogical not also to raise the standard of women's pay in those grades where only women work? Supposing a woman in one of those grades is doing work as good as, or perhaps better than, a woman working in competition with men in another grade, is it not rather hard that she should be treated as being in an inferior position because that glorious animal man has not entered that particular grade?

I would suggest to the women who are supporting this scheme, that they should look at the motives of their male allies. I do not doubt that some of them are very good friends of the women's cause. The hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Hexham, to whose speech I have already alluded, made it perfectly plain that his one idea of equal pay was to drive the woman back to the home. He was certain, he said, "that women went to work through economic pressure, and that what they really wanted was to have their own homes as early as they possibly could." What he would really like is to restore the sort of situation described in a certain delightful passage in "Pride and Prejudice," which is familiar to many hon. Members. It is where Charlotte Lucas is reflecting on her engagement to Mr. Collins: Mr. Collins, to be sure, was neither sensible nor agreeable: his society was irksome, and his attachment to her must be imaginary. But still he would be her husband. Without thinking highly either of men or of matrimony, marriage had always been her object: it was the only honourable provision for well-educated young women of small fortune, and, however uncertain of giving happiness, must be their pleasantest preservative from want. I suggest that that is the state of things to which non-male advocates of equal pay would like to see women returned. Unfortunately, if every woman is to be provided with that husband, which is apparently her highest ambition, this country would have to resort to polygamy, for there are 2,000,000 more women than men. I am not at all lacking in sympathy with the position of a man who is prevented from marrying and having children by the question of pay-merit and the competition of women. It is a serious problem. I have on other occasions tried to draw the attention of a somewhat indifferent House to the fact that the population problem has become extraordinarily serious, and is one which has begun to alarm every eugenist. I have no figures to show how many Civil Servants indulge in the luxury of wife and children on the strength of about one-sixth more salary than his female colleagues get, but I have worked out the figures in respect of teachers. Among 1,000 men teachers there were 95 children, as compared with 258 children per 1,000 miners, and 231 children per 1,000 dock labourers. These higher grade occupations, in spite of their higher level of remuneration, are really not contributing their normal share to the population for the benefit of future generations.

Those who are interested in this problem should really think it out again upon rather more scientific lines, and see whether there is not something to learn from the experience of those countries of which I have spoken. I know that there are many people who think that the proposal of equal pay, coupled with family allowances, would be an extravagant proposal. I cannot give any estimate in respect of the Civil Service, but the teaching profession is a very relevant one, and the birth rate among the teaching profession is probably much the same as that among the Civil Service. If in the teaching profession you were to pay a substantial allowance of £40 a year for every child during the period of dependency, it would amount only to the equivalent of about 3 per cent. of the salaries in the teaching profession. To meet both objects of the Amendment, equal pay and the prevention of unfair undercutting of men by women, you would have to introduce a scientifically planned system of family allowances coupled with equal pay for equal work for men and women.

5.11 p.m.


The hon. Lady the Member for the English Universities (Miss Rathbone) has pleaded very constantly and earnestly for family allowances, but she recognises that her system would not work without equal pay. We are now performing the old and traditional work of the House of Commons in trying to remedy grievances before going into Committee of Supply. Before money is granted to the King, the Commons claim the right to have their grievances adjusted. I assure my hon. and learned Friend, if he does not know it already, that this is a deeply felt grievance and one which calls for some adjustment on the part of a wise Government which wants to keep in touch with modern times. It is more than half a generation ago since, on two occasions, I carried in the House of Commons a Resolution in favour of equal pay in the Civil Service. Looking round the Chamber, I think that the majority of Members now present were not in this House in 1920, but I will not repeat the argument which I used on that occasion. A good deal has happened since then, but as far as equal pay is concerned the clock has not moved forward; in fact the hands have rather gone back. The Royal Commission in 1929, set up very late to fulfil a pledge given seven years earlier that the question would be reviewed as soon as the financial position permitted, expressly refrained from coming to a decision. I believe that they were equally divided, and they passed back the baby to the Government, who are now carrying it.

Up to last year, when discussing the question in this House, a great point has been made by the Government of the question of expense. That was not made by the Financial Secretary last June. He dropped it altogether. I do not know what my hon. and learned Friend the present Financial Secretary means to say. If he intends to plead the question of expense, I would respectfully remind him of what we have read in this morning's papers of the most satisfactory surplus of the Chancellor of the Exchequer. All we ask is for a fraction of that surplus. The late Financial Secretary used two arguments. The first was that women's work was not of the same value as that of men. He said that the same value was not obtained from female work in the long run as for male work, and so anxious was he to rub in that fact, that he repeated it, and said the State got less value in the long run from female employment than from male employment. I should like to know whether the late Financial Secretary accepts the opinion of the Prime Minister, who said last night: University-trained women had been given a fair chance it the Civil Service in a great variety of work and there had been no doubt that in the comparatively few years in which they had been tried they had made good. He personally would pay tribute to the ability, the capacity, the industry and the loyalty of the women whom he had come across in the Civil Service. Is not the Prime Minister right? Was not the late Financial Secretary wrong in saying that women's work was inferior, and in putting it into a different class, and saying: "You are not worth as much as men." I do not think that the best opinion of the modern world accepts that view. I do not think that my hon. Friend the present Financial Secretary accepts it. Who are these women? They enter the Civil Service by equal examination with men. There is no favour for the women. They have to compete with the men if they get a place in the Civil Service. With all its faults, examination remains the best test of ability and executive capacity. When the women are inside the doors of the Civil Service they are graded alongside the men and do the same class of work in many cases. They are transferable one for the other. But for their work the women get lower pay.

I hope that my hon. Friend the Financial Secretary to the Treasury will not renew the argument of the permanent, inescapable, inevitable, inferiority of women. The second reason which the late Financial Secretary gave was, the wastage of women in regard to sickness and marriage. He said the sickness ratio among women was 50 per cent. greater than that among men. Fifty per cent. expressed in this way may sound a great deal, and may seem a great excess. As a matter of fact, in the ratio of sickness in the Civil Service it represents four days a year. The days lost by men on the average through sickness is eight days a year, and the average lost by women through sickness is 12 days. That very distinguished judge, an old schoolfellow of mine, Lord Tomlin, who was marked out for high office ever since he left the University, swept that comparison aside as being quite negligible. It is negligible, particularly when we realise from what classes those women who lose time by sickness mostly come. They are chiefly in the clerical and writing assistant classes, and the sickness is chiefly among the younger girls, who are not collected in one office, but spread over. Therefore, the loss of time through sickness does not dislocate any office.

Can it be said that at the present time women's work in the Civil Service, in the long run, is less valuable than that of men? It would, of course, be absurd to say that women are the same as men. They are different, and the higher you get up in the scale of civilisation the more that difference increases, and I dare say it will go on increasing. We want to employ men and women according to their capacity, but we shall never do that until there is equal pay for equal work. So long as women are paid less than men they will be drawn in on the underside of the Civil Service or of industry because they are cheaper, and we shall not get that real test and that real adjustment that can come only from the experience of employing men and women in different professions and industry according to their ability. We may find that in any change-over that takes place there may be fewer women employed. The women's organisations are prepared for women losing some positions. They accept that possibility, but in exchange for it we shall see the selection of men and women according to the capacity of each sex, and we shall do away with the employment of women because they are cheap and because they undercut the wages of men.

I admired the clever and amusing speech of the hon. Member for Jarrow (Miss Wilkinson), and I shall vote for the Amendment unless the Financial Secretary gives some promise. I am not in the least unreasonable. I do not expect the walls of Jericho to fall down at once. The Treasury has pretty strong walls, but they must do something I do not think that the Financial Secretary can leave the question where his predecessor left it. I do not know whether his experience is the same as mine, but I have found very bitter resentment among women over the words of the late Financial Secretary. So long as the women were told that the country could not afford it, they accepted it loyally because they did not wish to cost the country more than the authorities in charge thought the country could afford. But we have passed beyond that stage, and they have been told that permanently, I suppose, the Civil Service is not a profession in which they are the equals of men.

I shall not plead again the case for equal pay. I have done it so often and it has been so well done by my predecessors in the Debate, but I would say one word about the cost. The Royal Commission of 1929, Lord Tomlin's Commission, went into the question, and Sir Russell Scott, the Controller of Establishments at the Treasury, gave the figure as £875,000, which was his estimate of the cost, on the assumption that the salaries of all the women would forthwith be raised to the salary point in the corresponding men's scale which they would have reached if all their previous service had been paid for on the men's scale. That could only be reached after some considerable period. So far as my vote is concerned, I am ready to accept any reasonable suggestion that may be made. I do not want to exaggerate, but I would point out the dangerous position which may arise, something comparable to the suffrage movement, especially since the challenge thrown out by the late Financial Secretary. It is the same cause over again, inequality. Before, it was the question of the capacity for the vote, and now it is the question of capacity to perform equal work in the Civil Service. If the Amendment is resisted on those lines I think a dangerous position will arise for the Government and one that I should be extremely reluctant to see.

If the Financial Secretary harks back to the argument of cost I would point out that it would be only a very small fraction of the large surplus which the Chancellor of the Exchequer has amassed this year and a very small sum for this great country. I have pleaded for this reform on countless platforms, and the time has gone by and is running out. I had hoped 16 years ago that the cause would have been won long since. I hope that at last we may make some advance. Equal examination has been granted, common, classes have been granted, equal work has been granted and it is time for the Financial Secretary to come forward with the last stone of the edifice and grant equal pay.

5.25 p.m.


The House of Commons has to deal with a matter of very considerable importance in this Amendment. Although the number of persons directly concerned with the Amendment may not be very considerable, the principle which lies behind the Amendment is a far-reaching one and affects large numbers of people throughout the country and the world. So far as this House is concerned its record on this matter is honourable. Again and again it has taken the special opportunities which sere open to it to impress upon the Government the view held by hon. Members on this subject, and I should like the Financial Secretary to pay heed to-day to the views of those who are in touch with their constituents and who are in favour of this Motion. But the record of the Government—I do not confine myself to the Government at present in office but successive Governments for a considerable time—has not been honourable. They have endeavoured to set aside by one means or other the expressed wishes of the House and of the electorate.

What are the facts in regard to this demand? There wet e two years ago—the Financial Secretary will no doubt give me the most up-to-date figures—85,000 men and 13,000 women in the common classes of the Civil Service, that is to say, in the classes in which the work is identical, whether done by men or women. The proportion of women employed is growing, and if the Financial Secretary gives us the up-to-date figures there may be a larger number of women than I have suggested. These men and women are recruited by precisely the same methods. They pass the same competitive examination, they do precisely the same work and they are interchangeable one with the other.

The matter of sick leave has been mentioned and figures have been given. If my information is correct, and I do not think the Financial Secretary will dispute it, since the 50 per cent. figure was given the Treasury have had further inquiry made, and in 1934 it was found that the figure was considerably less. According to my information the extra for women over men was only something like 20 per cent., and in terms of days that means but one or two days' extra sick leave in the year. Everyone will admit that that is quite negligible when we are discussing the question of equal pay for equal work. It is totally unjust for persons performing identical tasks, interchangeable and recruited in precisely the same way, that the rate of pay should not be dependent on capacity but on the sex of the person concerned. It is not merely unjust but, to any one who knows anything about grades of employment, it is a grave scandal. This point has already been referred to, but I think it needs emphasising. The scandal lies in the fact that women who reach a supervising grade are frequently paid a lower rate of wage than the men they have to supervise. The Financial Secretary answered a question on that point this afternoon. He declined to give any figures as to how far this was the case, but he added that he believed the cases were very few. That remark came to me with considerable surprise, because I know the actual facts in regard to the rates of pay in these various grades, and if it be true to say that the number is few to-day, there is every reason to suppose that the number will not be so small in a few years' time.

Take the facts. In the clerical classes, clerks of the higher grade, men are paid £396 to £515 and the grade above, the staff clerk, £515 to £634. Women in the higher of these two classes receive £396, rising to £515, or precisely the same salary, with the same minimum and maximum, as men receive in the grade below. Therefore it stands to reason that as women are promoted to that class there must be a large number of cases where they will be supervising men who are actually paid a higher salary than themselves. I do not want to weary the House with figures and you cannot get a true impression from figures which are given in the course of the Debate. Those who are in any doubt should study the figures for themselves, and they will find that this principle applies right through the whole of the common classes in the Civil Service, clerical and executive classes, and in the highest administrative class. This grave scandal must continue so long as the Government insists upon differentiating between men and women. We say that this grave scandal and the general injustice must be abolished, and that the time to make a start is now.

This is not a demand upon which men and women concerned take a different point of view. There are some questions regarding the advance of women on which a vote of women would be in one direction and a vote of men in another, but there is no conflict in the view they take up on the question of equal pay for men and women in the common classes in the Civil Service. Men are just as staunch and firm in the matter as women themselves. In my own constituency during the General Election I was approached by a body of men who said they wanted to raise certain Civil Service questions. In Edinburgh there are a number of civil servants and the very first question they put was: What was my attitude regarding the question of equal pay for equal work? The Financial Secretary will not deny that this demand comes equally from men and women, and, quite naturally. If you have equally competent persons and a lower rate of pay prevailing on account of their sex it must always be a threat to the livelihood and standard of pay of those who axe at present receiving the higher rate of pay.

What has been the attitude of successive Governments to this question? No doubt the question of cost has been at the back of their mind, but we have never been able to get any firm figures. On one occasion the Financial Secretary to the Treasury said that it was not the cost which was at stake but the principle. What was the principle? He said that whether the figure was £750,000 or more did not make any substantial difference. What did he mean by that? He meant that the Government did not want to pay any more for the article than they were actually obliged to pay; that if they could get women into the Civil Service in large numbers at a lower offer why should they propose a higher figure? That is a very specious argument. If you pay for timber at a certain rate why should you pay 25 per cent. more if you can get your requirements supplied at the figure you are prepared to pay? The Government seem to adopt that attitude. If they can purchase the labour of women at this lower price, if the women are offering their services at this price, why should they pay any higher? It is a very specious argument, but it is also very unsound—and for many reasons. It is unsound to create in the minds of your employés a sense of rankling injustice; it is unsound to create unnecessary jealousy between some of your employés and others, and it is unsound to set yourself against the advance of public opinion.

Public opinion insisted on the enfranchisement of women in 1918, and has insisted since then upon seeing various obstacles in the way of women removed one by one. The Financial Secretary and I are members of a profession and he knows that it was public opinion which insisted upon opening the gates of examinations for the Bar to women on equal terms with men. It was public opinion which insisted on this House carrying the proposals to which I have referred. Like the right hon. and gallant Member for Ripon (Major Hills) I beg the Government not to wait until discontent turns into something worse. That was the great mistake which the Asquith Government made with regard to the proposals for woman suffrage. For year after year women put forward the demand for enfranchisement in gentle, ladylike, mild terms. It was put aside. It was said that women always would be ladies and that they would never convert their demand from a gentle, acquiescent, docile and ladylike form into something much more serious and much more inconvenient to the persons who were in power at the time. Insult was heaped upon insult until the ladylike character of the women was broken down.




The hon. Lady knows that the newspapers were full of statements that the women had ceased to be ladies, and the women who were accused in that way said that "We are going to be women first, and anybody who likes to question our ladylike character can do so, but we intend to get our rights." I am not attempting to hold any threat over the Government, but I would ask whether they really want to wait until a quiet and reasonable demand for justice is transformed into something which they may not like. I do not know what form it would take, and I am not suggesting that it would take the identical form of the days of the militant suffragists, but that it will take some form other than what it is at present I am certain if a plain demand for justice is refused, because it would be in accord with the whole history of the world, with the character of women and with human nature. There is another point in regard to the question of cost which I know is in the minds of those who resist this demand. They say that it is not possible to fix an exact figure and for this reason: It may be that the maximum cost of fulfilling the precise demand made by the proposal for equality of pay in the common classes is so much, but does any one seriously believe that it will stop there? If you remove one anomaly you will bring into the light of day other anomalies which need to be redressed; if one palpable injustice is removed you will only call attention to other palpable injustices which remain.

There is something in that argument. We cannot altogether deny that if in the common classes you bring up the pay of women to that of Inca, in the classes of labour which are not common to the sexes you will get a demand saying, why should women, because they do not belong to the common classes, be put in an inferior position to women wee do? Let us see where that argument leads. Hitherto Governments have not refused to remove this injustice on the ground that they would permanently resist any such reform, but because they said that the particular time chosen for ale request was unsuitable. It has a1ways been, "jam to-morrow, but never jam to-day." The argument that one by one injustices will have to be removed means that every day the demand is refused the cost of making the change will become greater. I think it would not only be right, but would be sensible and wise to meet this demand to-day, when the cost would not be very serious, rather than to wait to meet it when the cost would be very much greater.

In putting forward this demand, with which a large number of hon. and right hon. Members opposite are also in agreement, we are not taking an unreasonable attitude. We do not say we will be satisfied with nothing but the complete and immediate acceptance of that which is proposed in the Amendment; we say that we want the Government to take a step forward and to give something on account. I have been in the position which the hon. and learned Gentleman the Financial Secretary to the Treasury occupies at the present time, and I well know the sort of instructions given to Financial Secretaries. The Government say, "My dear fellow, say anything you like, be as polite as you can, use the smoothest words you can find, but promise nothing." When I was Financial Secretary I got into a certain amount of trouble because I did not always carry out my instructions. I made no promises, but 1 did not always use tee smooth words that I might have used, because I am not of a hypocritical turn of mind, and I did not like to lead innocent people up the garden by using words which I knew the Government would not implement.

In that respect I beg the Financial Secretary to follow my example to-night. Let us have the plain, bold truth, let us have a blunt statement and not smooth words. We know perfectly well that when a man attempts to recover a debt either by going himself or sending someone else to collect it, the debtor chooses a very urbane member of his household to go to the front door and to use his or her blandishments on the creditor. On such occasions, the debtor gives the following instructions: "Talk to him nicely, say how much I value his acquaintance, say that no doubt the master will settle up the account later, but do not make any promises, do not pay him any money and get him away from the house."

Smooth words and blandishments will not have any effect upon us, nor will they have any effect on the persons with whom this Amendment is concerned, for it is part of their official duties to estimate at their true value the words and favourable expressions of politicians. We do not intend to be put off with anything less than something on account. If the Government, who are the debtors to the women in this question, are prepared to give something on account, and if that which they give is of sufficient magnitude to be a reasonable instalment of the debt, we are prepared to accept it and not to pester the Government any more for the moment. We are not prepared, however, to go away contented unless we have something in hard cash, and if the Financial Secretary has been placed by the Cabinet in the position of not having any latitude in meeting our claim by giving something on account, there will be no course open to us but to appeal to the House to vote against the Government in this matter.

If the Government by their pressure succeed in carrying the day, if they make it difficult for their supporters to come into our Lobby, we shall be compelled to carry the matter to the country, to put the case before the electorate and insist that justice be done. But I still hope that the Financial Secretary has a better message to give us to-night. I hope the Government have given him the right to say that he will grant the whole of that which is proposed in this Amendment. If he cannot say so much, then I would like him to make a specific and definite promise, that although the whole of that which is proposed is not granted, the Government are prepared to take a step in the direction of meeting the demands.

5.52 p.m.


I do not wish to produce a red herring, as we were besought not to do by the Mover of this Amendment. I am as anxious as anyone to support the principle of equal pay for equal work, although I think the decision as to what is equal is sometimes more difficult than some of the champions of that principle are willing to admit; but where officials are, rightly or wrongly, admitted to do work at any rate so nearly equal that they are interchangeable, and can be moved about inside each other's jobs, it seems to me that the work is then so nearly equal that there is no excuse for not making the pay equal as well. Unfortunately, this Amendment as it is drafted goes further than that. It revives the Resolution of 1920, which speaks of equal opportunity of employment in all branches of the Civil Service. I do not wish to discuss that on the present occasion, nor do I think anyone supposes this occasion to be appropriate for discussing it, but if that were to be accepted, a great deal more debate would be necessary. Therefore, I hope it may be taken that any support for to-day's Amendment does not necessarily involve adhesion to the whole of the 1920 Resolution.

In connection with the latter part of to-day's Amendment, which seems to me to be logically irresistible, there is one other thing I would like to say, and it concerns the dependency argument, the argument that men ought to be paid more because they are likely to have more numerous dependants, I do not wish to follow the hon. Lady the Member for the English Universities (Miss Rathbone) into her argument about maintenance allowances. I wish merely to make the point that the whole of that argument for giving extra pay because a man has a larger family seems to me valid only on the basis—I suppose the Socialist basis—"to each according to his needs." If we are to stick to the basis "to each according to his or her service," I do not see how it can be contended that there ought to be any distinction between people who admittedly perform equal services, or services so nearly equal that they cannot be publicly distinguished.

5.55 p.m.

Viscountess ASTOR

I wish the House had been full when the hon. Lady moved the Amendment. She did it so clearly, so convincingly arid in such a concilatory manner that I would have thought it would have moved the heart of the hardest Treasury official. I believe I see signs of a slight dint in the soft heart of the new Financial Secretary to the Treasury, and I am sure he must have been convinced by other speeches. I have been tremendously heartened to see old friends of the suffrage movement in just as good fettle as they were in the days before the girls got the vote, and it is a pleasant feeling to know that they have not lost any of their enthusiasm for what is simply common justice.

The case of equal pay for equal work has been made so often that it would be unfair to bore the House with it again. Some of the old arguments advanced, such as that of cost, are no longer put forward, but last year the right hon. Gentleman who is now Secretary of State for War made the appalling statement, quoted by the right hon. and gallant Member for Ripon (Major Hills) that in the long run female work was not as valuable to the State as male work. Coming from him that was amusing, because, if anybody has the right to be grateful for female work, he has, and I can only say that a ripple of amusement went round the world who knew when we heard that statement. I am perfectly certain it will never be made again, certainly not by him, and I am sure it carried far more amusement than it did conviction.

This is the day of treaty-keeping, and we are told that all countries must honour their treaties. I want to ask the Government to keep their treaty, for it must be remembered that in Part XIII of the Treaty of Versailles the following is incorporated: Among these methods and principles, the following seem to the High Contracting Parties to be of special and urgent importance: … The principle that men and women should receive equal remuneration for work of equal value. That is one part of the Treaty of Versailles which has never been kept by any Government since the treaty was signed. The Government cannot get away with it on the ground of cost. After all, they set up a committee to inquire into the working of the sugar industry and there was an almost unanimous report that it was extravagant, that it was not on sound grounds and that it ought gradually to be done away with. The Government refused that r Tort and went on to vote £7,000,000 for an industry which the report said would never be able to stand on its own feet. The Government cannot say they cannot afford to give the money, for if they gave equal remuneration to all grades and classes it would amount only to £1,000,000. But we are not asking so much, because we know the Government will not do that at once. As other hon. Members have said, we wish to be reasonable and to get what we can. If the Government say they cannot afford it, they will make the House look ridiculous, and hon. Members will look ridiculous if they go into the Lobby against this Amendment. [HON. MEMBERS: "Agreed!"] Well, we shall see when the Division comes. I am certain that there is hardly an hon. Member here who has not given a pledge on this question of equal pay for equal work, and now is the time for them to keep that pledge.

This question always seems to cause some amusement in the House. Some hon. Members seem to regard any question affecting women as a good joke, just as mothers-in-law used to be regarded as a joke. But I ask them to remember that this question is very far from being a joke. It is a serious matter and some hon. Members may find that it will be a serious matter for them, in view of the large number of women electors in the country. I would remind them that four out of five women in England to-day are at work. We are not living to-day in the kind of world described in "Pride and Prejudice" which was quoted by the hon. Lady opposite, the kind of world in which a woman's only occupation was to get married. A great many women to-day find that it is too strenuous an occupation and even if they could marry, they do not wish to do lo. They have a perfect right to remain single if they want to remain single. As to the argument which has been advanced about dependants, one could give many instances of women in the Civil Service who have dependants. I have one friend whose whole family is dependent on her work. She is in the position, not only of doing equal work with men but of seeing men who are under her more highly paid than she is herself. [HON. MEMBERS: "Shame!"] It is a shame. It is really unfair that such a state of things should be allowed to go on and we here have the power to stop it.

Then we are told about the wastage caused by marriage. The wastage caused by marriage is no higher than the wastage caused by deaths among men. The death rate is higher than the marriage rate in the Civil Service. We have also been told that the incidence of sickness is higher among women, but Lord Toulmin has shown that there is very little difference between men and women in regard to the rate of sickness. Therefore that argument cannot be put forward any longer. Nor can the argument any longer be advanced that the country is unable to afford it. The Prime Minister recently paid a tremendous tribute to women and in a very interesting speech pointed out how grateful men ought to be to women. He spoke of the ability, loyalty and capacity of women and added something about their discretion. If women were not discreet where would men be. I submit that on the ground of their discretion alone they are entitled to equal pay with men.

Some of the best women in the country are in the Civil Service and their demand is based on justice. We do not make any extreme claim and we do not make any threats. But we know that women would never have got the vote if they had gone on behaving like perfect ladies. No one pays very much attention to a perfect lady, particularly when it comes to getting something done and women are not going to stand this kind of injustice for ever. The other day we had a meeting at the Caxton Hall at which 25 different organisations were represented and it was necessary to arrange for a huge overflow meeting. That gathering included many of the best women of the country who feel this injustice very strongly. I, myself, belonging to a great and powerful party, in a country which prides itself on setting an example to the rest of the world, feel that now is the time when we ought to meet the women's demand for equality in this respect.

I ask the Government not to seek for every possible excuse to avoid the issue. I beg the House to consider that equal pay for equal work is a matter of common justice if not indeed of common humanity. I do not say that in all branches of work women are as good as men but I would say to hon. Members who are listening to me: Give your daughters the same chances as you give your sons and see what will happen. Send them to college as you send your sons to college. I do not say that they will all take advantage of it. All the sons do not take advantage of their educational opportunities. But I say, give the young women an equal chance and you will find that it will not only pay you but will pay the State. There are some very fine young women to-day going into the Civil Service. They have a very high sense of service and of loyalty but they are discouraged when they find in the fairest country in the world, the country which is supposed to show an example of justice to the rest of the world, they are denied equal pay for equal work.

I appeal to hon. Members not to listen to the Whips on this occasion. A Government is no use if it has a lot of tame followers. I ask hon. Members also to bear in mind that it will not hurt their chances of promotion to take an independent line on these matters. Governments respect people with independence, especially when they have such a feeble Opposition. However the hon. Lady who moved this Motion said she did not want to be rude and I do not want to be rude either. I only say that, unless hon. Members on our side have the courage of their convictions on this matter and show the Government that they really mean it, there will be trouble, because there is great discontent and disappointment on this subject among the thousands of women throughout the country who backed the National Government, believing that it was for the national good. I would appeal to the young and rising Financial Secretary. Let him rise on justice and let him not be pulled down by Treasury officials who seem to have forgotten what justice is so far as women are concerned.

6.9 p.m.


I am not entirely in love with the slogan "Equal pay for equal work" and I do not think we ought to base our championship of this proposal upon that slogan. It is far better that we should base our claims on the justice of the demand and on the fact that sex distinction in a matter of this kind is in these days an anachronism. I am particularly interested in this subject because the University which I have the honour to represent decided this question 100 years ago. We celebrate our centenary this year and 100 years ago we admitted women without any distinction to every examination of the University. That there should be no such distinction in this matter is surely a logical and inescapable proposition at the present time. The Prime Minister whose speech has already been quoted made a very proper appeal for an extension of the opportunities of service for University women. Consider what must be the feelings of University women when they enter the Civil Service of this great country and find that a discrimination is made between the sexes in the matter of pay. The differentiation does not begin until something like five or six years after recruitment but it becomes worse and worse as the entrant rises in the service and it is worst of all in the highest grade. That seems a thoroughly foolish and stupid arrangement. It must discourage the best people from entering the service.

At the last meeting of the Civil Service Committee of the House before the conclusion of the last Parliament, this subject was discussed. I was in the chair and I found it a remarkable and surprising fact that a motion for the abolition of any discrimination between the sexes in the matter of pay came from the men who were as insistent on that reform as the women. That feeling of common interest is one that ought to be respected as it deserves. It is remarkable that it should be so prevalent and that it should predominate over any feelings of jealousy or sex controversy. The women in the highest grades, as I say, seem to suffer most and that is an aspect of the question which I hope the Financial Secretary will explain. Many hon. Members have probably received in the last few days a very interesting analysis of Ludendorff's last book in which he deals with the possibilities of a future war and of what he describes as the "total war," in which every individual citizen of the nation will be called upon to take part. He makes the very remarkable statement, for a German, that the women in such a war must be placed on a footing of absolute equality with the men in the matter of service to the State and must give the fullest possible co-operation if the nation is to secure victory.

Is it possible to expect that full cooperation from the women of our country when such an injustice as this is allowed to continue? Among the arguments which have been advanced against the reform is that of the incidence of sickness, but that seems a foolish argument and I have seen figures which refuted it absolutely. Four or five years ago the medical papers dealt with that point and it was shown that there was no proof whatever for the statement that a very much larger number of women were invalided than men. That argument therefore must go by the board. Again, I think the plea of economy is a very unworthy one. It can never pay to be unjust. I appeal to hon. Members to support this Motion.

6.14 p.m.


I wish to add my voice to those of the other speakers who have demanded front the Government a clear declaration of their intention in this matter. As the hon. Member for East Edinburgh (Mr. Pethick-Lawrence) said, we do not want to hear smooth words but a bold statement of the facts and I shall be glad to hear the Financial Secretary to the Treasury, with his cold clear Scottish logic, dealing with this problem. The case has been put forward so well by other hon. Members that I need only sum up the facts. Men and women sit together as candidates at examinations for the common classes in the Civil Service. If they pass, they are called upon to undertake certain work and up to that time no distinction whatever is made between the successful candidates who are men and the successful candidates who are women. They enter the Service in exactly the same circumstances and they begin with the same pay. But the differentiation takes place at a later stage, because the man's remuneration is increased at a rate at which the woman's remuneration is not increased. There is no difference in their examination or in their contract with the Government—they are both civil servants—but only when it comes to a question of increased pay is the differentiation made. One becomes a male civil servant, and the other a female civil servant. For what reason is this differentiation to be carried on? I have been interested in listening to the speeches to-day, and I think I am right in saying that with one exception every hon. Member who has addressed the House has quoted the words of the Prime Minister. Many of us at the last Election quoted the Prime Minister's words with the greatest possible success, and I only hope that when the Minister replies he may be able to say that the success of the Prime Minister's opinion on this subject is as great in this Debate as it was on other subjects in the debate before the country at the last Election.

This is not simply a women's question. Over and over again we have been told, "Oh, you are going to discuss a women's subject." This is nothing of the kind. It is not simply the women of this country or in the Civil Service asking for something; it is the people of this country, I believe, in an enormous majority, having discovered this anomaly, who are in favour of a change being made. I think we must describe it as an anomaly that people who have entered the Civil Service by the same competitive examination should, when it comes to extra remuneration, be divided because of their sex. Men and women outside have approached many of us at the General Election and at other times, and I believe that hon. Members inside this House, whether they be men or women, look at the problem from the same point of view: Is this the right way of paying servants of the State, or is it not It is the answer to that question that we want to know to-day.

I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Cambridge University (Mr. Pick-thorn) and the hon. and gallant Member for Hexham (Colonel Clifton Brown) that many of us do not wish to go as far as this Amendment goes. I do not wish to enter into any discussion of the Resolution of 1920, nor am I in favour of the word "forthwith," a word that has been very dangerous of late, and I think it would be a great thing if, by the removal of that word, we could come to some agreement on the subject. But there remains the principle. I do not want simply to get an aswer as to what cannot be done this year or next year. I want to hear whether the Government feel that it is right that this anomaly should continue, or whether they will explain why they consider it is not an anomaly and that it is right that at this juncture in the work of the Civil Service this distinction should still be made. In asking that, I do not think we are asking too much. We want to know exactly where we stand in this matter, and I would point out that this question is more and more coming before us in the country. People in the past did not realise what the difficulty was, but they are realising it more and more. Is it just and is it right? Those are the questions to which we want an answer.

If the full amount cannot be paid at once, I would ask that we should be told at any rate whether the Government are in agreement with the principle and whether they would consider a scheme for the future. Are they going to turn down the whole thing? The suggestion was made by the hon. and gallant Member for Hexham that those women who have reached the maximum should, after a certain period, be allowed a further increment so as to bring them up to the maximum for the men. That would be something for those who have been in the Civil Service for 15 or 20 years, and I would like to make another suggestion. Will the Government face boldly the fact that this scheme of payment is not the right scheme and give us the promise that in future, without, saying necessarily at what particular date—we do not press them as far as that—new entrants into those common classes of the Civil Service, in other words, the successful candidates in the common classes, be they men or women, should be remunerated on the same scale of pay? I would like, of course, to see both ideas carried out, but I do not think we can expect all the women in the common classes at once to receive the extra remuneration.

I would like to know from the Minister what objections there are, of cost or otherwise, to this scheme—first, that those who have been in the Civil Service and have reached their maximum should have their maximum increased to the men's maximum, and, secondly, that at a future date men and women candidates for the Civil Service who are successful and become servants of the State should be given, if they are in those common classes and working in exactly the same way, the same scales of payment. I think the subject is important, affecting not merely the people in the Civil Service, but the country as a whole. The country as a whole, the taxpayers, are the employers of these men and women. They give the money, and they want to see their money given justly, but at present they do not think it is.

6.21 p.m.

Lieut.-Colonel Sir WILLIAM ALLEN

Coming from a different part of the United Kingdom, I want to say a word or two on this question. I will do my utmost not to repeat any of the arguments already used, which is rather a difficult thing on a subject like this, but I have received a communication which is, in my opinion, rather unique. It is from the Civil Service Clerical Association, and it is dated 30th April, 1936. It is signed by "your obedient servant." I will not give his name, but it is a man, and I feel very much inclined to reply to that gentleman that perhaps the best thing he can do is to agree that women should get equal pay with him. I was recently under the necessity of sending a telegram home to Belfast, and when I handed it in, I was asked the extra charge for the Free State, also by another gentleman. I think that, after those experiences, it is high time that the women of the Civil Service got equal pay with the men—either that, or that the men should be reduced to the same level as the women.

This is an opportunity which I do not think an Ulsterman should miss, because the Post Office is a reserved service. You deal with it over here, and the Government of Northern Ireland have nothing to do with it. Consequently, the civil servants of Northern Ireland make the same appeal as those of this country. In those few words I would like to emphasise the necessity of agreeing to this Amendment, and I hope the Financial Secretary to the Treasury will give it the consideration which it deserves. Personally, I feel very much inclined to say "immediate" consideration, because this has been going on for years and years, and these women have proved their ability and are thoroughly entitled to this extra remuneration.

6.25 p.m.

Duchess of ATHOLL

When I first came into the Chamber to-day I had not intended to try to catch your eye, Mr. Speaker, because my constituents happen to be very much interested in the question that will follow the discussion of this matter, and I thought I ought to reserve myself for that. The question of the import duty on potatoes is a question in which my constituents are very much more interested than in this one, but as I was a member of the Royal Commission on the Civil Seri ice which sat in 1929-1931, and as that Commission devoted a great deal of time to the question of the conditions of women in the Service, I feel that I would like to say a few words. More especially do I wish to do so because I feel that, so far as I have been able to hear the Debate, very little consideration has been given to a question which was very much before the Royal Commission, namely, the question of the bigger family responsibilities of the men. No one wishes to deny that there are many women who have a mother or perhaps a sister to support, but, taken by and large, I think nobody can deny that the family responsibilities of men are considerably larger than those of women, and it was very remarkable that in the evidence that was presented to us by the men's organisations, though several of these organisations said they favoured the principle of equal pay, many of them were very interested in pressing on us the need, as they saw it, of higher salaries for the men at the period in life at which the family responsibilities of married men are greatest, that is to say, at the time when the family is being educated. That was a claim that we heard from many of the men's organisations, and, frankly, it did not seem to me to be consistent with the rather lukewarm support that some of the associations gave to the principle of equal pay.

I think we have to remember that though the women do not rise to the same final remuneration as the men, they do rise to three-quarters or four-fifths. They enter at the same level, but gradually the men outstrip them by a quarter or a fifth, that is, in those years in which for most men family responsibilities are increasing. Moreover, those of us on the Royal Commission who felt that we could not recommend equal pay, put on record that the relative pay of the sexes in the Civil Service was fully abreast of that in practice in the outside world. It was, I think, clearly set forth that the Civil Service ought to be in the position of a good employer, or of the best employer, but not out of step with what was happening in the world outside.

It also became clear that, just because there was this general recognition of the weight of family responsibilities resting on men, if equal pay were granted, inevitably it would be followed by a demand for family allowances? There was general recognition, not always vocal, but sometimes tacit, though often vocally expressed, that there are heavier family responsibilities resting on men than on women, and this is something fundamental, from which, we cannot get away. Therefore, it was made clear in the course of the evidence that if equal pay were granted, it would only be the prelude to a further demand for family allowances in order to remedy the injustice to the married men which they would feel if they found there was nothing to compensate them for their bigger responsibilities. I therefore feel it my duty to point out that if equal pay is granted, that is only the beginning of a very much bigger salary bill in the Civil Service. I do not wish to argue the question of family allowances here. I only wish to point out that you are only at the beginning of a considerable addition to salary expenditure in the Civil Service if the principle of equal pay is adopted.

The hon. Member for East Edinburgh (Mr. Pethick-Lawrence), challenged the Government to face the country on this matter, and I think my hon. Friend the hon. Member for Dundee (Miss Horsbrugh) rather indicated that she thought there would he a very large vote in the country in favour of this proposal. I would like to ask the hon. Member for East Edinburgh what he thinks the married women of this country would say. What would a working woman who is the mother of a family, having a hard time, say about an unmarried woman with little family responsibilities having the same salary as a married man with family responsibilities?


The answer is quite simple. Where there is a question in which the men are on one side in employment and women on the other, very probably the married women will go with their husbands against the women who are working on the other side. In this case, however, the men are as strongly in favour of this principle as the women are. Therefore, it is exceedingly probable that the married women would have the same view as their husbands on this question.

Duchess of ATHOLL

I can only say, after 12 years in this House, that I am sure the working women in my constituency would feel it a grievance for women without family responsibilities to receive the same pay as married men. If this question is going to be looked at from the electoral point of view, that is how it appears to me, but I want to look at it from the point of view of justice. Because I think that, on the whole, in the vast majority of cases, there is a weight of family responsibility resting on the married man that does not rest on the unmarried woman, and because that fact came before me very clearly during the course of my work on the Royal Commission, I feel bound to vote against the Amendment to-night.


Does the Noble Lady really think that the wives of married men, whose position she has so much at heart, would feel that their family responsibilities were adequately met by the difference between four-fifths and five-fifths of salary; and if she feels about it so strongly why does she object to family allowances?

Duchess of ATHOLL

I understand the question before us is that of equal pay, and I say that if it were given it would be only the beginning of a proposal for family allowances, which I know the hon. Lady urges. A difference of one-fifth in salary is not an adequate acknowledgment of the difference between married men and unmarried women; but it is better than nothing. My point is that there are many married women who feel very keenly about the proposal that an unmarried women should receive the same pay as a married man.

6.34 p.m.


We have had an interesting discussion which has been practically unanimous in favour of the Amendment. I, too, was a member of the Royal Commission to which reference was made by the Noble Lady the Member for Perth and Kinross (Duchess of Atholl). A great deal of attention was paid to this question, but unfortunately the Commission was not quite unanimous as to the recommendation that it should make. The arguments that have been used by the Noble Lady are really antiquated by this time. There are only three arguments, as far as I can see, against granting the request contained in my hon. Friend's Amendment. There is, first, the argument of the Treasury, which we shall hear by and by, and I hope that the Treasury has discovered some means of acceding to the request, but we know how inscrutible are the ways of the Treasury in other cases. The second argument is on the question of wages. Wages are paid in respect of the value of the service that is given, and I think that in this case the House agrees that the nature and value of the service and the entrance into the service are exactly the same for men and women. There is no dispute about the fact that the women in the Civil Service in these particular classes are doing the work just as efficiently as the men. There is no difference as regards the quality of the work in this case. The third argument is that the men are paid more because they have different family responsibilities, and that was the argument advanced by the Noble Lady. It is a very ½old argument, and everybody knows that it does not carry weight any longer. The condition of things has changed so completely that it is nonsense to say that men are being paid in respect of certain social responsibilities.

Duchess of ATHOLL

Is it not a fact that under Unemployment Insurance there are allowances for dependants, and is that not an indication that the State recognises greater family responsibility?


We recognise in that instance the claims of dependants, and I think that the time must come when in other cases, too, we must recognise the independent claims of dependants. Everybody knows that under free competition, which is the basis of this work, the wages that are paid are the lowest possible, and from every point of view they are inadequate to meet the responsibilities of married people. The fact of the matter is that wages really tend to be paid in accordance with the social standing of the individuals concerned. That is a thoroughly unworthy way of looking at this question. I do not think it carries any weight now except for the fact that, with our system of education and the social advantages that some people enjoy, there are people still who are in an advantageous position, and they are paid better than other people simply because there are fewer of them. If they were as numerous as the people in the lower grades, their salaries would descend to the salaries of those lowly-paid people. It has very little to do with family responsibility. It has a great deal to do with social distinctions that are still so prevalent in this country. I hope that to-day we are going to take a step forward in doing away with this invidious distinction, which in this case is based upon difference of sex. I hope that eventually the House will remove all the distinctions based upon sex and social inequality.

6.40 p.m.


I have delayed as long as possible replying in order to provide an ample opportunity for hon. Members to express themselves on this interesting question. I have been urged by the hon. Member for East Edinburgh (Mr. Pethick-Lawrence) to be in my reply bold, blunt and courageous, and to conceal nothing of my mind from the House. I see no difficulty in doing what I am asked, for I have no counsel to give the House but that they should reject the Amendment, and I will give the reasons which have prompted me to that conclusion, which I hope the House will seriously weigh. In the course of our discussion to-day we have had the advantage of hearing the same case stated and restated by hon. Members many times. I should like to pay a tribute to the excellence of the presentation of the case by the hon. Lady who moved the Amendment, to the hon. Gentleman who seconded it, and to many other hon. Members who have spoken. I have sometimes noticed that it is not always safe to judge from a unanimous series of speeches in the House of Commons, for there is often nothing like a corresponding unanimity of opinion in the constituencies which have sent hon. Members here. The Noble Lady the Member for the Sutton Division of Plymouth (Viscountess Astor) perhaps gave one explanation of that when she congratulated herself and the House of Commons on seeing in action again the old guard of the suffragette movement. No one who listened to that old guard could entertain any doubt or fear that they had in any way lost their cunning or that their natural force was abated.

This is one of those questions which arouse and attract sectional interests and which appeal to hon. Members who have always been identified with the feminist movement. When they have prepared and delivered speeches in a debate on this subject it is not always a true indication of what is the opinion of the country or the House. The sense of the House and of the country is not to be judged only from speeches delivered here. There are other means of ascertaining the. view of the country and there is often better evidence than that afforded by speeches. Practically nowhere in the world outside is this principle of equal pay for men and women accepted.


Does the hon. Gentleman challenge what I said that in the civil services of practically every European country there are family and marriage allowances? If he is doubtful about that, I should be glad to furnish him with documents to prove it.


The hon. Member mistakes my point. I am not comparing our own Civil Service with other civil services. I am comparing the conditions in the Civil Service as regards this question with the conditions outside in our own country. What I am asking the House to try and ascertain is the will and wish of the country in this matter, and I am suggesting in all seriousness that what the country feels about this important question is to be gauged by the practice which prevails rather than from the speeches which are made from one side or the other. With regard to other civil services, if she adopted that method of comparison she would have to reconcile herself, and our civil servants would have to reconcile themselves, to rates of pay very much worse than those in the Civil Service in this country. I am suggesting to the House that the true test to be applied is the practice among our own countrymen outside the Civil Service, and not the practice in foreign countries. We desire to have our civil servants so remunerated that they can maintain an adequate standard of life, judging that standard by the, practices in our own country. If it were the fact that you found a widespread acceptance of this principle in industry as a whole, or if you found a general disinclination on the part of women to accept employment unless they received the same wages as their husbands and brothers, you might be in a position to say that there was general agreement with the Amendment throughout the country.


Why should not we lead the way?


I am asking the House to deduce from the two points I have brought to their attention the fact that the general feeling of the country, which we here are asked to apply, is against the general proposition that is advanced. I make no point, because it would be ungracious to do so, of the fact that the hon. Lady's speech was devoted to a narrower issue than that comprehended in her Amendment. She has desired that we should consider more particularly that section of women employed in the Civil Service who are in what we know as the common entry classes. [HON. MEMBERS: "Read the Amendment."] I am quite prepared to accept the hon. Lady's own reading of her Amendment and to accept her particular point. I say the condition of affairs outside is at this stage entirely different from how the hon. Lady sees it in asking the House to accept it as a guiding principle. We do find, in fact, that employment for men and women is rewarded by higher pay to the men than to the women, and I suggest that the reason for that is to be found in our society, founded as it is upon the family, the family in turn founded upon marriage, and marriage in turn casting the greater burden on the man. [HON. MEMBERS: "No!"] I am not proposing to prejudge the future, or to say what may be the appropriate action to be taken in the future evolution of our society. If, for example, as some of our gloomier prophets foretell, we ever approximate to the very wonderful, but ungainful, economy of bees, among whom the women do all the work and bear all the responsibility, and the males have what is known as a short life but a gay one—if that drab dawn ever came it might be that those who support the. feminist movement and the female section of our people might find themselves faced with duties and responsibilities beyond what they would desire. But we have to deal with this proposal in the present framework of society and with relation to the practice which prevails outside.

Let me say one word about this Amendment. It has been put down and has been discussed throughout on the basis that it seeks an equalisation of pay for men and women. In truth it is not that principle which is its object—not entirely, because you can achieve equalisation of pay as between men and women by one or two processes. You may level up or level down, and if equality, that clear, abstract ideal, were the object we might have had some discussion on how to achieve it by reducing the salaries of men to the level of those of women, but we have had no such thing. What the House is asked to do is to consider granting an increase of pay to some women in the Civil Service. I have been urged to be blunt and bold, and I would urge those who are supporting the Amendment to face up to what they are asking. We are asked that a certain section of the women employed in the Civil Service shall get a rise of pay—


Be paid equally for equal work.


—not all the women in the Civil Service, but only those who are lucky enough to find themselves in a common entry grade, that is to say 15 per cent. of the women employed in the Civil Service. [HON. MEMBERS: "They are doing the same work as men."] If hon. Members will reflect they will see, as the hen. Member who so ably seconded this Amendment has pointed out, how shallow that view is. If we were to accede to this request and to raise the pay of this happy band of sisters, choosing them from all the other women employed in the Civil Service to receive this particular benefit, is it thought that we could resist, with any hope of success, the claims of their sisters? [HON. MEMBERS: "Of course not."] Hon. Members admit it. I ask the House to say that the fact that the women are in this particular grade is no reason for putting them in a special category as regards their pay. Take the other classes, for which men are not allowed to compete at all. If we granted this request it would not he long before the women in those section where men do not compete would invent what I may call the hypothetical man. Applying the different percentage rises of those in the common entry classes trey would arrive at the proportion of difference that has arisen by reason of this proposal and would then say, "If we had men in our grade they would before now have been receiving this fraction higher than we are receiving to-day, and we ought to get it."

Let hon. Members face up to what they are asking the House to do. I have said that this is an application for a rise in pay for a particular section of the Civil Service. I would ask time House to observe that it is not founded upon any of the usual grounds for increased remuneration. For example, it is not founded upon any assertion that the scales paid in outside industry for comparable work are higher than those paid inside the Civil Service. This is no demand for a rise in salary based upon any claim that the salary now paid is inadequate in itself as compared with the standards obtaining outside. No such thing. Neither is it alleged that the women in the common entry grades are dissatisfied with their salaries as such. No hon. Member has suggested that and, indeed, I have been asked for my evidence on the matter. I have consulted with those concerned and the truth is that this discontent, such as it is—I am glad to say it is a very small volume, existing only in those sections where men and women work together—comes not from the women but from the married men, who see the women, even though their salaries are, perhaps, a little less, with far more actual pocket money—or I ought to say handbag money?—than they possess and enjoying, in spite of their lower salaries, a higher standard of life than the married men working alongside them.

Far from there being seething discontent among the women in the Civil Service as an hon. Member suggested—there is no such thing, it is an illusion—such discontent as is heard is the discontent manifested in an occasional grumble from the married men an I the married men's wives, because of the higher standard of life of the women who are in the same grade. As a married man I can say "Sufferance is the badge of all our tribe." I can assure the House that there is no question of real discontent at the bottom of this question. So we find that this application for a rise in pay is founded not upon any industrial considerations but on the feminist, if I may use. the expression, conception that there is something wrong in women having a certain wage, not because of anything wrong with the wage as such compared with wages in outside industry but because a man doing the same work is getting more than she gets. This is very different from ordinary applications for increases in salary which come before us from time to time. The hon. Lady recognises that the basis of her agitation is not that salaries are insufficient in themselves but that some man in the same grade is getting a little more than a woman is. As far as I can gather what the country thinks about this particular dogma, on which alone the agitation is founded, namely, that it is wrong to pay a woman less than a man, that view is not held by the country as a whole.


Will the hon. Member give the House a free vote on this question; and will he also explain the fact that if a woman enters the Cabinet she gets the same salary as a man?


I will deal with the hon. Member's second point first. Most of these Cabinet salaries, including the one which he has in mind, are fixed by statutes making no difference between men or women.


Exactly. Say that again.


The particular salary which the hon. Member has in mind, the salary, I think, of the Minister of Labour—


Or the salary of the Financial Secretary to the Treasury.


—is fixed by Statute, and the Statute, though it does not in so many words contemplate a woman ever holding the office, is in such terms that, legally, that salary is payable whether it be a woman or a man who holds the post. An argument based on that very peculiar and unusual form of employment, and against the whole mass of accepted evidence outside, in the country at large, would not be an argument in accordance with the weight of evidence. I ask the House to consider what is the main consideration when deciding wages and conditions in the Civil Service or in any other Government employment. It has been held by successive Governments that what you have to do in fixing the wages under the State is to 'apply the fair wages principle, that is, to pay those who work for the State such sum as will put the State in the front rank of good employers. Further, you are paying the wages not with your own money but with that of other people.

Consequently, that principle has been adopted and has been clung to. I wish to apply it here. The wages paid to women in the Civil Service, no matter whether they belong to the common entrant grade or to other grades, corn-pare favourably with the wages paid outside for similar work. There is within the Civil Service admirable conciliation machinery in the shape of the Joint Whitley Council, where all these questions of staff pay are discussed between both sides and where you can get a decision on them. To accept this Amendment, and to say that in the Civil Service you should pay this additional sum because men are being paid a little more, would be to defeat the fair wages principle and to destroy its efficacy in the Civil Service.


Would the hon. Gentleman read the fair wages Clause, and explain to us whether there is one word that applies to the wages paid in Government Departments?


The hon. Member is confusing two things, the Clause which the Government gets inserted in Government contracts, and the fair wages principle—which is the one I am talking about—which is used in Government employment. The two things are connected but are entirely different. To accept the Amendment in this form would be to do 'away with this principle, and set up another one entirely different from the principles on which wages in the Civil Service have so long and so successfully been regulated. Hon. Members seem to make light of the position that we are being asked to consider. We are being asked to experiment with the taxpayers' money for the sake of satisfying a demand for more wages that does not arise from any industrial reason, but from a particular dogma in support of which you have to use the taxpayers' money to give a lead. That is not the purpose for which we are entrusted with public funds. The purpose is to use those funds as the public would like to see them used, and to put ourselves in the position of the best of employers, but not to use them for experiments on the lines suggested in the Amendment. The hon. Member for East Edinburgh spoke about the effect of this Amendment, if carried, on the employment of men. He told the House that he was approached in his own city, which I know is inhabited by many important civil servants, and that the civil servants spoke to him about this matter. He suggested that the male civil servants feared that if this difference in wage were allowed to continue it would have an undercutting effect on their wages and employment, in the sense that there would be more women coming into the Service and replacing men.

I would ask the House carefully to consider this with me. I say that the effect of this Amendment would be to increase the number of women employed. It is true, as the hon. Lady the Member for the English Universities (Miss Rathbone) said, that if you applied this principle in industry you would have generally a reduction in the employment of women because employers, having to pay the same wage, would seek the services of men where they could get them for the same money. In this respect the Civil Service is in an entirely different position from the outside market, for the reason that we have already decreed that women shall be admitted to the Civil Service, not at the choice of anyone in that Service but by open competitive examination. Supposing you were by means of this Amendment to violate the fair wages principle, and to give to this favoured section of the Civil Service this additional advantage in the shape of a wage out of proportion to anything they could get outside, the effect you could expect from that would be an increase in the number of women entrants for the Civil Service examination.

Viscountess ASTOR

What is the objection if they passed it?


These are competitive examinations, and the result would be that you would have a greater chance that the top places would be filled by women than you have at present. [Interruption.] The Departments are not allowed to pick and choose whom they will have; they are bound to take the people who pass at the top of the examinations. If you increase the number of entrants by offering this financial inducement you will get a greater number of women entrants. Mathematically you should, and if the opinion of the intelligence of women which the Noble Lady and I share is true, you would tend to get a bigger number of successful women candidates. Let the House do what it is doing with open eyes. Let them know that if you make equal the pay for men and women you would not decrease the number of women in the Civil Service, but you would tend to increase it at the expense of the more heavily burdened married man.


Does the hon. Gentleman mean that if the pay is increased in this sense a higher standard of women will compete? Is not the logical result of that that the State would, in that event, be getting better value for its money?


I do not think that would happen. What I said would happen would be that the greater inducement would attract a greater number of entrants, not entrants greater in quality. The present position as to the payment of men and women in these classes is based on a report of the Reorganisation Committee which sat in 1920. That was a committee of the Joint Whitley Council which included representatives of the staff side and the official side, and had on it four women. They recommended that the minimum basic wage for each class should be the same, and that the increments should be the same up to a certain point. They then set up the scales which now apply to men and women. We find that boys and girls in the clerical department, which is far the most numerous, so far as this question is concerned, inter at 17 and are level in pay until 22, when the male gradually draws ahead. By the age of 36 the man is at his maximum and the woman has 75 per cent. of his salary. In the higher grades the woman's rate is more like 80 or 85 per cent.

No doubt the Reorganisation Committee did this having in mind the economic burden on men, since we find that the two biggest increments cover the ages 25–26, and they are called marriage increments. It is that which brings the salary ahead. The criterion adopted in the Civil Service is not purely "the rate for the job," but take account of the greater economic burden normally falling on a man. If you were to accept the principle of the rate for the job, you would have to recast the whole of the salaries, the marriage increment would go, and you would have a demand on the part of the long-suffering men and their wives for additional assistance. The cost of this proposal would vary greatly according to the extent to which the principles were extended. If you gave this selected class of women this advantage, you would be faced with demands for increases of all kinds, and the total cost would be enormous. The Noble Lady congratulated us on having a surplus, and said we should meet the cost out of the surplus. I would ask her how surpluses are accumulated. They ore accumulated by this House refusing to spend public money unless a case for its expenditure is made out.

Viscountess ASTOR

What about sugar-beet? [Interruption.]


There is so much noise I cannot hear what the hon. and learned Gentleman is saying, and I am rather anxious to hear his argument.


One point the Noble Lady made was with reference to the Treaty of Versailles. I was rather glad to hear her invoking that Treaty in support of her views; but what it stated there does not make anything in the nature of an engagement; it only sets out certain principles. The first principle is that labour should not be regarded merely as a commodity or an article of commerce. What the Noble Lady and those who agree with her have been arguing is that the only true measure of men or women is the work they do, and that they should get the same amount of money. I say that, far from that, the House ought to adopt the view that there is a difference, and that the House ought to take into account the burdens which fall on the masculine section of the community. Hon. Members mast not attempt to estimate human values by the mere fact of how much money people receive.


If a woman is doing equal work with a man who gets higher wages, and if the hon. and learned Gentleman does not recognise that equality in the payment of their wages, in what other way would he propose to recognise their equality of status?


If the hon. Member will be patient for a moment I will proceed to deal with this question of status. It has been urged by hon. Members that there is a grievance on the score of status, and that the women who are working in the common class feel that their standing and status are somehow lower, because their colleagues are getting a little more money. I assure hon. Members that nothing of the kind is. happening. I have yet to find that the people as a whole in this country measure their status by the amount of money they happen to be receiving. The woman who is doing good work is quite as conscious of her own status and value to the community as are people who are drawing a, good deal more money. I entirely agree with the encomiums that have been paid to the women in the Civil Service, and I would not modify one line of them in any way, but I would ask hon. Members to pause long because they consider that those women are measuring their importance to the State and the value of their services by the amount of money they are receiving.

I will deal with the general question that has been raised in the Debate. The principle which has guided successive Governments, in saying what is a proper wage or salary to be paid, is that of fair wages, that is, to put men and women in their employment in the condition in which they would be if they were employed outside in the comparable rank, in regard to wages and conditions. That is the principle which has been applied in this case. It is recognised in the Civil Service. An hon. Member drew attention to the fact that you might, in a very rare case, find a woman who is getting less money supervising a man who is getting more than she. [HON. MEMBERS: "You do get such cases."] Hon. Members must recognise that you also get the case of the man who is receiving less wages supervising the man who is getting more. It applies to both sexes, and we never seek to make any difference in that respect. A younger officer of the administrative class getting a less salary sometimes has under his supervision men of the clerical and executive classes who are getting more, but are drawing towards the end of their period of service.

I ask hon. Members to cast from their minds the idea that there is a widespread, seething agitation in the Civil Service on this matter. There is nothing of the kind. There is a general recognition in the common classes of the fact that in leisure, promise of leisure and opportunities to enjoy it, many women are receiving a higher standard of life than the men, and the principle which has been applied hitherto in the Civil Service is to pay a wage which takes account of the different position of the man.

Viscountess ASTOR

If the Minister is so certain that he represents the feeling of the country, will he leave this Amendment to the open vote of the House?


I did not set myself forward as an interpreter of the wishes of the country, but I invite hon. Members to gauge that feeling for themselves by looking at the universal practice outside. In regard to the Amendment, it must be treated just like any ordinary Motion.

Viscountess ASTOR

Test it by taking off the Whips.

7.21 p.m.


The Financial Secretary to the Treasury raised a most amazing number of dummies in his speech, and then proceeded to knock them down. The hon. Lady the Member for Dundee (Miss Horsbrugh) must have had a considerable shock when she saw how he was applying something of the cold logic of Scotland in replying on the Debate.


I discovered how extraordinarily brilliant a Scotsman could be in putting a bad case.


The question which is before the House is not the usual one of wages and conditions of labour. It is an unusual question, put in an unusual manner. There are in the Civil Service numbers of men and women performing precisely the same work, recruited in precisely the same conditions and employed similarly in every respect, except that they receive differential rates of pay. We ask that that position should be put right, not only on the ground of sex, which is not the only consideration, but on the ground that when two people are performing precisely similar duties and have to bring to bear precisely similar qualities, they are entitled to precisely similar rates of remuneration for that work. When the hon. Member for Camlachie (Mr. Stephen) asked a question about the differentiation with regard to married women, the Minister fell into the trap and replied that that was fixed by Statute. Exactly; that is what we ask the Government to do now, fix this matter by Statute regardless of sex and regardless of position.

There have been only two speeches in opposition to the Amendment and one, which we naturally expected would come, was the surprising speech from the representative of the Treasury. There has been a unanimous opinion that our vote should not go against this proposition, which has never been voted down by the House of Commons since 1920. The vote was carried in 1920, and ever afterwards the proposition has either been withdrawn because of some promise or it has been agreed to. Never has the House defeated such a Motion. An hon. Member called attention to the fact that the Whitley Council decided in 1920 against this proposition, but a lot of water has flowed under the bridges since that date. The Whitley Council has been expressly forbidden to discuss the question. In 1924, 1932 and 1934 application was made to the Government to allow the Whitley Council to discuss this proposition, but the Government refused to give consent. It is therefore of no use to cite the Whitley Council in this connection as being in any way against the proposition.

It is argued that the effect of this Amendment would be, if it were carried, to reduce the number of male workers in the Service. Because there are of necessity more women in the world, and therefore more women enter into examinations, it is held that more women would emerge in the top places.


That was not what I said. I said that the Amendment asks us to place this section of women in a better condition than anybody else and that we should, by that means, if there were to be any effect at all, attract a greater number of women candidates to the examinations. Therefore you would get a greater proportion of successful women candidates.


That is only saying the same thing, but I will accept it in the way the hon. and learned Member puts it. It is utterly absurd to suggest that you would get a greater number of candidates of one sex and, of necessity, that a greater proportion would emerge in the top places, but even if they did, what ground of objection can there be, so long as you get the best people, whether they be men or women? Although this happens to be a plea to raise women to the level of men in the Service, it is not a plea based primarily on the question of sex. It is based upon a question of equal pay for equal work, and I hope that hon. Members will keep that principle consistently before them. The hon. and learned Member quoted the Fair Wages Clause. Before I entered this House I was associated with some Civil Service organisations which did a good deal to get the Fair Wages Clause passed by this House. That Clause was introduced by the late Lord Buxton when he was Postmaster-General in order to meet the agitation. The Fair Wages Clause simply laid down that the wages ruling in a given district should be according to those paid by the best type of employer for a trade union standard of labour. It had nothing to do with Government employment, for which it has always been claimed that it set precisely those standards. The hon. and learned Member raised the most amusing idea of a lot of spinster ladies in the Civil Service agitating in order that they might set up some standard of remuneration. He must have been short of argument if he had to drag in something like that.

A little later the hon. and learned Member said something which destroyed the logic of his first position. He drew attention to what is called the marriage bar in the Civil Service. I took part in that agitation. It was said that at a certain age men took to themselves the responsibility of getting married, but the hon. and learned Member did not insist that they should get married. Whether or not a man marries, lie draws his wage because of the work that he performs. I am afraid the hon. and learned Gentleman cannot use that argument in support of his case. He said that this proposal comes from the feminist movement, and to a certain extent he is right. When women were admitted to equal suffrage, it followed of necessity that there would be a demand that they should be allowed to grow to equal stature with men in all phases of our public life. Women have now attained to a broader view of things; they have accepted the position of fair competition in the labour market, and their claim is that they are entitled to equal pay.

The hon. and learned Gentleman is wrong when he says that we are asking for something that is not done outside. The Government have no right to set up a standard of comparison with what is done outside unless the comparison is with the nearest comparable service, and, if the hon. and learned Gentleman is going to rest upon that argument he is on a very shaky foundation, for many of the municipal services accept this principle, and, in those services, where people are employed on similar work, they are receiving similar pay. I happen to be a member of the largest local government authority in the world, the London County Council, and I am also chairman of the committee that interviews applicants for various posts. Most of the higher posts are thrown open for examination regardless of the sex of the applicant, and the preference is decided, not by whether the applicant is a man or a woman, but by whether the applicant is the most competent person for the post. I hope the House will give a very definite decision to-night, as it has done before, in favour of equal pay for equal work.

7.33 p.m.


It was not my intention to say anything on this subject until I heard the speech of the Financial Secretary. In my judgment, his speech was not worthy of him. I have a great admiration for his ability, but the whole of his speech was built up on sex prejudice and sustained by special pleading. I should like to say a few words in reply to one or two of the points that he raised. He said that what is being asked for here is not in accordance with what is the practice outside. I challenge that statement. I am not now referring to women employed outside in work that is special to women, but let us be honest and admit that the reason why women are employed in some kinds of work outside in which men are also employed is largely because their labour is cheaper than that of men. One of the reasons for the tremendous amount of unemployment among men who were formerly employed in particular jobs is that their labour has been replaced by that cheaper labour, and I think the House will do well to lay down the principle of equal pay for equal work as a defence of many men. I believe it would cause work to be given to more men.

I also desire to challenge the hon. and learned Gentleman's suggestion that people are employed and paid outside according to the responsibilities that they bear. It is, if I may say so, absolute nonsense to make that suggestion. I would ask any employer of labour in this House whether, when he employs a man, he pays him according to the number of children that he has, or pays any attention to the responsibilities that he bears. It is just not correct to say that people are paid according to their responsibilities. If I am employing a typist in my office, I do not question her as to her responsibilities; I pay her according to her ability and according to the services she is going to render. People are paid on a certain basis according to the particular work they do, and the basis of payment has nothing whatever to do with their responsibilities.

Another point that the hon. and learned Gentleman made was that men in the Civil Service feel a certain grievance because single women can enjoy a better standard of life than they can. Does the hon. and learned Gentleman mean to lay that down as a principle that can be justified? Men who, willingly, I suppose, have taken on a marriage contract, should surely decide for themselves how many children they will have and what their responsibilities are. Does a man get no compensation from marriage? If that principle is to be applied, you would, you want to be so just, have to go all round Whitehall and pay every man according to the number of his children or the responsibilities that he has. It is not on any of these points that the House has to vote; it has to vote on a proposal that where, irrespective of sex, equal work is being done, it should be rewarded with equal pay, and I can find no logical argument against that proposal. To say that that should not be the case is simply using sex prejudice.

I repeat that, if this principle were accepted, many more men would be put into employment, though not perhaps in this particular case, because the entry is by competitive examination. I agree with the hon. and learned Gentleman that, if the proposal were accepted, there would be a demand for it all round, but why should there not be equal pay for equal work all round? It is not a question of belonging to he feminist movement. I myself do not know a single person who is interested in this question in an official capacity, but I am concerned about what is happening to many men today whose labour is being replaced by the cheaper labour of women. That is bringing about a tremendous amount of unemployment. If this principle is laid down, a lot of married men would thank the Government for accepting it, because I believe that a great many more would be employed. The hon. and learned Gentleman's case is, as I said before, founded on prejudice. I did not hear from him one logical argument against the House supporting the Amendment, and it will give me great pleasure to vote for it in the Lobby.

7.42 p.m.


I feel that I cannot give a vote on this question without stating my reasons for doing so. The Financial Secretary has used a good many very ingenious arguments, but one of them, at any rate, did not entirely convince me. He suggested that the acceptance of this principle would lead to a great influx of feminine candidates in the examinations, and, as a result, men would be displaced. If that be true, it suggests that there is in this country a large reservoir of ability untapped at this moment, which would be made available to the benefit of the Civil Service, because, on his own argument, these women would be abler than the men who now enter the Service. Therefore, I think his argument was not really as effective an argument as he might have used.

I will not touch upon minor points, but I should like to say one thing about my hon. and learned Friend's main argument, which was that this is a mere appeal on behalf of the feminist desire for equality, and is inconsistent with the fair wages principle, on which, broadly, the action of the Government in this matter is based. I should certainly not support the Amendment on any ground of mere feminist egalitarianism. Undoubtedly there is much to be said for the abstract view that, regardless of sex, equal work should receive equal pay, but there is also a much more practical point of view, a social point of view, from which men as well as women advocate a general extension of the principle of equal pay for the same work. That is that under present conditions, as the hon. Member opposite said just now, there is undoubtedly a tendency to employ women because they can be got more cheaply, regardless to some extent of the efficiency of the work, and also regardless of the social problems that result from employing women instead of men. On the other hand, if, under equal con-

ditions, women do get employed, there can be no doubt that their employment is justified, and no one can demur to that result on social grounds.

The principle is one which affects employment as a whole. Those who support the Amendment wish to see it extended, and their view of the fair wages principle is that the Government should give a lead, not merely in regard to cash remuneration, but also in regard to the whole method and principle of remuneration from the point of view of the social results that flow from it. It is from that broader point of view, I believe, that this proposal has been brought forward, and from that point of view I think it deserves more consideration from His Majesty's Government than the speech of my hon. and learned Friend would seem to indicate.

Question put, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."

The House divided: Ayes, 148; Noes, 156.

Division No. 131.] AYES. [7.45 p.m.
Acland-Troyte, Lt.-Col. G. J. Elmley, Viscount Makins, Brig.-Gen. E.
Assheton. R. Emrys-Evans, P. V. Manningham-Buller, Sir M.
Aator, Major Hon. J. J. (Dover) Evans, Capt. A. (Cardiff, S.) Margesson, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. D. R.
Atholl, Duchess of Fox, Sir G. W. G. Maxwell, S. A.
Baldwin, Rt. Hon. Stanley Fremantle, Sir F. E. Mayhew, Lt.-Col. J.
Balfour, G. (Hampstead) Fyfe, D. P. M. Meller, Sir R. J. (Mitcham)
Barclay-Harvey, C. M. Ganzoni, Sir J. Mitcheson, Sir G. G.
Beaumont, M. W. (Aylesbury) Gluckstein, L. H. Morrison, W. S. (Cirencester)
Boulton, W. W. Gridley, Sir A. B. Muirhead, Lt.-Col. A. J.
Bowyer, Capt. Sir G. E. W. Grimston, R. V. Munro, P.
Braithwaite, Major A. N. Gunston, Capt. D. W. Nail, Sir J.
Brass, Sir W. Hannah, I. C. Neven-Spence, Maj. B. H.
Briscoe, Capt. R. G. Hannon, Sir P. J. H. O'Neill, Major Rt. Hon. Sir Hugh
Brocklebank, C. E. R. Harbord, A. Ormsby-Gore, Rt. Hon. W. G.
Brown, Brig.-Gen. H. C. (Newbury) Hellgers, Captain F. F. A. Orr-Ewing, I. L.
Browne, A. C. (Belfast, W.) Heneage, Lieut.-Colonel A. P. Palmer, G. E. H.
Bull, B. B. Herbert, Major J. A. (Monmouth) Patrick, C. M.
Burgin, Dr. E. L. Herbert, Captain S. (Abbey) Penny, Sir G.
Butler, R. A. Hopkinson, A. Petherick, M.
Campbell, Sir E. T. Howitt, Dr. A. B. Porritt, R. W.
Cary, R. A. Hudson, R. S. (Southport) Procter, Major H. A.
Cautley, Sir H. S. Hume, Sir G. H. Ramsay, Captain A. H. M.
Cayzer, Sir C. W. (City of Chester) Hunter, T. Rathbone, J. R. (Bodmin)
Chamberlain. Rt. Hn. Sir A. (Br. W.) Inskip, Rt. Hon. Sir T. W. H. Rayner, Major R. H.
Cobb, Sir C. S. James, Wing-Commander A. W. Reed, A. C. (Exeter)
Colfox, Major W. P. Kerr, Colonel C. I. (Montrose) Reid, W. Allan (Derby)
Cook, T. R. A. M. (Norfolk N.) Lamb Sir J Q. Rickards, G. W. (Skipton)
Cooper, Rt. Hn. A. Duff(W'st'r S.G'gs) Law R. K. (Hull, S. W.) Robinson, J. R. (Blackpool)
Craddock, Sir R. H. Leech, Dr. J. W. Ross Taylor, W. (Woodbridge)
Rowlands, G.
Crooke, J. S. Lees-Jones, J. Ruggles-Brise, Colonel Sir E. A.
Cruddas, Col. B. Leighton, Major B. E. P. Russell, R. J. (Eddlsbury)
Davies, C. (Montgomery) Llewellin, Lieut.-Col. J. J. Salmon, Sir I.
Davies, Major G. F. (Yeovil) Lloyd, G. W. Salt, E. W.
Dorman-Smith, Major R. H. Lumley, Capt. L. R. Samuel, Sir A. M. (Farnham)
Drewe, C. Mabane, W. (Huddersfield) Samuel, M. R. A. (Putney)
Duckworth, W. R. (Moss Side) MacAndrew, Lt.-Col. Sir C. G. Scott, Lord William
Dugdale, Major T, L. M'Connell, Sir J. Shaw, Major P. S. (Wavertree>
Dunglass, Lord McCorquodale, M. S. Shaw, Captain W. T. (Forfar)
Eastwood, J. F. MacDonald, Rt. Hon. M. (Ross) Simon, Rt. Hon. Sir J. A,
Edmondson, Major Sir J. McKle, J. H. Smith, Bracewell (Dulwich)
Elliot, Rt. Hon. W. E. Macnamara, Capt. J. R. J. Smith, L. W. (Hallam)
Ellis, Sir G.
Somerville, D. G. (Willesden, E.) Tasker, Sir R. I. Warrender, Sir V.
Southby, Comdr. A. R. J. Taylor, C. S. (Eastbourne) Wickham, Lt.-Col. E. T. R.
Spens, W. P. Thomson, Sir J. D. W. Willoughby de Eresby, Lord
Stanley, Rt. Hon. Lord (Fyide) Titchfield, Marquess of Winterton, Rt. Hon. Earl
Stanley, Rt. Hon. Oliver (W'm'l'd) Tree, A. R. L. F. Womersley, Sir W. J.
Stewart, J. Henderson (Fife, E.) Tufnell, Lieut.-Com. R. L.
Strickland, Captain W. F. Wakefield, W. W. TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—
Stuart, Hon. J. (Moray and Nairn) Wallace, Captain Euan Captain Waterhouse and Mr. Cross.
Sueter, Rear-Admiral Sir M. F. Ward, Lieut.-Col. Sir A. L. (Hull)
Adams, D. M. (Poplar, S.) Griffith, F. Kingsley (M'ddl'sbro, W.) Morrison, R. C. (Tottenham, N.)
Adamson, W. M. Griffiths, G. A. (Hemsworth) Muff, G.
Agnew, Lieut.-Comdr. P. G. Griffiths, J. (Llanelly) Naylor, T. E.
Alexander, Rt. Hon. A. V. (H'lsbr.) Groves, T. E. Nicolson, Hon H. G.
Allen, U.-Col. Sir W. J. (Armagh) Guy, J. C. M. Oliver, G. H.
Amery, Rt. Hon. L. C. M. S. Hall, J. H. (Whitechapel) Owen, Major G.
Ammon, C. G. Hardie, G. D. Parker, H. J. H.
Anderson, F. (Whitehaven) Harris, Sir P. A. Parkinson, J. A.
Aske, Sir R. W. Henderson, A. (Kingswinford) Pethick-Lawrence, F. W.
Astor, Visc'tess (Plymouth, Sutton) Henderson, T. (Tradeston) Pickthorn, K. W. M.
Attlee, Rt. Hon. C. R. Hills, Major Rt. Hon. J. W. (Ripon) Potts, J.
Balniel, Lord Holdsworth, H. Price, M. P.
Barnes, A. J. Hollins, A. Pritt, D. N.
Barr, J. Hopkin, D. Quibett, J. D.
Bellenger, F. Horsbrugh, Florence Richards, R. (Wrexham)
Benson, G. Jagger, J. Ritson, J.
Bernays, R. H. Jenkins, A. (Pontypool) Roberts, Rt. Hon. F. O. (W. Brom.)
Bevan, A. Joel, D. J. B. Roberts, W. (Cumberland, N.)
Boscom, A. C. Jones, A. C. (Shipley) Robinson, W. A. (St. Helens)
Bower, Comdr. R. T, Jones, H. Haydn (Merioneth) Rowson, G.
Bread, F. A. Jones, L. (Swansea, W.) Sanders, W. S.
Bromfield, W. Jones, Morgan (Caerphilly) Sanderson, Sir F. B.
Brooke, W. Kelly, W. T. Sexton, T. M
Brown, Col. D. C. (Hexham) Kennedy, Rt. Hon. T. Short, A.
Buchanan, G. Kirby, B. V. Shute, Colonel Sir J. J.
Cartland, J. R. H. Kirkwood, D. Silverman, S. S.
Cazalet, Thelma (Islington, E.) Lansbury, Rt. Hon. G. Smith, Ben (Rotherhithe)
Chater, D. Lathan, G. Smith, E. (Stoke)
Cluse, W. S. Lawson, J. J. Sorensen, R, W.
Clydesdale, Marquess of Leach, W. Stephen, c.
Cocks, F. S. Leckie, J. A. Stewart, W. J. (H'ght'n-le-Sp'ng)
Compton, J. Lee, F. Taylor, R. J. (Morpeth)
Daggar, G. Leonard, W. Thorne, W.
Dalton, H. Leslie, J. R. Tinker, J. J.
Davles, S. O. (Merthyr) Liddall, W. S. Viant, S. P.
Dawson, Sir P. Little, Sir E. Graham- Walkden, A. G.
Day, H. Logan, D. G. Walker, J.
Dunn, E. (Rother Valley) Lovat-Fraser, J. A. Watkins, F. C.
Ede. J. C. Macdonald, G. (Ince) Watson, W. McL.
Edwards, A. (Middlesbrough E.) McGhee, H. G. Westwood, J.
Edwards, Sir C. (Bedwellty) McGovern, J. White, H. Graham
Evans, D. O. (Cardigan) MacLaren, A. Whiteley, W.
Evans, E. (Univ. of Wales) Maclean, N. Wilkinson, Ellen
Fletcher, Lt.-Comdr. R. T. H MacMillan, M. (Western Isles) Williams, D. (Swansea, E.)
Foot, D. M. Mander, G. le M. Williams, E. J. (Ogmore)
Furness, S. N. Markham, S. F. Williams, T. (Don Valley)
Gallacher, W. Marklew, E. Wilson. C. H. (Attercliffe)
Gardner, B. W. Marshall, F. Windsor, W. (Hull, C.)
Garro-Jones, G. M. Maxton, J. Woods, G. S. (Finsbury)
George, Megan Lloyd (Anglesey) Mellor, Sir J. S. P. (Tamworth) Young, Sir R. (Newton)
Green, W. H. (Deptford) Milner, Major J.
Greenwood, Rt. Hon. A. Mitchell, Sir W. Lane (Streatham) TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—
Grenfell, D. R. Montague, F. Mr. Charleton and Mr. Mathers.

Words added.


I beg to move, "That Mr. Speaker do now leave the Chair."


I beg to move, "That this House do now adjourn."

I do so in order to ask what the Government intend to do on this defeat?

The PRIME MINISTER (Mr. Baldwin)

The right hon. Gentleman is naturally elated, but I am not quite clear about what has happened. An Amendment has been moved and has been carried in the direction that he would desire, but the business before the House is still, "That Mr. Speaker do now leave the Chair."


May I ask whether the Government intend to carry out the will of the House as expressed in this Amendment?


Of course, the right hon. Gentleman knows that that is a matter that must be considered. We could not give an opinion on that at the moment. It is quite impossible.


The right hon. Gentleman must realise that there is something more in a constitutional way involved in this vote. It is true that during the period of the Labour Government, which was a minority Government, an agreement was reached by which a Government defeat on a particular issue did not have the constitutional importance that it had in ordinary circumstances, but it was the practice previous to the Labour Government of 1929 on an occasion of this sort that the House should be immediately adjourned while the Government considered how the situation was to be faced. I remember a similar occasion, I think when Mr. Bonar Law was Prime Minister.


As two Motions have been moved, it is not quite clear what the Question before the House is.


I moved, "That this House do now adjourn."


I have to put the Question, as amended.

Question put, That, in the opinion of this House, the time has come when the Government should give effect to the Resolution adopted by the House on the 19th May, 1920, and forthwith place women employed in the common classes of the Civil Service on the same scales of pay as apply to men in those classes.

The House divided: Ayes, 134; Noes, 149.

Division No. 132.] AYES. [7.55 p.m.
Adams, D. M. (Poplar, S.) Griffiths, J. (Llanelly) Naylor, T. E.
Adamson, W. M. Guy, J. C. M. Oliver, G. H.
Alexander, Ht. Hon. A. V. (H'lsbr.) Hall, J. H. (Whitechapel) Owen, Major G.
Allen, Lt.-Col. Sir W. J. (Armagh) Hardle, G. D. Parker, H. J. H.
Amery, Rt. Hon. L. C. M. S. Harris, Sir P. A. Parkinson, J A.
Ammon, C. G. Henderson, A. (Kingawinford) Pethick-Lawrence, F. W.
Anderson, F. (Whitehaven) Henderson, T. (Tradeston) Potts, J.
Astor, Visc'tess (Plymouth, Sutton) Hills, Major Rt. Hon. J. W. (Ripon) Price, M. P.
Attlee, Rt. Hon. C. R. Holdsworth, H. Pritt, D. N.
Barnes, A. J. Hollins, A. Quibell, J. D.
Barr, J. Hopkln, D. Richards, R. (Wrexham)
Bellenger, F. Jagger, J. Ritson, J.
Benson, G. Jenkins, A. (Pontypool) Roberts, Rt. Hon. F. O. (W. Brom.)
Bernays, R. H. Jones, A. C. (Shipley) Roberts, W. (Cumberland, N.)
Brvan, A. Jones, H. Haydn (Merioneth) Robinson, W. A. (St. Helens)
Broad, F. A. Jones, Morgan (Caerphilly) Rowson, G.
Bromfield, W. Kelly, W. T. Sanders, W. S.
Brooke, W. Kennedy, Rt. Hon. T. Sexton, T. M.
Brown, Col. D. C. (Hexham) Kirby, B. V. Short, A.
Buchanan, G. Kirkwood, D. Silverman, S. S.
Cartland, J. R. H. Lansbury, Rt. Hon. G. Smith, Ben (Rotherhithe)
Cazalet, Thelma (Islington, E.) Lathan, G. Smith, E. (Stoke)
Chater, D. Lawson, J. J. Sorensen, R. W.
Cluse, W. S. Leach, W. Stephen, C.
Cocks, F. S. Leckie, J. A. Stewart, W. J. (H'ght'n-le-Sp'ng)
Compton, J. Lee, F. Taylor, R. J. (Morpeth)
Daggar, G. Leonard, W. Thorne, W.
Dalton, H. Leslie, J. R. Tinker, J. J.
Davies, S. O. (Merthyr) Little, Sir E. Graham- Viant, S. P.
Day, H. Logan, D. G. Walkden, A. G.
Dunn, E. (Rother Valley) Macdonald, G. (Ince.) Watkins, F. C.
Ede, J. C. McGhee, H. G. Watson, W. McL.
Edwards, A. (Middlesbrough E.) McGovern, J. Westwood, J.
Edwards, Sir C. (Bedwellty) MacLaren, A. White, H. Graham
Evans, D. O. (Cardigan) Maclean, N. whiteley, W.
Evans, E. (Univ. of Wales) MacMillan, M. (Western Isles) Wilkinson, Ellen
Fletcher, Lt.-Comdr. R. T. H. Mander, G. le M. Williams, D. (Swansea, E.)
Foot, D. M. Marklew, E. Williams, E. J. (Ogmore)
Gallacher, W. Marshall, F. Williams, T. (Don Valley)
Gardner, B. W. Mathers, G. Wilson, C. H. (Attercliffe)
Garro-Jones, G. M. Maxton, J. Windsor, W. (Hull, C.)
George, Megan Lloyd (Anglesey) Mellor, Sir J, S. P. (Tamworth) Woods, G. S. (Finsbury)
Green, W. H. (Deptford) Milner, Major J.
Greenwood, Rt. Hon. A. Montague, F. TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—
Grenfell, O. R. Morrison, B. C. (Tottenham, N.) Mr. Groves and Mr. Charieton.
Griffith, F. Kingsley (M'ddl'sbro, W.) Muff, G.
Acland-Troyte, Lt.-Col. G. J. Balfour, G. (Hampstead) Brass, Sir W.
Albery, I. J. Barclay-Harvey, C. M. Briscoe, Capt. R. G.
Assheton, R. Beaumont, M. W. (Ayiesbury) Brocklebank, C. E. R.
Atholl, Duchess of Boulton, W. W. Browne, A. C. (Belfast, W.)
Baldwin, Rt. Hon. Stanley Bowyer, Capt. Sir G. E. W. Bull, B. B.
Burgin, Dr. E. L. James, Wing-Commander A. W. Reid, W. Allan (Derby)
Campbell, Sir E. T. Kerr, Colonel C. I. (Montrose) Rickards, G. W. (Skipton)
Cary, R. A. Lamb, Sir J. Q. Robinson, J. R. (Blackpool)
Chamberlain, Rt. Hn. Sir A. (Br.W.) Law, R. K. (Hull, S.W.) Ross Taylor, W. (Woodbridge)
Clydesdale, Marquess of Leech, Dr. J. W. Rowlands, G.
Cobb, Sir C. S. Lees-Jones, J. Ruggles-Brise, Colonel Sir E. A.
Colfox, Major W. P. Liddall, W. S. Russell, R. J. (Eddisbury)
Cook, T. R. A. M. (Norfolk N.) Lindsay, K. M. Salmon, Sir I.
Craddock, Sir R. H. Llewellin, Lieut.-Col. J. J. Salt, E. W.
Crooke, J. S. Lloyd, G. W. Samuel, Sir A. M. (Farnham)
Cruddas, Col. B. Loftus, P. C. Samuel, M. R. A. (Putney)
Davies, Major G. F. (Yeovil) Lovat-Fraser, J. A. Shaw, Major P. S. (Wavertree)
Dawson, Sir P. Lumley, Capt. L. R. Shaw, Captain w. T. (Forfar)
Denman, Hon. R. D. Mabane, W. (Huddersfield) Shute, Colonel Sir J. J.
Dorman-Smith, Major B. H. MacAndrew, Lt.-Col. Sir C. G. Simon, Rt Hon. Sir J. A.
Drewe, C. M'Connell, Sir J. Smith, Bracewell (Dulwich)
Duckworth, W. R. (Moss Side) McCorquodale, M. S. Smith, L. W. (Hallam)
Dugdale, Major T. L. MacDonald, Rt. Hn. J. R, (Scot. U.) Somerville, D. G. (Willesden, E.)
Dunglass, Lord MacDonald, Rt. Hon. M. (Ross) Southby, Comdr. A. R. J.
Eastwood, J. F. McKie, J. H. Spears, Brig.-Gen. E. L.
Edmondson, Major Sir J. Macnamara, Capt. J. R. J. Spens, W. P.
Elliot, Rt. Hon. W. E. Makins, Brig.-Gen. E. Stanley, Rt. Hon. Lord (Fylde)
Ellis, Sir G. Margesson, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. D. R. Stanley, Rt. Hon. Oliver (Wm'l'd)
Elmley, Viscount Markham, S. F. Stewart, J Henderson (File, E.)
Emery, J. F. Maxwell, S. A. Strauss, H. G. (Norwich)
Emrys-Evans, P. V. May hew, Lt.-Col. J. Strickland, Captain W. F.
Ersklne Hill, A. G. Mailer, Sir R. J. (Mitcham) Stuart, Hun. J. (Moray and Nairn)
Evans, Capt. A. (Cardiff, S.) Mitcheson, Sir G. G. Sueter, Roar-Admiral Sir M. F.
Fox, Sir G. W. G. Morrison, W. S. (Cirencester) Tasker, Sir R. I.
Fremantle, Sir F. E. Muirhead, Lt.-Col. A. J. Thomson, Sir J. D. W.
Fyfe, D. P. M. Munro, P. Titchfield, Marquess of
Ganzoni, Sir J. Nail, Sir J. Tree, A. R. L. F.
Giuckstein, L. H. Neven-Spence, Maj. B. H. Tufnell, Lieut.-Com. R. L.
Gridley, Sir A. B. Nicolson, Hon. H. G. Wakefield, W. W.
Gunston, Capt. D. W. Ormsby-Gorc, Rt. Hon. W. G. Wallace, Captain Euan
Hannah, I. C. Orr-Ewing, I. L. Ward, Lieut.-Col. Sir A. L. (Hull)
Hannon, Sir P. J. H. Palmer, G. E. H. Wickham, Lt.-Col. E. T. R.
Harbord, A. Patrick, C. M. Willoughby de Eresby, Lord
Heilgers, Captain F. F. A. Penny, Sir G. Winterton, Rt. Hon. Earl
Heneage, Lieut.-Colonel A. p. Petherick, M. Wise, A. R.
Herbert, Major J. A. (Monmouth) Pickthorn, K. W. M. Womersley, Sir W. J.
Herbert, Captain S. (Abbey) Porritt, R. W. Wood, Rt. Hon. Sir Kingsley
Hopkinson, A. Procter, Major H. A.
Hume, Sir G. H. Ramsay, Captain A. H. M. TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—
Hunter, T. Rathbone, J. R. (Bodmin) Captain Waterhouse and Mr.
Inskip, Rt. Hon. Sir T. W. H. Reed, A. C. (Exeter) Cross.

Question, "That this House do now adjourn," put, and agreed to.


I beg to move, "That Mr. Speaker do now leave the Chair."

8.5 p.m.


I beg to move, "That this House do now adjourn."

Obviously the House is in a very great difficulty in regard to the entire proceedings, in that, having just voted that Mr. Speaker do not leave the Chair, we should immediately afterwards take another vote on the same subject. Either we merely confirm the opinion of the House, which is obviously unnecessary, or else we reverse it, which is obviously absurd. I think that it is clear that the Government will want time to think over this matter. They have to consider what Minister they can get to address the House on any particular subject, and therefore it is obviously right that this Motion should be accepted and that the House should now adjourn.

8.6 p.m.


I support the Motion of the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition. I do not think that the House can take this matter other than as being a serious Government defeat, not on a trivial issue, but on a matter of principle which reverses the established practice of the Government. On a financial issue which it is particularly within the province of the House of Commons to deal, and on an occasion when the Government Whips were on the run, and in spite of definite pressure put upon ordinary supporters of the Government to go into the Lobby, the Government have been substantially defeated. Under all the established precedents of this House, the work of the House should not go on as though nothing had occurred. It is simply taking away from this House its one important control over the executive. On the previous occasion to which I have already referred, the Government of the day under Mr. Bonar Law's Premiership was defeated in almost similar circumstance to those which obtain to-day. [HON. MEMBERS: "No!"] It was a Civil Service issue on a Treasury matter, on the question of the women entrants to the Civil Service. It was a similar matter, but not of the same magnitude. On that occasion it was considered necessary that the House should adjourn, and subsequent readjustments had to be made in the Government to meet the will of the House. Before the House actually adjourned, the Prime Minister of that day announced that the will of the House would be respected and given effect to. In these circumstances it is wrong for the Patronage Secretary to rise to his feet and make a Motion which implies that we should proceed with the ordinary routine of the day's proceedings as if absolutely nothing had happened. A serious decision has been taken by this House, and if the House of Commons is to be taken seriously in this country, then the Government must take its decisions in a serious way.

8.9 p.m.


I would remind the Prime Minister through you, Mr. Speaker, that perhaps one of the most important constitutional principles which have been established is, that before you, Sir, should leave the Chair, grievances should be redressed. We have had a prolonged and very full Debate, and anybody who has listened to it will be satisfied that the vast majority of the House present were strongly in favour of the principle of the Amendment that was carried on a previous vote. It was only out of deference to the Whips, and under exceptional pressure, that the vote was altered. Any fair observer will agree that, undoubtedly, if there had been a free vote the majority would have been re-affirmed. I would also remind the right hon. Gentleman that this is a question of finance. I agree that there have been similar cases where an Amendment moved by a private Member has been carried to the Motion, "That Mr. Speaker do now leave the Chair." I recollect several occasions, but they were not occasions when taxation and Supply were involved. This is a question of supplying the money. Obviously, we cannot translate this Amendment into action unless the right hon. Gentleman would accept responsibility to provide the money for the purpose, but this Amendment cannot be dismissed as being an ordinary one proposed by a private Member. It is a direct expression of the opinion of the House that you, Sir, shall not leave the Chair until this grievance to a large body of the Civil Service has been removed.

8.11 p.m.


I want to direct the mind of the House to the precedent that was quoted by the hon. Member for Bridgeton (Mr. Maxton) which occurred in 1923, when the present Prime Minister was Chancellor of the Exchequer, but on that occasion he was, owing to the unfortunate illness of the Prime Minister, virtually in charge of the House. He will recall that on that occasion the hon. and gallant Member for Chertsey (Sir A. Boyd-Carpenter) who was then Financial Secretary to the Treasury, made a speech in reply to a case put up by the Civil Service on exactly the same Motion as that before the House to-night—"That Mr. Speaker do now leave the Chair." The Government were defeated by a majority of five. I well recollect it because it was about the fourth or fifth Division in which I had taken part in this House. I would remind the right hon. Gentleman that on that occasion he accepted the decision that the House should adjourn forthwith, and his memory will also go back to what occurred on the next day, when the Government tried to get themselves out of the difficulty by means that did not meet with the approval of the Opposition, which was then led by his right hon. Friend the Lord President of the Council. He will also recall that on that occasion there was not a word spoken in the House, and that at about five o'clock in the afternoon, after an adjournment for an hour, the then Speaker adjourned the House because of the state of disorder that existed. But on the night on which the Government were defeated, they accepted the position that the House should be adjourned.

This is the second time this week that I have had to appeal to the right hon. Gentleman to recognise the ordinary constitutional practice in this House in regard to the responsibility of Ministers to it. On the occasion in 1923 it was undoubtedly a snap Division, because my friend Mr. Hayes, who was at the time Member for Edge Hill, was speaking, and when the Whips discovered that the Government could be defeated at the moment, he was told to sit down, and those of us who were to follow him were told to shut up. With that loyalty which always distinguishes us, but not the Members of the other side, we obeyed the Whips, and the consequence was that the Government were in a minority of five. To-night that cannot be said to be the state at all. The Debate was carried on until the Financial Secretary himself admitted, when he rose, that he had waited until everybody who had wanted to speak had spoken. My hon. Friend the Member for 'North Camberwell (Mr. Ammon) followed him and made it quite plain that he was sitting down so that some arrangement with regard to the time of the Division could be carried through. It is true, that during the afternoon Members on the Government side have been allowed to go when they said they could not vote for the Government to-night. I appeal to the Prime Minister that we are in the position that the House have decided once to-night, that the words "That Mr. Speaker do now leave the Chair," do not stand part of the Question.

It is true that, owing to explanations on the other side, no doubt due not to any excession of strength but to the disappearance of the Government's supporters from our Lobby, the main Question has been defeated, but it still remains the fact that within the last few minutes it has been decided by this House that Mr. Speaker shall not leave the Chair. Therefore, I would suggest to the Prime Minister that when a matter of this kind has been settled, after a full debate, in which the Government so far as I could discover only had one supporter from their own benches—the Noble Lady the Member for Perth and Kinross (Duchess of Atholl)—it is reducing Parliamentary government to a farce for the Chief Whip to get up and move, "That Mr. Speaker do now leave the Chair." Upstairs in Committee Room 14 there is a picture showing what a man who went to the same college as myself did when one of your predecessors wanted to leave the Chair. He had received orders from a tyrannical King that he should leave the Chair, so that the House should not discuss grievances, but the House ordered that the doors should be locked and declined to obey the order from the King that the Mace should be handed over.

In this twentieth century I hope that, despite the smallness of the numbers on this side of the House, the Government still respects constitutional liberty. They have been fairly beaten in the Lobby and I should have thought that the Prime Minister was a sufficiently great Englishman to get up and say, "You shall have the reward of your victory. You can have the night off. The Chief Whip could not keep my legions together. He could only give me 140 votes in the Lobby on an issue of major importance. Therefore, we will think out some war by which we can put this matter right and get Mr. Speaker out of the Chair in a way that shall not be an outrage to the Constitution."

8.18 p.m.


I want to put this matter to the Prime Minister in its true and its important aspect. The Prime Minister has on more than one occasion made it clear that British democracy is of the greatest importance. We have had a vote this evening. The Prime Minister, owing to other duties, was not able to be present, but I can tell him that the Debate shoved extraordinary unanimity on the part of the House in favour of the proposal. It was quite clear that even under the very great pressure brought upon Members on his own side, the Motion, "That Mr. Speaker do now leave the Chair," was defeated. Therefore, the House is entitled before it proceeds to other business to know what attitude the Government are going to take with regard to the question which was the subject of the Debate.

The Prime Minister said that he must have time to consider the matter. We take no exception to that. It is in order to give the Prime Minister the time for which he has asked that we propose that the House should follow its usual practice. When there is a defeat of the Government it is usual for the Government to adjourn the House in order that they may have time to consider the question. This was no snap vote. It was no accident that the vote, was taken when a great number of the Government supporters were out. It was a perfectly deliberate vote. Supporters of the Government knew perfectly well that the vote was coming on, but they deliverately cast their votes against the ruthless attitude taken up by the Financial Secretary to the Treasury. It is a definite expression of opinion, and we ask that the Prime Minister, in a spirit upholding the democratic principles of this country, should agree to adjourn the House, in order to give himself the time for which he has asked to consider what the attitude of the Government is to be on this very important issue.

8.21 p.m.


I quite admit that the position in which the House finds itself is an unusual one. I also admit that the Motion for the Adjournment is perfectly legitimate, and one that had I been occupying a seat on the benches opposite I should certainly have moved; but as an old Parliamentary hand I should not have expected it to be received with avidity. I cannot accept the Motion, and for this reason. I hope that I am, as the hon. Member who has just spoken said, a good democrat, and I shall consider very carefully what steps shall be taken with regard to what has happened to-day; but as a good democrat I want to see the democratic machine in this House functioning at its work. We have discussed to-day one very important question raised from the benches opposite, but there is another important question for discussion which is of importance to all sections of the House. We have also another important matter to consider—the building Votes, which are always got on this day to enable immediate progress to be made in the building which is carried on under the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Labour. In these circumstances the best thing is for the House to proceed with its business.

The Motion before the House is that the House do now adjourn. I oppose that Motion and suggest that we proceed with our business. I would remind the House—I will say nothing about the awkwardness of losing a day if we accept the Motion for the Adjournment and as to whether it can be made up—that we have to consider the work that has to be done before we separate. It would be impossible to take this Vote before Easter, and we should probably lose the chance of discussing those other matters which hon. Members are anxious to raise. We should also have to postpone the passage of the building Votes for a month, and that would be a very un-businesslike method of procedure. I hope very much that after that explanation the House will proceed with the business in a quiet and dignified way and will not dissipate itself, just to go away for an evening's amusement. [HON. MEMBERS: "Withdraw!"] An hon. Member on one of the benches opposite suggested that. My principal enjoyment is in this House and I am perfectly content to spend the evening here. I cannot accept the Motion for the Adjournment.

8.24 p.m.


On a point of Order. I understand that if the Motion for the Adjournment is defeated, the Government propose to move that you do leave the Chair, Mr. Speaker. I should like to ask you whether it is within the competence of the Government to decide whether or not that is in order, or whether that is not a question which you should decide. As I understand it, that question has been voted on. I do not know whether it is right to raise the point now or whether I should do so when the Motion for the Adjournment is out of the way, but I want to have the opportunity of putting the case to you.

8.25 p.m.


I think the right lion. Gentleman is wrong in thinking that the actual definite Motion that I do now leave the Chair has been defeated. That is not the case. The Motion voted upon by the House is the Amendment, and that Amendment having been defeated the question that I do now leave the Chair still remains open. That would be the occasion for keeping me in the Chair or allowing me to leave the Chair. But the actual Question that I do now leave the Chair has not been voted upon by the House.


Do I understand that the Question before the House now is that you do leave the Chair?


The Question now before the House is, "That this House do now adjourn."


The point I am putting is that if your ruling is correct, with great respect why then should the Patronage Secretary make another Motion, "That Mr. Speaker do now leave the Chair"? If the original Motion is still before the House, I cannot understand why there is any need for a further Motion.


On a point of Order. May I point out that Erskine May says: The Committee of Supply must be kept on foot throughout the Session until closed in due course. Accordingly when the House, by the acceptance of an Amendment to the question for the Speaker's leaving the Chair or by negativing that question has thereby superseded the Order of the Day for the Committee of Supply, that order is revived by a Motion made forthwith, either that the House will immediately or upon a future day resolve itself into the Committee of Supply. That seems to cover the point.


May I ask what was the exact Motion on which we voted? I understood the original Motion was "That Mr. Speaker do now leave the Chair," to which an Amendment was moved, and that the Question put to the House was "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question." Therefore, the words "That Mr. Speaker do now leave the Chair" were defeated.


On an occasion like this, we must get the procedure right, and all I desire is that the House should put itself in order. My interpretation is that the Question "That Mr. Speaker do now leave the Chair," has not been decided. There are several precedents on the point, but I have not had time to look them up, but the passage read from Erskine May by the hon. Member for Huddersfield (Mr. Mabane) is quite correct. The Patronage Secretary could have moved that the House do resolve itself into Committee of Supply forthwith or upon a future day, and that Motion could have been debated and voted upon. If it was carried, then the Motion "That Mr. Speaker do now leave the Chair," could have been put again. That would have been the correct procedure.

8.35 p.m.


Does not that show that the House ought to adjourn now so that the business can be done in a proper manner? I think the Prime Minister and the Government generally ought to meet the House in this matter and put a proper Motion on the Order Paper, as Mr. Speaker has just informed us is the proper procedure. Because there is a majority in the House is no reason why we should ride roughshod over Rules of the House. Everything that has been said during the last 20 minutes must have convinced any reasonable person that a new Motion must be on the Paper. It is not on the Paper now, and although the Patronage Secretary desires to get his business through—I do not blame him—I think he will get it through much easier if he treats the House as if it had some rights in the matter. If what Mr. Speaker has said is correct, it is certain that an altogether different Motion to the one the Patronage Secretary has moved is necessary to be moved. Mr. Speaker has just informed us of that, and, therefore, it is only right that the Government should have time to consider the matter further and do it in an orderly manner. I know that when Governments are defeated in this way there are means of rehabilitating themselves, but I do not think there is any precedent for it ever having been done in the way it is proposed this evening. I hope hon. Members opposite, if we have to vote on the Adjournment, will stand up for the constitutional practice of this House.

8.33 p.m.


The Prime Minister would be very well advised to agree to the Adjournment of the House. If he attempts to adopt a new method of dealing with this situation, he is going to be up against the whole forces of the Opposition, who will not agree to go on with the business on the lines suggested. On the last occasion when the Government—a majority Government—were in this position the present Prime Minister who was leading the House said that the Government would naturally carry out the wishes of the House, but the one question which the Government at that time had in view was whether it was going to regard the Vote as an issue which would involve a General Election. Everyone will admit that there is a difference in the circumstances of to-day as compared with that occasion. On that occasion it was a snap Division. There is nothing of a snap Division about the Vote to-day. Indeed, the question was put to the representative of the Government as to whether the Government Whips should not be taken off.

Speaking definitely f it the Government, he took up the position that the Government, in behaving as it was on the matter, believed it was voicing the opinion of the people in the country. He challenged the Division on the basis that this was a matter of major importance, and on a matter of major importance I submit to the Prime Minister that the only honourable thing the Government can do is to go to the country for a General Election. [Laughter.] Some hon. Members laugh at what I have said in this connection, but I would like to remind them of the traditional practice in this respect. I remember when the Liberal Government were defeated on the Cordite Vote in Supply. It is a Parliamentary tradition in this country, and I put it to the House and the Government that if democracy is to be real in this country, in these days when we have so many instances in other countries of dictatorships, it means that in a Division in which the Government are defeated when the representative of the Government has declared the question to be of major importance in the mind of the Government, the only way in which the situation can be dealt with adequately is for the Prime Minister and his colleagues to go to the country.

In view of the circumstances, it is intolerable that the Prime Minister, under pressure from the Patronage Secretary, should say that there are these important subjects to be discussed to-night, such as ventilation of the House. That subject may be of importance, but what I believe to be of fundamental importance is the constitutional issue involved in connection with this matter. The hon. Member who quoted from the pages of Erskine May made it plain by his quotation that the Motion that would have to come from that Bench is one that we should go into Committee of Supply again. The fact that the Motion would be that we should go into Committee of Supply again carries with it the obvious conclusion that the Prime Minister in those circumstances will adjourn the House. Possibly exception will be taken because of the word "forthwith," but I would remind hon. Members that in this House everything depends very largely upon previous practice, and the practice has always been, except at the time of a minority Government, to adjourn.

There is nothing new in the circumstances of the present occasion, and I confess that I am surprised at the hesitation of the Prime Minister in agreeing to the demand of the Opposition. I do not wish to make any threat to you, Mr. Speaker, as to what would happen if the Prime Minister desired to go on with business, but there are constitutional methods by which an Opposition can make it impossible for business to proceed. I would remind the Prime Minister and the Patronage Secretary of that fact. It is not in accordance with the dignity of Parliament that those constitutional ways should be employed at the present juncture, but if they have to be employed the responsibility will rest with the Prime Minister and his colleagues who are taking this ridiculous attitude in face of the Division which has taken place.

I am not making any appeal to the Prime Minister, but I am demanding, in view of his own statement with regard to democracy and the traditions of this House, that he should agree to the Adjournment. If anything is said additional to what has already been said from the Government Bench, it should be to the effect that the Prime Minister agrees to the Adjournment, and if the Government intend to carry on and not go to the country, they will accept the decision of the House on this question and institute in the Civil Service the principle of equal pay. I hope the Government will bow to the unanimous wish of the Opposition and adjourn the House arid not put the Opposition in the difficult position of making proceedings impossible.

8.43 p.m.


May I put it to the Prime Minister that it would be in consonance with the dignity of this House if he yielded to the plea which has been made for an Adjournment? It is clear that whatever may be done to-night, we are likely to discuss this point a considerable time. It is unlikely that one would get on with the business of the House. After all, the Prime Minister knows the traditions and precedents of the House perhaps better than anyone else, and it would be more in consonance with the dignity of the House that it should be adjourned.

8.44 p.m.


I regret very much that I was unable to be in the House this afternoon. It is not always possible to be present. I have, however, been following the speeches that have been made from various benches during the last hour, and I think that, as Leader of the House, I have to pay regard to what I believe to be the opinion of the House in a matter of this kind. I think I should be interpreting the general opinion of the House if I were prepared to adjourn now and postpone this business. I quite agree with the tributes that have been paid to democratic procedure. We have to-day perhaps shown an example of that procedure in the two votes which the House took within a few minutes of each other, but I think we may all go away perhaps less dissatisfied if we remember that to-day is the 1st of April.

8.44 p.m.


I am very glad that the Prime Minister has come to that decision which I think plainly represents the view of the majority—certainly the view of the Opposition and perhaps of some on this side of the House. I only rise, as an old Member, to make two points clear. First it would be very wrong if, when a Government was defeated on an important matter, no statement were made by the Prime Minister or Leader of the House of the day as to the action which he proposed to take. Such a statement is essential. It should be made clear that a defeat in Parliament on an important question is not a matter to be treated as of no importance. For the rest, I would like to say in support of the Prime Minister that there are, as a matter of fact, plenty of precedents for the House not adjourning immediately after a Government defeat. What there is no precedent for is for the Government, in any way, to ignore that defeat. I only rise as an old Member to establish the right of the House to a statement from the Prime Minister on such an occasion.


Are we to-morrow night, or on any other night, to be loaded up with business and kept here to a late hour on account of what has happened to-day?

Adjourned accordingly at Fourteen Minutes before Nine o'clock.