§ Again considered in Committee.
Question again proposed,
That a sum, not exceeding £100, be granted to His Majesty to defray the charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1941, for measures in England and Wales to deal with casualties and disease, for expenses connected with evacuation, for repair of war damage and for other services arising out of the war.
§ 5.18 p.m.
§ Mr. Ammon
I was saying that one of our difficulties was to overcome the prejudices in the minds of people. For instance, the officials have been asked in some cases where the children were going, and whether they were going to Wales. When they were told that some would go to Wales, the astonishing answer was that they had seen the film based on Dr. Cronin's book, "The Stars Look Down," and that they looked upon Wales as a country of famine, and were not prepared to send their children there.
§ Mr. J. Griffiths (Llanelly)
Might I point out that the bulk of the scenes shown in that film are in Durham, and not in South Wales? I might add that those who are sent to South Wales often do not want to come home again.
§ Mr. Ammon
I am sure that my hon. Friend is right, but one cannot make these people realise that. Another thing which parents ask is whether there are adequate means of protection at the places to which the children are to be sent. In that, they are to a certain extent fortified by the fact that the children have been recently brought back from places to which they were evacuated where there 1436 was no protection. In some cases there have been munitions factories, for instance, laid down in these areas, turning them into targets, so that the children might find themselves in a much worse position than before.
When we are discussing this problem of evacuation and all that it involves, as the Minister has indicated, you cannot ignore the children who are left behind. In the light of the fact that the majority of the children would be left at home, what is to happen? This impinges, of course, on the domain of the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Education, but it is undoubtedly bound up with this matter of evacuation. What is to happen to those children's education? If evacuation is to take away both the teachers and a percentage of the scholars, there is no provision, so far as we can see, for those children who are left to carry on their educational life. We know that, because of evacuation, large numbers of children have had no education since last September. It might be that, arising out of this very problem of evacuation and the other problems created by evacuation, children will go nearly the whole of their school life, if the war continues for any considerable time, without receiving any education whatever. That problem cannot be ignored. It is true that the schools were thrown open recently, but an education officer across the bridge said to me that one of the greatest disappointments he had ever had in his life was the fact that, when the children had been trained so much to appreciate the schools that it was felt that they would be gladly flocking back to them, that was found, in fact, not to be the case. Now, at a time when it was thought that the school attendance officer might be abolished, that officer has to start his work all over again.
§ The Chairman
I think it is time that I called the attention of the Committee to the limits of this Debate. The reference which the hon. Member made to education was quite permissible, but he was getting, perhaps, to the full extent of, or beyond, what I think would be relevant to this question when he came to refer to the education officer. In so far as these matters come under the Board of Education, or the Vote for Education, they cannot be discussed on this Vote.
§ Mr. Ammon
Of course, one cannot think of challenging your Ruling, Sir Dennis, but that Ruling indicates that these Votes ought to be taken together. Limitations are imposed upon us which, in fact, make it impossible for us to consider adequately the very Vote before us. That, of course, is not the fault of the Chair.
§ The Chairman
Perhaps I had better explain the position, so that I may not be misunderstood. I agree completely that the effect upon education is a matter which has to be taken into consideration by those responsible for the evacuation, but I should also say that, so far as it may fall within my province, I am not sure that I should look with great favour upon the putting down of the Votes of two entirely different Ministries for them to be discussed together.
§ Mr. J. Griffiths
We know—I from the reception end and other hon. Members from the evacuation end—that the whole educational system is deeply involved in this matter. In the reception areas every education authority is deeply involved. Surely it is not only desirable but essential that the question for Debate should be so wide as to enable hon. Members to discuss both these matters, which cannot be properly considered separately.
§ The Chairman
It is quite clear to me that what the hon. Member has said about the importance of this question of education—which I fully recognise—is entirely in support of what I said. We can discuss to-day only one particular side of the problem, namely, that which comes under the Ministry of Health, and the education side of it, which, the hon. Member said, is so important, should in case of need have a Debate to itself on another day. We must keep the two distinct.
§ Mr. Silverman (Nelson and Colne)
Is not the principal difficulty the fact that if we were discussing the education problem separately, on the Education Vote, we should not be able to discuss the transport side of evacuation or the principle of evacuation at all? Therefore, we should have to discuss, in separate watertight compartments, two subjects which hang together, and which cannot properly be separated.
§ Mr. Ammon
Having had another rest, I will pursue my argument. I believe that our Scottish friends have the advantage that they can discuss these two things together. While it is true that our discussion has turned mainly on the question of the evacuation of children, we must bear in mind that teachers also are evacuated, and we cannot ignore the position which will be created by the evacuation scheme. When the children are turned into the reception areas they will impose a pretty great strain on the school accommodation, and I hope that some of the mistakes which were made on the last occasion will not be repeated. For instance, there was the absurd position that, because there might be one or two children from an evacuation area in a reception area, those children were segregated, with their teachers, from the rest. I hope that whoever is responsible—I dare not refer to the Board of Education—will see that the children fit into the school arrangements, and come under the education authorities in the reception areas. That will surely give an opportunity—I do not know how far I am wandering now over the strict line—to the mass of children who will remain behind to receive their education in the proper manner. In the Manchester report, for instance, it was said that it was found necessary in special cases to absorb Manchester classes into existing classes alongside the children of the reception area.
§ The Chairman
Clearly, that is a matter which does not come under this Vote. Unfortunately, the temptation to refer to such matters is one which hon. Members cannot resist when they see the Minister of Education in his place, but I could not allow him to talk about his duties on this Vote.
§ Mr. Ammon
It is difficult to resist the temptation, not only because the Minister is gracing the Front Bench opposite, but because one would wish him to clear up the position in this connection. It is difficult, and I know that many Members really want to raise particularly the point which arises out of the problem of education and which, to a very large extent, is ruled out by the rules of order. Owing 1439 to the experience we have had in the former evacuations, some of the faults are to a large extent being recognised, especially by the withdrawal of children from the East Coast and the South-east Coast. I hope that the Minister and those responsible will take precautions to see that children are not sent to areas which afterwards may become even more dangerous targets by reason of the erection of munition works, etc., than the areas from which the children have been withdrawn.
The Department has issued a number of circulars containing many excellent precepts, but it is not sufficient to be content with these good intentions. We want a Minister—and I hope we have him in the present Minister—who will follow them up with sufficient drive and energy in order to get the job properly done. I was a little shaken when I heard that the Minister was beginning to hide behind certain excuses by saying that certain steps could not be taken in face of public opinion. A good many things have been done and are being done, especially in the industrial field, in the face of public opinion, and people are sacrificing a good deal. The time may come when evacuation may have to be made compulsory, and it will not be made any the easier because we have allowed the position to drift as we seem to have done. I hope that the Minister will face up to these difficulties and will endeavour to realise the fact that the evacuation of one child in four of the school population in a crowded district is not an evacuation scheme proper, but one which tends to intensify the trouble rather than to solve it.
§ 5.33 p.m.
§ Sir Francis Fremantle (St. Albans)
I do not want to say much upon evacuation, because a good deal has been said about it, and I desire to devote chief attention to the other subject we are discussing to-day of civil emergency hospitals. But I have had special experience in a reception area of a nursery school which we have had in my house since the beginning of September. I feel strongly upon the question of the separation of nursery children under five years of age from their parents. The way in which the poorest of parents spend the small amount of money they have in order to come and 1440 see their children when possible on a Sunday—to come 20 miles is a considerable effort on their part—has proved, together with many other things, how even men who appear to be the least responsive to the more tender feelings in life really show very great parental affection for their children, which it would be very difficult for them to forgo; and it would be wrong for them to forgo it. Whatever the hon. Member for East Islington (Miss Cazalet) may have said about compulsion, I feel equally strongly in the opposite direction. The terrible choice of the wife between going out to be with her children and staying with her husband at the place of his work is an almost impossible one for her to make. I quite understand these parents saying that they infinitely prefer to have their children with them, hoping that their particular attention and attachment to their children will in actual fact afford greater protection, even in the midst of bombing raids and so on, than if the children were sent into the country away from their parents. They are not at all sure that the balance, from the point of view of safety, especially in the case of invasion, would be on the side of their being evacuated to the country.
The question of education does not come into the consideration of nursery children up to the age of five, because their natural life out in the fields is the most perfect education that these children could receive. They do not want anything else so long as they are properly tended and looked after. They are splendidly tended and looked after. No words of mine can exaggerate the tribute that ought to be paid to the staff, some of them paid and some of them voluntary, who have given up night and day to look after these little brats, who are extremely troublesome though at the same time very charming. That tribute ought to be paid to those who have taken so prominent a part in the evacuation of these children. Evacuation has been of enormous advantake to the health of children of that age. The appreciation that they have of the country is wonderful. A teacher told me the other day that one of these little children, aged three, who came from the slums near King's Cross, looking out on the west side at the setting sun, suddenly opened its arms and exclaimed, "Look, isn't it lovely?" That kind of appreciation could never have been seen in 1441 the same kind of way in the streets of London. I am certain that sort of thing will develop in the children and will be an asset for life.
I pass to the question of the hospitals. There are many who would say that it is a great mistake for the military cases to be mixed up with the civil cases in the one system of civil hospitals. It certainly is against the grain for the Army medical services, and they all feel, and most probably the military officers would feel, that the men lose a great deal through being in civil hospitals and not under military discipline for that period. I believe the Government made a right decision in 1938–39 when they had to decide whether to expand the military hospitals to the extent they were expanded in the last war and similarly to expand the civil hospitals enormously for casualties which they could not possibly estimate in advance. They decided to have a system which obviously must be based on the civil authorities under the local authorities. I believe that that is perfectly right, and there is only the exception of a few limited military hospitals and one or two of the standing hospitals of the Royal Navy and the Royal Air Force. There are certain definite disadvantages about it. These have come out very clearly in the last six or seven months. These civil hospitals run by a civilian staff, imported as a rule from London or other cities, have been developed under the aegis of the local authority, and more especially of the county council. They have to deal with the different local authorities concerned as well as with the military authorities when there are military patients. It is natural, as there is a considerable number of military patients coming into the hospitals, to have a military register, and a great deal of military discipline has to be enforced by the military officers. That has introduced a difficult division of authority in the hospitals.
Representations have been made from the civil side and the management of these hospitals that it would be a great advantage if the senior officers were given definite military rank, status and uniform so that they might be recognised. I do not think there is a great deal in it, but it is found by the administrators to be a very delicate question in the relationship between the civil authority, and the mili- 1442 tary officers, who may have the right to come into institutions owned and run by the civil authority. But apart from the question of the military authority and the civil authority, one must realise how this democratic system has introduced such great complications into our hospital system. You have the civil hospital probably under the county council, and also, very often, under a Poor Law institution, and so it has to consider also the Poor Law authority. It has to consider the local authority of the district, and above all to appeal to the Ministry of Health, who have such a tremendous field to cover that they cannot directly interfere with the local administration. And yet their authority is required in the long run. When it is convenient, the Ministry of Health can always say that the matter must be referred to the local authorities, and when the local authorities try to intervene it is said that they are under the rule of the Ministry of Health, and other bodies concerned, including the contractors for the building of the huts necessary for the additions to these hospitals. This is a most complicated business.
It is the natural development of the democratic system under which we live. Now that we are fighting a war we want to get a move on, and it is time that greater pressure was used on the public authorities concerned. I am certain that many authorities are doing their utmost. In a great many hospitals they are able to get their own way by much tact and experience, but in others a good deal more pressure is required. The matter ought to be brought home to many of these different authorities that unless they get a move on quickly they will have their hands forced. I do not think that that would be necessary, but I believe that if it was brought home to them in the right kind of way, they would get a move on.
§ Mr. Charles Brown (Mansfield)
It is the Department who will not let the local authorities move quickly.
§ Sir F. Fremantle
I do not think that the Department is slow in taking up matters in so far as we have had reference to the Ministry of Health. This is where the totalitarian or despotic system is undoubtedly an advantage, and as the hon. Member for North Camberwell (Mr. Ammon) himself suggested, it might be necessary to use a great deal of com- 1443 pulsion, or, in other words, totalitarian methods. That comes from the opposite side of the Committee, and I also agree that it is necessary in this emergency to use these stronger methods even in such matters as health. There is one particular point that I want to bring home to the Committee, and that is the need for the development of up-to-date methods. It is difficult to apportion blame, but many patients who have come back from the Front have not had the advantage of up-to-date treatment, and their convalescence has, therefore, been delayed. By up-to-date methods I mean what is called physical medicine, which includes massage in its different forms, surgical manipulation, electric treatment, shortwave diathermy, active convalescence and occupational therapy. These different methods are used in the modern way of treating surgical and minor ailments. I received a pamphlet only yesterday afternoon from a senior medical officer in France who is himself one of the best known physicians in London in dealing with rheumatic diseases. The pamphlet was a paper which he read to the local medical society in France on the treatment of rheumatic diseases in the B.E.F.—
§ Sir F. Fremantle
No, he is not. This pamphlet shows how enormously important are these cases which come to civil hospitals in England from the B.E.F. These modern methods do exist in many hospitals in England, but not in many others. Massage exists in some form or other but is not sufficiently developed or organised to be of real value according to the high ideals of the society with which it is particularly connected. Equipment has been lacking in many of these hospitals, and the difficulty really arises not so much from the lack of provision by the Ministry of Health, but from the fact that they have offered services, and payments for these services, to local hospitals which have not been willing to accept the offers and start a department for this kind of treatment. Many Members in this Committee know of cases, where treatment has been going on month after month and year after year, which might have been prevented by this modern treatment. I had an instance of it myself. A youth came back 1444 from the B.E.F. with a simple fracture of the shin sustained while playing football overseas. He came to a hospital here in England, and his leg was put in plaster, and already four months have gone by and he has not yet returned to duty. This is a matter where there has been failure to apply the modern method of treatment.
I would like to know why it is that there are many specialists engaged in this work in peace-time all over the country and are not being fully employed at the present time. The complaint of these men—and we have seen it in the newspapers in the last week or two—is that they are not being sufficiently used, and perhaps the Parliamentary Secretary, when she comes to reply, will tell us to what extent the Ministry proposes to use these offers of help. Perhaps she will also tell us whether it is the Ministry's intention to try and get an advance in the provision of a proper department of massage and physical medicine in every hospital throughout the country which is under the charge of the Ministry. Delay has been caused not only by the Ministry but also through medical officers themselves. I am in a profession of which I am proud, but at the same time it is conservative and is slow to take up new ideas, although perhaps that is sound, because hon. Gentlemen opposite, who scream for new ideas, are protected from experiments which might otherwise be dangerous. At the same time this line of medicine, instead of being new, goes back to the early ages, and we shall have to overcome the methods of the last century, when every fracture was put into a solid block of plaster and there was passive, instead of active, treatment. There are many specialists employed in hospitals who are trying to get a move on with this new method of treatment, but it does seem that you have also to get ordinary medical officers and those in charge to get a move on.
I hope the Ministry will see that definite instructions are sent round to those in charge of patients to get this kind of treatment adopted and will also provide the equipment, machinery and personnel which are necessary in order to reduce pain, the extension of disease and the period of disability, so that men can be made fit for livelihood and service and that there can be a reduced amount payable in pensions.
§ 5.53 p.m.
§ Mr. Richards (Wrexham)
I do not intend to follow what the hon. Member has just been saying about hospitals, although lately I have had the opportunity, as a mere layman, of seeing how well some of them are functioning. I was impressed by the transformation which has taken place in one or two Poor Law hospitals that I know of and how well members of the B.E.F. in them are being treated. I did not find, as the hon. Member seemed to find, that there was any conflict at all between the lay element and the medical element. In fact, I was surprised to see how they had managed to switch over so quickly and do such splendid work for the men we are anxious to serve.
I would like to say a word or two—and will do my best to keep within the Rules of Debate—about this question of evacuation. I am sure we were all impressed by the Minister's clear account of the principles on which the Government are attempting to work in this very difficult matter. It is very satisfactory to feel that the thing is being worked out logically so far as can be done. After all, it is important that we should have principles in these things. I remember that there was some controversy some years ago concerning an eminent politician of whom it was said that he had no principles at all and was living up to them very well indeed. I think we can say about the Minister of Health in this particular matter that he has very definite principles on which he is proceeding and will, I am sure, do his best to live up to them.
It seems to me that the question of evacuation as he outlined it naturally divides itself into two parts. There is, first of all, compulsory evacuation, which would be entirely dictated by military considerations. When the military authorities inform the Ministry of Health that a certain part of the country is becoming too dangerous, then we may visualise compulsory evacuation taking place, as far as possible, in that part of the country. I was interested to read the other day an article, by one who is presumed to be some kind of authority, in which there was outlined the strategy which the Germans will be supposed to follow when they attempt to conquer this country. The writer pointed out that the first attempt would be to encircle London from the Wash on one side to the Thames 1446 Estuary on the other—the kind of thing being attempted now, I believe, round Paris. If that evil day ever comes, and we hope it never will, the question of compulsory evacuation will, of course, have to be faced at once. But we are not only dealing with that question; we are dealing with other kinds of evacuation. There are other classes which ought to be considered. What about the old and in firm and the blind? There must be many people whose nervous system will certainly be wrecked if anything of this kind does take place in the areas from which children have been removed.
On the question of evacuation itself, I would like to look at it from the point of view of the reception areas, because in the last few months I have had some considerable experience in watching the thing from that end. There are one or two matters which I think ought to be guarded against very carefully. There is the question of the health of these children. The experiment of last autumn, made in the face of great difficulties, revealed that a great many children were not in a fit condition to leave their homes. That set up a current of opinion against them. Imagine a quarryman or a smallholder in South Wales whose home as a rule is scrupulously clean, finding he has to take into his house three or four children who are not exactly up to the standard to which he has been accustomed in the past. The blame there would seem to me to lie largely with the medical officers of health in the boroughs from which the children were sent, and I respectfully suggest that very great care indeed should be taken to see that children are not again sent away in an improper condition of health.
There are one or two important reasons for that from our point of view. The first is that medical services in rural counties from many points of view are only just adequate—many of us feel they are inadequate—to deal with the local population. If you get an influx of children who are suffering from some kind of disease and who are certainly dirty in body, it places a tremendous strain on the medical services of these comparatively poor counties. I could refer to counties where there is no provision at all for isolation, where they have no isolation hospital of any kind. It is, therefore, a serious matter from that point of view. I must not, I gather, say any- 1447 thing about the question of education, but it is a question of vital importance from the point of view of these small communities. There is another problem which was raised in the case of North Wales when they came on the first occasion. I think the danger was exaggerated, but there was in some quarters a kind of outcry because the children were threatening what was called Welsh culture. The Welsh language in the countryside is very virile, and it was felt that there was a danger in having so many thousands of English children suddenly thrust on the countryside. The danger was exaggerated out of all proportion, and no damage, indeed, was done. But that aspect of the life of the Welsh people should be considered when sending children to particularly Welsh parts of the country. The Welshman is very chary indeed of welcoming anything which is going, as he thinks, to undermine the culture which he has retained under great difficulties for so many centuries.
There is one other question closely related to this—the question of religion. I do not want to enter into the difficult question of religions and the conflict of religious views, but I felt that it was a great hardship on some of these small children who happen to be Catholics to find themselves in exclusively Nonconformist surroundings. They found it very difficult to attend a service of the Catholic Church. I think that was very unfair, but it was equally unfair to the people who acted as their hosts. These are slight points, but if any more children are to come into North Wales, I suggest that the Minister should get into consultation with the Board of Education and endeavour to minimise the difficulties as far as possible. On the general question, I should only like to add that the Welsh people will again be very happy to receive these little children. They consider it a great privilege to take part in what may be of vital importance to the future of the race, and will accept and welcome any children whom the Government may care to send.
§ 6.4 p.m.
§ Mr. Lindsay
I rise not to make a speech, but to enter a protest. What the hon. Member for Wrexham (Mr. Richards) referred to at the end of his speech is intimately related to what I want to say. I do not know under what 1448 Vote it comes; the nearest I can get to it is the Vote of the Board of Education. What I want to say seems to lie somewhere between several Government Departments. Time after time in this House we have been faced with problems which lie between various Departments. At the present moment we are facing a problem which it is quite impossible to discuss properly under this Vote. You might just as well put down the Vote of the Ministry of Transport or the Ministry of Shipping. The thing which was a complete success in the last evacuation was the machinery to get people from one place to another; it was a brilliant piece of work. Nobody can speak to-night without thinking about the critical issues of the war and what is going on in Paris. I am only concerned to get children into places of greater safety and to continue their education, either there or in the Dominions. If I go into the question of the feeding of the children, the arrangements for their reception, the helpers and teachers, all these are questions related to the Board of Education and the Board of Education Vote.
The one thing which is distinctly under the Ministry of Health is camps, and I have myself protested against this on more than one occasion. It is a scandal that the question of these camps and the education in them should still be under the Minister of Health. Here we have a most important experiment in connection with the poorer children, with all sorts of problems arising which are entirely educational, but which are still under a Ministry which, with all due respect to my right hon. Friend, is not competent to deal with such problems. I believe it was a mistake from the beginning, but that has nothing to do with my right hon. Friend. It was settled in advance, and settled because we were considering the large number of persons who were going to be evacuated. In the last plan of evacuation we were concerned entirely with school children, and the people who understand school children are those in the Board of Education and particularly in our local education authorities. Therefore, the questions I should like to ask this afternoon cannot be answered, because they relate to the arrangements which are being made by the education authorities in Devon and Dorset and elsewhere for the continued education of the children. 1449 It really is extremely serious that after nine months of war we have a number of children in certain parts of the country who are still without any education. I want to know from the Minister what is to happen to the 300,000 children in London? Are the schools going to close? If the schools are to be closed, I take it that you are using the threat of no education in London to get the children out into the country.
§ The Deputy-Chairman (Colonel Clifton Brown)
These questions cannot be answered by the Minister. They can only be answered by the President of the Board of Education and are, therefore, out of Order.
§ Mr. Lindsay
I do not wish to continue my speech. I have made my protest. I would like to ask the Lord Privy Seal, whose responsibility it is to see that the arrangements which are being made between these various Departments—
§ The Deputy-Chairman
Again the Lord Privy Seal does not come under this Vote, and the hon. Member cannot ask that question.
§ Mr. Lindsay
Then may I ask the Minister of Health to convey to the Lord Privy Seal the points which I have tried to make this afternoon? Much as I admire the clarity of the case which the right hon. Gentleman made for compulsory evacuation, I think the hon. Member for East Islington (Miss Cazalet) was right in the case she put. It is a case which is based on an intimate knowledge of the teachers and children of the country, a knowledge which cannot be shared by the right hon. Gentleman, who has been absorbed in the Empire for the last six or seven years. It is a case based on experience given to the hon. Member for East Islington, and it is only from a knowledge of what the teachers and the children are likely to do that you can make out a case for or against compulsion. The problem of the schoolchildren is much more closely related to the Department of Education. The same is true in regard to evacuation overseas. I am extremely glad that a committee has been set up with four Ministers upon it, and a whole band of Civil servants. The important thing at the moment is to get into touch with practical people who have a knowledge of overseas migration, like Major Bevin, of 1450 the Y.M.C.A., and people connected with other bodies who are themselves in touch with thousands of families in Canada and Australia. I hope that this committee, which is presided over by the Under-Secretary of State for the Dominions, will treat this matter as one of great urgency. There are several thousands of parents, to my knowledge, who are willing for their children to go and who can afford to pay. It is, therefore, most important that in the case of the many other thousands of parents who wish them to go arrangements should be made at the earliest possible moment.
§ The Deputy-Chairman
Again I am afraid I must interrupt the hon. Member. That is a matter for the Dominions Office and not for the Ministry of Health.
§ Mr. Lindsay
I rather hoped that I should be interrupted, because it helps me to make my point. This question of the movement of children into the reception areas in this country or overseas is one which must be dealt with by one Department. As long as we have a separate Debate on the Dominions, another Debate on the Board of Education, another Debate on the Ministry of Health or on shipping and transport, we shall never get a complete view of the problem. It must be looked at as a whole, and as one of the most serious problems which faces this country. It is a problem which is undoubtedly related to the question of home and Civil Defence.
§ 6.14 p.m.
§ Colonel Wedgwood (Newcastle-under-Lyme)
The Debate is an admirable example of the way in which the House of Commons is hampered when there is no official Opposition to arrange a Debate. Everybody wanted a Debate on the general question of evacuation. For that a number of Departments are responsible. Obviously you cannot get such a Debate on the Vote of any particular Ministry. It must not be taken on a Supply day, but we could have debated it on the Adjournment of the House or on the Consolidated Fund Bill. To-day we are narrowed down in our Debate to certain limits, but I think we can put before the Government what we believe to be an increasingly urgent case. Frankly, I am not interested in the educational side. I am thinking far more of the general issue 1451 of evacuation. We have seen all over the conquered countries the spectacle of masses of refugees blocking the roads, but we have not yet realised the effect of a refugee population upon the fighting Army.
Imagine for one moment that this country is invaded. Every man who is worth his salt will be engaged either in the field, or in some munition factory far from his family. All the time, they will be desperately anxious about what is happening to their wives and children and parents. I do not blame the Belgians for surrendering, and I should not blame the French if they had surrendered. What is an Army to do when they see those dismal columns of helpless women and children and when they think that their own women and children may be among such crowds, being mercilessly machine-gunned while starving and dropping and dying of exhaustion by the roadside? If that is the fate of their womenkind, you cannot expect an Army to fight. Therefore, this problem of evacuation is a very real one and does not apply solely to children. It applies to all the useless mouths in every country which is meeting this new form of gangster warfare.
I wonder whether any hon. Members ever cast their minds back to the days of the third century of this era. At that time the world saw—and not for the first time, even then—the same thing as is now before our eyes. Then you had hordes from Asia sweeping down and pressing upon the Goths and Vandals in South Russia. The Goths and Vandals, flying before the Huns fell upon their next-door neighbours—the Alemanni, the Saxons, the Burgundians—and drove them on, and the Saxons and Burgundians, themselves driven onwards, were forced to go to the seas or overland and they in their turn attacked the Celts and the Roman Empire. You have to-day exactly the same kind of great national movements as that which used to be called the Völkerwanderung. That is being repeated before our eyes to-day, not by the armies but by these masses of refugees. Those who are driven from Northern France may settle in Southern France and those who are driven out of France altogether may settle in Spain, but the movement is going on and we cannot play our part properly in this war, 1452 unless we realise that, just as the Saxons came to this country and drove the Celts into the hills, so we to-day are in danger of a new band of pirates and assassins coming to this country and seeking to drive us west.
I want the Committee to look at this immediate aspect of the war and to consider it on the wide lines of the movements of peoples and to lay our plans here accordingly, so that what happened to the world of the Roman Empire, and what may happen over the rest of Europe, shall not happen here. The best way to stop it is to enable our men to fight with their sword arms free, without having their dependants, the women and the children and the old, clinging to them and tugging at their heart strings. This believe me, is not a question of evacuating some children to Devonshire. It is not even a question of the compulsory evacuation of all children; it is a much bigger question—a question of how we can best defend this country and save civilisation and how the Ministry of Health can help us. I know now that even though France may go, we shall not surrender. In the Prime Minister's great words the other night, the rest of us will fight onuntil in God's good time the new world, in all its power and might, steps forth to the rescue and liberation of the old."—[Official Report, 4th June, 1940; col. 800, Vol. 361.]I believe that we need not wait so very long; but the help which the new world can give is not only that of aeroplanes and tanks, not only fighting men, but also the saving of the race, and providing a refuge for our useless mouths. We have been talking about the Dominions helping in the case of the children, but I believe that we could get infinitely greater help from the United States of America. The United States have something of a guilty conscience. They feel that they have left the job hitherto to us; I believe they would jump at the opportunity of saving the race and saving it not only from extinction, for there are worse things than extinction. The terrible thing about this new religion is its resemblance in its spread to the Mohammedan religion. The conquered countries are not merely conquered; they are converted, and a generation of children in Belgium, in Denmark, in Scandinavia will grow up into the most perfect Nazis. I would far sooner that 1453 the children of this country never grew up, than that they should grow up with the slave mentality of the Hun and with no religion save the religion of brute force. America can save us from that infamy.
§ The Deputy-Chairman
I am afraid that these references to America are outside the scope of the Vote. I have already pulled up other hon. Members who were referring to the Dominions because what they were saying had more application to the Dominions Office Vote than to this Vote. What the right hon. and gallant Gentleman is raising now seems to be a matter for the Foreign Office and to have nothing to do with the Ministry of Health.
§ Colonel Wedgwood
It is to the Ministry of Health that I appeal. The Ministry of Health can take the first step. The Ministry of Health can find out who is willing to go and where they are willing to go. The Ministry of Health can arrange whether evacuation should be compulsory or voluntary. The Ministry of Health can deal with all the initial stages of this problem. The Foreign Office cannot do so. This is not a question for the Foreign Office. It is for the Ministry of Health to arouse the conscience of the civilised world by showing to them that the best way to save the fighting Army of this country is to preserve their dependants from worse than death.
§ 6.26 p.m.
§ Sir Ernest Graham-Little (University of London)
I wish to confine my remarks to the subject which I know best, and that is the position of the emergency hospitals in London. The manner of conducting the emergency medical services in London has been, perhaps, the most criticised of the measures which have been carried out by the Ministry in the last nine months. I do not wish to conduct a post-mortem examination in that respect, otherwise than to refer to certain indications of activity which I think are rather lamentable and which I hope will not be further pursued. The state of mind in which the Ministry of Health began its operations in London is, of course, quite obscured by the interval which took place between 1938, when there was the first alarm of the possibility of war, and a few weeks ago. That lull was unexpected but the position of affairs in 1928 was very comparable to the position which is now confronting us 1454 except that there is much more realism at present than was the case perhaps in 1938. If I may give a description by a celebrated writer of what that attitude was, I think it will help the Committee to understand where we are at the present time.
It was generally believed that a first class air raid might kill 50,000 and wound 300,000 more; that there was no real defence and that an attack might occur at any moment.That produced what this writer has, I think very justly, described as a state of panic—panic, in the psychological sense of the mass production of emotion rather than in the sense of individual emotion. The steps taken in 1938 and afterwards under the influence of mass emotion were very remarkable. They were taken in the anticipation of an immediate air attack. The unprecedented step was taken of conscripting the staffs and personnel of the voluntary hospitals which constitute the core of the medical administration in London. They were called upon, at very short notice, to undertake full-time service under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Health. That immediately destroyed the whole system of hospital practice in this country. In London in particular it destroyed the long-built-up methods of medical consulting practices, and it created an exceedingly dangerous and unfortunate position with regard to the treatment of the civilian population. There are 10,000,000 attendances every year, in out-patient departments in London, and from that figure it will be seen how important this service is to the community. That was at once practically wiped out, and the state of affairs which has followed may, perhaps, be illustrated if I give the Committee some figures. As late as April last, in one of the largest hospitals in London, St. Bartholomew's, out of 780 beds, only 145 were being used for the civilian population.
The scheme was based on the fallacious conception that the best treatment for war casualties could be found, not in London, but in the periphery, 10 or 20 miles out. It was supposed that cases could be transported and would be dealt with outside London by the most skilled personnel from London. Its effect was the destruction of the hospital service for the civilian sick in the Metropolis. Naturally, it created a great deal of dissatisfaction both with the public and 1455 among the staffs who found the whole of their lives broken up and their professional careers arrested, and very speedily it was found necessary to bring some of them back to treat the civilian sick. In the first scheme, seven-eighths of the whole of the personnel of London was absorbed. It was a deprivation, not only of medical service to the State, but also it meant a complete cessation of medical education for students. London, it must be remembered, is responsible for more than half of the medical education given in this country. For all these reasons it will be seen that the effect of these measures was very disastrous. I do not wish, however, to review the past too severely; but I am very much concerned with the future. I beg the Committee to realise how very real and urgent is this problem. If we have air raids in London, they may take place in a very few days, and probably will be on a very large scale.
I submit that the conception I have cited was entirely wrong, and that treatment can best be given centrally. It was due, I think, to complete lack of co-ordination that this decision was taken in the first place. There were no fewer than 10 committees which the Minister consulted from time to time, and it was always possible to say that this or that committee was responsible for the decision taken. There was really a welter of advice. I am very pleased to know that the Minister will not rely so completely on committees in future, but that he will have a first-class, small executive body with first-hand knowledge with which to consult. It has been a disastrous past, but I do not wish to dwell on that further. In October of last year, a very celebrated Spanish surgeon, Professor Trueta, came to England and gave an address to the Royal Society of Medicine, in which he gave an account of his experiences gained in over 340 air-raids on Barcelona. He was chief of a surgical clinic in the largest hospital in Barcelona, and his account of the surgical methods necessary to deal with air-raid casualties created something like a revolution in medical opinion in this country. His was the first report that we had of actual experience of modern war casualties in a great city. His point was that anything but immediate attention upon the site where injury occurred was useless in treating casualties. Unless injuries re- 1456 ceived attention within a few minutes, it was very often quite useless, and for that attention highly skilled personnel was necessary.
Having listened to that lecture, I put a Question down to the Minister of Health, on 14th December, and asked him to take note of that pronouncement. I begged him to revise the arrangements by which nearly all the experienced surgeons were waiting for casualties in centres remote from London. His answer was that the steps had been taken in general agreement with the profession, and that he saw no reason for altering it. That, I hope, is not the attitude of the present Minister. In London provision is made for the reception of casualties by the great voluntary hospitals. Unfortunately, in the first arrangement officers were appointed for each group, and these men were given practically a free hand in the arrangements to be made. It was not altogether a happy arrangement. I know of a hospital which has 2,000 odd beds, which are divided into four sections of 500 each. The principal officers in charge of these sections were, two who were specialists for women's diseases, one an eye specialist, and one an ear, nose and throat specialist. That kind of selection seems rather curious, and it is unfortunate that a good many of the appointments were unsatisfactory in that respect. Some of the machinery will have to be overhauled, and overhauled in the near future.
The arrangements for treating patients in London hospitals are largely under the control of the sector officers. The professor who gave this lecture pointed out that injuries could be divided into two classes—one due to bombs and one due to injuries from falling masonry. Again, he divided the injuries from bombs into different classes. The type of bomb which is generally used for large cities, especially where the houses are built of brick and not wood, is a small explosive bomb. They explode and burst into minute splinters dispersed in a centrifugal manner, and the splinters are driven at enormous speed into the structures they hit. The result, it was pointed out, was that the lower part of the body, the legs and the abdomen, usually suffered injury. A patient, in these circumstances, often thought he had suffered little injury, but the experience of this surgeon in Barcelona was that unless these splinters 1457 were extracted within an hour, the patient very often died. It was found that immediate attention is required unless 40 or 50 per cent. of the casualties are to be fatal. What is required is a first-class organisation in hospitals to deal with casualties. It is no good unskilled persons being in charge of first-aid posts. Not only is it useless, but it is mischievous. First-aid centres must not be outside hospitals, but inside hospitals, where the cases can be vetted.
Recently I inspected the services offered at one of the hospitals. Instead of having the skilled personnel to receive the casualties, as advised in the paper of the Spanish doctor to whom I have referred, the personnel who will sort out casualties consisted of three junior medical officers of the status of a registrar. None of the three has had any surgical experience. For further treatment the casualties will be handed from the receiving room to an adjoining room, where there are six surgeons with six operating tables, and they will have to operate as best they can in the circumstances. In Trueta's hospital there were 60 doctors, and they were driven to the point of exhaustion by the insistent calls on their services. It is impossible to suggest that the arrangements I have sketched are in any way adequate preparation for what we may experience. I spoke to one of the most experienced surgeons on the staff and asked why he was not in this team, and he said that he had to go to a peripheral hospital to look after something there. The six persons chosen for that duty are not the most experienced surgeons.
It is, I submit, a wholly erroneous method of preparing for what we may have to experience, and some alteration should immediately be made. I foresee very terrible consequences in the near future unless it is done. I asked my young colleagues this morning whether they had had any experience of surgical casualties, and one said that he remembered they had to deal with a motor smash, at a provincial hospital, when 40 casualties came in at once, and they spent the best part of the night looking after them. I said, "What are you going to do if you have 400?"Cannot the Minister get a move on and alter that situation, so as to get the most skilled people back to London where the injuries will 1458 take place? In a previous Debate it was said that there were 300 Green Line buses to take the casualties out of London. It is impossible to envisage the transport of seriously injured persons. Moreover, during an air raid it will be impossible to traverse the roads. The experience at Barcelona was that the roads were machine-gunned, and the machine-gunning of ambulances was a considerable factor in the mortality which occurred. It is useless, therefore, to expect to be able to transport persons with grave injury any distance. The transport will have to be restricted to cases which have been treated by the receiving officers in the hospitals or to those which it is possible to transport for convalescence. The idea of transporting wounded persons is all wrong, and I hope it will be abandoned.
In the system of first-aid posts which are described in the White Paper in July, 1939, it was said that it would be possible to have a doctor in charge of each post. Let me say that the doctor in charge of first aid in these circumstances will not be in any way competent to deal with this class of injury. He is totally unfamiliar with it, and unless there is a first-class team this kind of casualty cannot be dealt with properly. I hope that the first-aid post envisaged on these lines will be reviewed and the precaution taken that no casualty will be regarded as trivial until it has been seen and pronounced upon by experienced workers and not by one inexperienced practitioner. I would like to express my own personal regret that the voluntary system at hospitals was abandoned so largely by the Minister in 1939. A great institution like a voluntary hospital knows its own business of looking after serious cases better than any organisation improvised for the purpose by a Government Department. That has, I submit, been one of the reasons for the disasters that have followed. In the last war the British medical service was singled out as being the best service of all the belligerent armies by the expert sent over by the Rockefeller Foundation after the war, who had himself been familiar with other services as well. Our service remained on a voluntary basis throughout the war and exemplified the best traditions of service at our great hospitals.
§ 6.54 p.m.
§ Dr. Edith Summerskill (West Fulham)
I do not wish to follow the hon. Member for London University (Sir E. Graham-Little) in any detail. I am surprised to hear that there still exist members of the medical profession who support the voluntary system so wholeheartedly that they feel that it cannot be improved by a Government Department. I hope that the Minister of Health will not take that too seriously. With reference to the Spanish doctor quoted by the hon. Gentleman, I am one of his humble admirers for what he did in Spain during the war, and I agree with a lot that the hon. Gentleman has said about his work, but I do not think it is practicable for us to say that there cannot be a first-aid post in any place except a hospital. Those of us who have a knowledge of the country and the medical service know that there are congested areas, particularly in London, which are far removed from a hospital of any kind. I do not see how it can be suggested that there should be no provision, except at a hospital, in those congested areas. Who would pick a casualty up and look after him? I would ask the hon. Gentleman, who discussed many technical details, who would apply the tourniquet to a casualty bleeding to death if there were no first-aid post at hand? That is the first essential. By the time somebody in the street had taken the casualty to a hospital any chance of survival might have disappeared if there were no first-aid post.
§ Sir E. Graham-Little
That is the exceptional case. The tourniquet might be applied by an ambulance man.
§ Dr. Summerskill
It is an important exception when you are bleeding to death. The hon. Gentleman also dealt with the question of bombs and the distribution of splinters, and said that it was essential that the splinters should be removed from a person within an hour. If a person with splinters in his legs is hanging about the streets, an hour soon goes and by the time an ambulance is called and arrives it may be too late to save him. I do not want to devote myself to the emergency medical service. You will, Colonel Clifton Brown, be glad to know that the two points about which I wish to speak are both entirely in order and are concerned with evacuation.
First, with regard to accommodation. Do not let us ignore the fact that the last 1460 evacuation was not completely successful because the accommodation in the reception areas was not perfect. Is the Minister of Health entirely relying upon private houses again? I know that he will tell me he has given local authorities permission to open hostels, but has he given that permission generously? Has he told local authorities that if they find it difficult to get private people to take the children they can commandeer a house and open it as a hostel? It is important to be generous in this matter and not merely tell local authorities that in the last resort, if they cannot get people to take the children, they can take over a hostel.
I want to illustrate this point by a case which I brought to the Minister of Health when I led a deputation of irritated parents to him. Children from my constituency had been evacuated since the beginning of the war, the schooling was going well and everything in the garden was lovely in a lovely village. A few of the hosts in the big houses went to the billeting officer, and said, "We have had these children for three or four months; it is time we had a rest and that such and such a village six miles away had the children." The head teacher of the school said that if he could have a house in the neighbourhood he would run a hostel so that the hosts could have a rest, but in spite of my plea and the fact that I brought 20 or 30 of the parents to the Ministry of Health, the Minister said that the children would be moved. It may seem almost frivolous, but in one case the owner of a big house said, "If I keep these children any longer my cook will give notice." In country districts that kind of thing happens. Since then the Government have acquired powers over individuals, and I ask the new Minister of Health to be firm in this matter. If he has the power, let him use it. Let us take those large houses, if there is not accommodation in the villages, and use them as hostels. The excuse given to me was that it would cost too much. If we want to make this new evacuation scheme a success we must not cavil at the cost this time, because it will break down, exactly as the last one did, unless proper accommodation is provided.
The Minister opened his statement by discussing compulsory powers, Many people have come to me in the House and asked, "Are you for or against compulsion?" The Committee seems to have 1461 rather divided itself on the point. I hope the Minister will not adopt drastic methods too early for this reason, that in the problem of evacuation the greatest difficulty with which he is faced is not accommodation in the reception areas, is not transport, is not schooling, but the fact that parents will not allow their children to go away. He says, "I have the trains, the local authorities are waiting to take the children, the schools are ready for them, but I cannot get the parents to say 'Yes'." I want to tell him, though I am sure he will not agree with me, why there has been this lack of response.
What is he asking these parents to do? When I say parents, it really means mothers, because it is generally the mother who has the last word. He is not asking them to pay a tax, he is not even asking them to pay Excess Profits Tax or join in A.R.P. duties or give up their time for war work; he is asking them to suppress the strongest instinct in any human being, and to part with their children. I feel that the Government have not realised the fundamental psychological problem which confronts them. Let me remind the Minister of the life of a working-class housewife. Her life has been one of drudgery from the time she got married, and when she thinks upon her life her only compensation, the only thing that makes her say, "Well, it has been worth while," is for her to look at her children. She has created them; she has fed them. In all those homes her life revolves around her children. Surely, then, the Minister should ask himself what is the best way to reach the mother. Some hon. Members may say of me, "She is only saying this because she is a woman." But that is not so. I am a mother who has evacuated her two children—they are now 150 miles away—and I am as fond of my children as any other mother. I do not know when I shall see them again.
The other night, when I decided to re-evacuate my children, because I thought they were not far enough away, and to send them to the borders of Wales, I thought I would listen to the Minister on the radio, because I was experiencing the same sensation as other mothers. I appreciated the attributes of the Minister, his lucidity, his fluency and so on, but what the Minister, and the whole Government, and the B.B.C., have not yet 1462 realised is that on the radio they are now in contact not with a few women in their homes, the rest of the listeners being men, but that as every day passes the vast audience which the radio reaches is more and more composed of women. As the men are going to the Services and are doing overtime at night we shall find that soon almost the whole audience will be women. Yet what do women hear every night? Do they hear a woman who understands the problems of the war? No.
A stereotyped speech from a Minister does not reach a woman who is going to part with her children. I sat there receptive to the Minister, but he did not move me emotionally one iota, and that is not because I know him so well. He gave the speech of a statesman, just as the Chancellor of the Exchequer might be speaking to the nation and saying, "Now I am going to put an extra tax on you." The Minister was speaking to women in a turmoil of emotion, to women saying to themselves, "The only thing in life that matters to me are my children running round me. They have my face, my hair, my eyes." And the Minister comes and says, in a statesmanlike way, "The train will leave on Thursday. You are to be evacuated. The teachers are ready, get things packed, put the tags on. It is the right thing to do." And then he goes on to explain that it is a question of dispersal, that if a bomb drops on a place in the country it will not kill so many people as if it drops in a crowded town.
Why do those women worry about that? They want you to come to them tenderly, compassionately. They want to hear women who have children and who have been in the reception areas. They want to hear teachers who have been faced with the problem saying, "Look here, mother, this is what you are being asked to do, and we promise that when we get there we will keep an eye on Bertie and Freddie." Some of these mothers are thinking, "Freddie has only one decent pair of trousers. How can I send him away to strangers"—mothers who know that that pair of trousers has to be washed every week end, because everyone knows that such things happen. And what about the mother who has a difficult child or the mother with a nervous child? Has she ever been approached over the radio? No, although millions of 1463 those who are listening to the radio are women.
This point is not ignored by the Press. Much of what is written is written for women. Business men never ignore this aspect of the matter. They say, "It is the woman who spends the money, let us approach her." Yet the Government, faced with one of the biggest social problems which has ever been presented to any Government, has the sheer effrontery to put on before this huge audience of women every night one male statesman after another. Night after night a man's voice comes over the ether to all these women, with the same stereotyped speech. Honestly, I cannot understand it. Frankly, I feel slightly embarrassed, because after I had decided that this was the point that I would make, and as I was sitting here, a message came in, only five minutes before I was asked to speak, asking me if I would broadcast at one o'clock to-morrow. This is National Savings' Week and the B.B.C. have woke up to the fact that millions and millions of women, those who spend the money, have not yet been approached over the radio. I ask the Minister, before he takes this tremendous step of compulsion—honestly, I warn him about it—to take a long time to decide about it and to think a lot about it. A human mother's possessive feeling for her young is as strong as it is in animals.
I almost wish this were a private Session. I can visualise there being the most appalling scenes. I can visualise a mother locking her children in a room upstairs and going down to the front door as she would to face a parachutist, if necessary, with a rolling pin, and saying, "How dare you take my children?" That is not an exaggeration. I know women. I have worked among women. Perhaps women tell a woman doctor more secrets about their lives than they tell to anybody else, even to their husbands. They very often tell a woman doctor, in fact, what they think about their husbands. It is very easy for people to say that, if a particular area will not evacuate its children, we should make evacuation compulsory, but what a ridiculous thing that is to say. It is not as though you were talking about putting on a higher rate, or emptying the dustbins, or taking paper or bones out of the dustbins; you are telling people that you are 1464 going to take their children away from them. A woman will do anything to protect her children. I well remember some of the things which happened during the first air-raid warning last year, and I remember also the pictures we saw of women who had thrown their bodies over their children when there was a little bit of a riot in Downing Street. That is the sort of thing you are up against.
To say that compulsory evacuation is simple is rather appalling, when you are dealing with the instinct of maternity which is as strong as that of self-preservation. Before the Minister accepts a policy of compulsion I ask him to make a new approach. Get women from the reception areas, teachers, kind women, women with children, women who understand the problem, and put them on the air. Let their voices go through to the kitchens of the nation where the women listen in. Then, I believe, you will get a different response.
§ 7.13 p.m.
Major Braithwaite (East Riding, Buckrose)
I believe we all listened with very great interest to the speech of the Minister of Health this afternoon. He is particularly brilliant in defence. The problem of evacuation is one of the most urgent and far-reaching for the future of our country of any that we have to face. I am bitterly disappointed that the limitations of this Debate are so fine that we are not a position to discuss the subject in a more general way on this Vote. I would ask the Minister, first, how much advice the Ministry of Health had from the military authorities in connection with evacuation? Have they worked in the closest consultation, and do they believe that the people who live in the evacuation areas will be a hindrance to military operations? We have to face the sternfact that this country may be invaded at any moment. Those who have taken the trouble to read and to see as much as possible of what has taken place in other countries are afraid of what might happen in some of the areas unless more children are got away.
Everybody must have appreciated the speech of the hon. Lady who has just spoken. Her human appeal was needed at this moment. I know how much people hate parting from their children. I have sent my children to the United States, where I fortunately have a house, and I wish hundreds of thousands of 1465 other children could go there at once. We have felt the separation from our children very much, knowing how far they are away, but we know they are safe and are cared for by a friendly people. The right hon. and gallant Member for New-castle-under-Lyme (Colonel Wedgwood), the hon. Member for Blackpool (Mr. R. Robinson) and myself have received offers from thousands of people in the United States, coupled with millions of dollars, to support the arrival in that country of large numbers of children. I know that we cannot discuss the matter, and I do not want to encroach upon the Ruling of the Chair, but I cannot let this opportunity go without trying to let the country know how people in other parts of the world are thinking at this time.
In selecting reception areas, you should also consider the mentality of the people we are fighting. What is to happen if bombs drop on the reception areas? It will make the mothers and fathers left behind in the evacuation areas feel more bitter still. I hope that the Minister will ask all mothers and fathers with children at school to do their duty, if it be necessary, in the strategic situation in the country, for their children to be got away, upon the Government's requisition, to an appropriate area. Everybody has to face up to his duty in these days. Duty is often disagreeable, but we have to defend our country to the last man, woman and child. Times are urgent. I hope the Minister will act on the advice of the hon. Lady; if it is necessary for women to talk to women I hope that will be done at once. The essential point of duty should, at the same time, be clearly brought home.
Yesterday I went to the South coast to see for myself, in what I considered one of the danger areas, how many children there might be about. I toured over an area of 60 or 70 miles, and I was appalled at the number of children I saw there—really appalled. It is something that must be dealt with. Nobody likes compulsion if a thing can be done in a voluntary way, but there are some areas where the element of compulsion ought to be applied, if necessary, owing to the strategic position of the war. The Ministry ought to consider some of the areas which are now close to the enemy, and where there should be some measure of compulsion. I am certain that the 1466 people of the country are ready to do what is right when they are called upon.
I do not share the gloomy view of the right hon. Gentleman that everybody would rather go to prison than have his children taken to safety. I do not think that that is the mentality of the English father and mother. Why not send the mothers with the children to the reception areas? There ought to be places where you can get a harmonious way of doing these things quickly without a lot of quibbling. Many things have been cropping up since the war started—things which have taken weeks of arguing and Debate to decide upon, and which, if they had been done before, would have put us in an immensely stronger position at the present time. The right hon. Gentleman tackles any job well, he does it the right way and we have every confidence in him in carrying out the scheme, but it must not fail again. If there is need for special powers, then take them, but the Government must not say, "We have done our best and that is as far as we can go," because the responsibility for anything that may happen to the children of school-leaving age will lie upon the Government and not upon the parents. I hope the Government will accept that responsibility in its fullest sense.
§ Sir Frank Sanderson (Ealing)
Might I interrupt the hon. and gallant Gentleman for a moment? He referred to the large number of children who are on the South coast. I hope he realises that a vast number of those children are not living there but are on holiday.
Just before I leave this point, I want to tell the right hon. Gentleman what I consider to be the fundamental mistake in the last evacuation. I represent an area near the sea. I also have an important military position in that area. Children were brought to that area from the North of England and it was used as a reception area. I do not want to give locations or districts at the moment—I am trying to avoid that—but I want to impress upon the right hon. Gentleman that in the present circumstances that reception area has become as dangerous an area as any part of this country, and if there is any extension of reception in that area I hope that fact will be noted. I can only say that I have done my best to have these children dispersed. I represent a very 1467 large constituency which runs over 800 square miles, so that I have been able to get some dispersement done, but not as much as I would like. In carrying out this new scheme the Government should not hesitate to revise the old one if strategically any area has become more dangerous than it was before.
I want to say a word about hospitals. As everybody knows, we now have a number of wounded in the country. I hope that proper plans have been made so that when those men are able to leave hospital they can go to properly selected convalescent homes or centres where they can have a little of the brightness of life restored to them, and so that they may lose that feeling of sickness and moodiness and be speedily restored to health. In the last war we were short of those places and I hope we shall not have a repetition of that state of affairs. I hope the Government are making proper provision for these places of recuperation, with all that is necessary to restore men back to health and bodily fitness. We have implicit confidence in the Government's ability to meet these difficult and dangerous times, and everybody wants to do everything possible to make the job lighter and not more difficult; but we want to put these points to the Minister in order that he may know what is happening in different parts of the country. I earnestly hope that the Minister will have the fullest cognisance of the fact that other people are willing to help. I would like to see everybody in this country who cannot be used for war-time work taken away from danger, thus lessening the liability of the country, so that we can roll up our sleeves and get down to the business of beating the Germans as quickly as possible.
§ 7.25 p.m.
§ Mr. Tomlinson (Farnworth)
I have been particularly interested in the varied aspects of this problem which have been put before the Committee. With regard to the hospital services, I was pleased to hear the Minister say that he had appointed an expert staff to go round the hospitals and to see if they were working satisfactorily. He mentioned three districts to which he proposed to send these experts soon. I hope it will not be too long before Lancashire is visited. I agree that all the difficulties cannot be foreseen. 1468 Some of the things that have happened ought not to have happened, and nothing irritates or enrages our people more than to see the men who have been prepared to sacrifice their lives, sick, ill and wounded, and treated with an absence of care which ought not to happen if there is any organisation at all. I hope the committee of inquiry, which is working speedily, will attempt to get round in order that these things which do occur, and which perhaps cannot be foreseen, can be put right at the earliest possible moment. If our people want to do anything at all it is to provide all the help they can for those who have suffered during the past few weeks.
With regard to the question of evacuation, the speeches which have been made this afternoon have indicated the difficulty of the subject, and I think that those of us who have been in touch with the problem from the beginning know that those difficulties have not been lessened by what has taken place. The difficulty of dealing with this subject, apart from the question of education, presents itself to everybody. Anyone who has been in a neutral or evacuation area has been faced with this problem and has had to give it his earnest consideration. We had a human and touching appeal from my hon. Friend the Member for West Fulham (Dr. Summerskill). I entirely agree with her as to the psychological reaction which follows an attempt to separate a mother from her child, but, if I may say so, I believe the Minister this afternoon drew an entirely wrong deduction from that very psychological factor. He suggested that it was for that reason that he could not, except for purposes of military exigencies, attempt to apply compulsion, and my hon. Friend suggested that he could not do so for the same reason. The people who have evacuated their children, however, have exactly the same feelings as those who object to evacuation, and it is out of, not a greater love but a greater realisation of that love for their children, that they are prepared to separate from them. The Minister's statement was that they would go to prison rather than be separated from them, and that we could not attempt to force them into prison.
If we are not prepared to face up to that aspect of the problem, we must do something else. I should be out of order 1469 in attempting to discuss it, because one is then faced with a new situation. One must not forget that the argument of the Minister was that whatever happened to the child's body, to leave it in the presence of danger from falling bombs would affect the child's mind. Apart from physical danger from bombs, you cannot neglect a child's mind. Therefore, the Minister of Education must come in. If you refuse to face up to compulsory evacuation, you must prepare for the education of the children remaining in the danger areas. I am sorry that the people who are to be made responsible in the reception areas are not the education authorities, and that the county councils have not the major responsibility in this matter. If the county councils were responsible, this psychological aspect could be linked up, as it were, with the practical aspect.
I was in a home this morning in which there is a young refugee. It is the home in which I live when I am in London. Yesterday the child was examined, preparatory to being evacuated. The child was looking forward to going away with its own schoolmates. Its father and mother are in Ecuador; and its little life is centred upon its school, apart from the good foster-mother who is looking after it in the house where I live. For some reason, the child could not be evacuated with its own school. The education authority suggested, quite rightly, that it might be evacuated with another school. The child began to cry, and the foster-mother said that in no circumstances should it go with another school. I agree with the foster-mother; after all that the child has suffered, it would be cruelty to send it away with a lot of strangers. But, with its own schoolmates, it would have been all right. The education authorities should be made the billeting authorities in order that the children, missing their own mothers, might retain some of the communal life which they get in their schools. Those things have to be borne in mind if a success is to be made of evacuation.
We have to do something more. It is not easy I know. The hon. and gallant Gentleman who spoke last said that he had sent his children to America, because they would be safe there. Coldly and logically, I felt bound to agree that he had done the right thing; but when I 1470 think of the thousands of mothers who cannot afford to do that, I ask, what is the reaction? Such a step may be more detrimental than useful. We must be careful in considering schemes which may give preference to one set of people over another, particularly when we are considering this question of safety zones. I know that some of the reception areas have been criticised because of difficulties that arose on the last occasion, but there are difficulties that arise, both at the reception end and at the evacuation end, and we have to face them. It might be that in a crisis, when we are all expecting something to happen, people would be prepared to put up with almost anything; but if for a long time nothing serious happens, people begin to make comparisons as to the sacrifies which are being made; and it is not difficult in a reception area to find homes where children are not wanted, and others where they are welcomed. It does not necessarily follow that the homes where they are welcomed are the best for the children. It may be that those compulsory powers which we have heard about in connection with the evacuation areas will have to be used in the reception areas; but the best form of reception cannot be attained by compulsion, just as the best form of evacuation cannot.
The suggestion made by my hon. Friend might be tried. I confess that I do not listen to Ministers as often as she does, but I think that the mother is more likely to influence another mother than are most of the Ministers that I know. It seems to me that a mother—and, if I may say so, not a mother who occupies a high place in society, but a working-class mother who has been convinced of the necessity of allowing her children to go away to safety—would be the most practical propagandist we could have for the removal of those children to safer areas. After listening to wireless speeches, including those of the Minister of Information, I am convinced that even the entertainment value of the wireless would be increased by something of that sort. There is a good deal in what the hon. Lady said in favour of compulsion. I believe that there are a greater number of parents who are anxious to have their minds made up for them than is generally realised. I would not be so much afraid of the compulsion, and of what might be its effects, if they were convinced that it was purely 1471 for the safety of their children that this was being done. While the Minister has told us that the Government have made up their minds that only in regard to military exigencies are they prepared to exercise these compulsory powers at the moment, I suggest that they should take into consideration these problems in regard to education, because I am sure that they cannot reasonably be left out of consideration.
§ 7.38 p.m.
§ Captain Elliston (Blackburn)
The hon. Members for West Fulham (Dr. Summerskill) and Farnworth (Mr. Tomlinson) have described with much eloquence the human considerations which make it so difficult to reach any cold-blooded decision about compulsory evacuation, but I think most of us are in agreement with the Minister that in present circumstances any attempt to enforce compulsory evacuation would be most unfortunate in its effects upon the people. The Minister was careful to say that, in certain circumstances and in certain places, the possibility of compulsory evacuation could not be overlooked. Listening to the hon. Member for West Fulham, I could not help feeling that the merits of evacuation would not be fully realised by the people until it has been our unhappy experience to see some terrible slaughter of innocents in this country. Then, perhaps, people will recognise how necessary it is for the Government to take the responsibility for action which it is difficult for the mothers to take. I do not agree that only a woman can make this point understood by the people. At this time, with this virile race, the mothers are prepared to receive a strong lead from the Government; and when the Minister is convinced by circumstances that those women must harden their hearts and part with their children, no sob-stuff will be necessary to secure their co-operation. The Minister has purposely reserved to himself the right to decide when the occasion comes for the enforcement of compulsory evacuation. But I have heard the view expressed by medical men of great experience that it is essential that, in the case of large parts of the country at any rate, the Minister should indicate where, in certain circumstances, he may advise compulsory evacuation. Only then will the Medical War Emergency Committee be able to ear- 1472 mark the men essential for the fundamental services in the designated neighbourhood and use the surplus practitioners for distribution in reception areas where their services will become necessary for the evacuated people. Putting aside the danger of creating unnecessary alarm, and also the danger perhaps of disclosing military information, the Minister might give a confidential hint to the Central Medical War Emergency Committee of the areas where he thinks they ought to be prepared to adjust the medical services to meet new conditions arising out of the evacuation scheme.
The question of evacuation has been discussed very fully by those with a wide knowledge of the subject, but there are one or two minor points with regard to evacuation which I should like to mention very briefly, not hoping perhaps that the Minister will deal with them to-night, but that they will be borne in mind by him to be dealt with when occasion permits. The hon. Member for Romford (Mr. Parker) asked the other day whether, at a time when we are surrendering so many of our liberties, the people should be asked to make some other concessions in the interests of national safety. Here we are transferring children from the crowded towns to the countryside, with the possibility of infection to country children, which it is unfair of our town dwellers to impose upon them. The hon. Member for Romford said that in certain circumstances there should be a measure of compulsory innoculation, and the Ministry of Health, with its responsibility for the health of the people, ought to take into account the importance of the subject. Otherwise loss of life from a single epidemic might compare badly with the number of deaths resulting from several air raids.
Again, hon. Members from both sides of the House have appealed to the Minister of Health again and again to protect the people against impure and infected milk. Recently a very welcome statement was submitted to us by the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Food announcing the making of free milk available and increasing the provision of free or cheap milk for mothers, infants or schoolchildren during the war period. Most children in Manchester, Birmingham, Leeds and other big cities are provided with pasteurised milk, but when evacuated to the countryside they 1473 must often drink milk which cannot be regarded as safe. The right of the farmer to supply unsafe milk is one of those liberties which should certainly be surrendered in war-time.
The question of vermin us children is a very difficult problem which is associated with poverty and bad housing. It has been a cause of trouble in many rural areas where children have been sent, and public opinion has been shocked because such a high percentage of the children were in that condition. The suggestion has been made by the Medical Officer of Health for Glasgow that at this time local authorities ought to be given an extension of their powers to deal with this problem. It has been proved that the mothers in their homes cannot do it at this time, and therefore, he has asked that the local authorities should be empowered by the Ministry to enable them to undertake the cleansing themselves, and to take other measures, such as the cutting of hair, and so on. Such concessions would enable the cleansing to be carried through quickly and efficiently. It might be hoped that the Minister would bear in mind that particular proposal, even if he was approaching the territory of the Board of Education. We were told this afternoon by the hen. Member for Kilmarnock (Mr. Lindsay) that as the subject was not being dealt with on educational problems the Debate to-day was "cabin'd, cribb'd, confin'd." I cannot see myself how the problem of evacuation can be tackled without the necessary co-operation of the local health authorities.
With regard to the emergency hospital services, I have talked to people who are engaged in local administration and to medical men in various types of practice, and I find general agreement that, considering all the conditions we have had to face, the scheme has achieved a very reasonable measure of success. There seems also to be agreement that such success is due to the fact that the Ministry in all the steps that have been taken has very wisely co-operated closely with the British Medical Association, which represents over 40,000 physicians, surgeons, specialists and general practitioners, institutional medical officers, and soon. This representative body can understand the health problems of this country in all their aspects, and any Minister who hopes to create a successful scheme cannot 1474 possibly dispense with the advice and experience that they can give him. The policy of the Government in regard to emergency medical service hospitals is that military casualties will be treated in these institutions. Therefore, it becomes essential, both in the interests of the civil and the military community, that there should be no poaching and no unreasonable competition between these hospitals and the other services for the service of the civilian medical consultants. The Central War Emergency Committee was set up to allocate the civilian medical practitioners. They had only a limited pool to draw upon, and there were signs that other people were poaching from that pool. Some little time ago a committee was set up representative of the emergency medical services and the Naval, Military and Royal Air Force medical services with the object of reaching a friendly agreement regarding their respective requirements of medical staffs. That committee was presided over by the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Labour, but I believe that the Assheton Committee, as it may be called, has only met once and has not yet made any report. I wish the Minister would tell us to-night whether adequate measures have been taken to ensure that medical personnel are being used to the best advantage, and that men are being allocated to the right jobs.
I would like to refer to the physio-medical treatment of war injuries referred to by the hon. Member for St. Albans (Sir F. Fremantle), which seems enormously important at this time. That treatment has largely developed since the last war, and it is very desirable that our wounded and industrial casualties should have the advantage of methods that do so much to restore efficiency for military or civil duties. There seems to be some doubt regarding the evacuation of expectant mothers. I am told that the suggestion is that they should be evacuated in the ninth month, whereas many experienced practitioners believe the penultimate month to be the best for their removal. Again it is suggested that their return to a danger area is too soon after the date of birth. Perhaps, however, the Parliamentary Secretary will tell us what it is proposed to do about these cases.
1475 I have heard great satisfaction expressed regarding the efficiency of the dental services which are now available for evacuated persons. In that connection two suggestions have been made bearing on the threatened shortage of medical practitioners. Should we be overwhelmed by a tremendous number of casualties at the same time as we have to take care of evacuated persons in new areas, such a shortage might well occur. I am told that dental practitioners would like to help with some of the work of medical practitioners, which they can do, so as to release the latter for employment on other work. It is suggested that a short post-graduate course would qualify dental surgeons to assist as anaesthetists at the emergency medical Service hospitals. In particular, they would like to be employed at first-aid posts, because their professional training provided sufficient knowledge of medical matters of the work of these posts. Finally, it does seem grotesque that at a time when elderly medical men are being brought out of retirement, some local authorities are still insisting on medical women retiring on marriage. These women, who are anxious to serve their country at this time, are very often especially fit to do so by reason of their specialist medical experience. Perhaps in this matter the Minister himself would set a good example.
§ 7.54 p.m.
§ Mr. Spens (Ashford)
I will take up only a few minutes of the time of the Committee, but I want to say a word or two as one who, all along, has represented a reception area and has had in his own house some evacuated children. The area I represent—the middle of Kent—is in a very different situation from what it was when the evacuated children came to us last September. I listened with a great deal of interest to what my right hon. Friend said about the various alterations which had been made in respect of such areas. It is quite true that from an area round the coast all the children who were originally sent there have been passed on to areas slightly more inland and that additional children who should have come to us a fortnight ago have not come. That is no doubt extremely wise, but on the other hand we have this rather curious situation: You have rural areas right up to the outskirts of substantial towns and 1476 evacuated children have been sent on elsewhere. But you also have these substantial inland towns to which large numbers of evacuee children have been sent. I have not the slightest doubt that the sending of children to such towns has, because of the building facilities which have been available, enabled their education to go on successfully. But when my right hon. Friend talks about the underlying principle being the principle of dispersal, and the safety that comes from that principle, I cannot believe that we can rely on that safety for those children who will remain inside these towns. After all, what does it mean?
I have in mind an area where there are 2,000 extra children, which means that the number of people to the acre is now fairly heavy. I would suggest that my right hon. Friend ought to consider and, if possible consider at his 10.30 meeting to-morrow morning, whether it would not be desirable that from such areas some further measures of dispersal be taken. I say that deliberately because of the attitude of parents of the children who have been in my house since last September. One set of parents, when the situation altered so rapidly as it did a fortnight ago, came down and of their own accord took their children away to what they regarded as at any rate not a substantially more dangerous area than that to which their children were originally evacuated. That was their own personal view. The parents of the other children are infinitely more anxious. There is no doubt that the responsibility of having other people's children in one's house does appear a much more serious responsibility, in the neighbourhood of that particular place, than it was when those children originally came. I believe that feeling is shared by a great number of neighbours who are still housing other people's children in that area.
May I say a word about compulsion and non-compulsion? I listened with interest to the speech of the hon. Member for West Fulham (Dr. Summerskill) and I, like everybody else, would much prefer the method of persuasion. Like her, I would much prefer persuasion to be used in order to get mothers to do what we all think they should do, but surely the question is, does time for persuasion remain? Are we not now faced with the situation that really it is not a ques- 1477 tion of talking about persuasion but taking action within the next week or so? Surely the time has come for decision, which the right hon. Gentleman is not afraid to take.
I feel strongly that in those areas where there is any sort of military advice a decision should be taken, and taken at once without further delay. My feeling, quite frankly, is that in those areas—I am speaking from contact with people in what we regard as more dangerous areas than other parts of England—I am not sure they are—at any rate we are under 30 miles from the nearest place occupied by the Germans—whatever order the Government give on their responsibility will be most loyally carried out by the whole population, and I do not believe that the right hon. Gentleman will be faced with any difficulties. At any rate, my feeling is that if the military authorities do advise evacuation to be carried out, and carried out compulsorily, in the interests of mothers and of the children themselves, we should not hesitate to support the Minister in his decision.
§ 8.3 p.m.
§ Mr. David Adams (Consett)
The Committee is indebted to the Minister for his lucid and clear and, if it had been possible, his convincing statement this afternoon. It is an unfortunately strange and unkind cut of fate that when we are dealing with a question affecting the child population of the country the Minister is a bachelor and the Parliamentary Secretary a spinster. I think the Committee should strongly recommend that this undesirable situation should be terminated without delay. The Government in the previous evacuation scheme and in the present one do not appear to have approached the subject in the serious fashion it necessitates. If evacuation is a military necessity—and all forms of evacuation are a military necessity—it ought to be carried out under the best possible terms and with the fullest amount of thought given to the problem. The last evacuation was a pronounced failure. It was a failure in the reception areas. The billeting was private, the education was scarce and, in the main, the medical services and school feeling were absent, and the result was that many parents withdrew their children and took them back again to their homes. The Committee know the condi- 1478 tions in the reception areas. As far as the child's school interests were concerned it was a sealed book. The schools were all closed and the medical services shut down. The examination of children for medical or dental purposes was brought to an end, and school feeding disappeared. Apparently, in the national interest, for the long period of six months these many thousands of children in the reception areas were deprived of the proper facilities for child life.
I think it is true to affirm that this will prove to be detrimental for life to large numbers of the children of the industrial workers in this country. We may reasonably ask the Minister of Health whether better provision has now been made. He did not tell us whether large hostels or halls or camps had been requisitioned to bring as near an approach to communal existence and communal education, together with health services, as is possible. Perhaps he will let us know what the situation is in the reception areas. If the Government are making, as they are at the moment, evacuation optional, there is a liability on the Government to see that those who do not avail themselves of the option for one reason or another shall not be penalised for so doing. There should be no question of penalty attaching to it. I saw a statement in one of the London evening papers that in the evacuation areas the schools will all be closed and the children will be able to run about the streets. Is that going to be the fortune of children in the evacuation areas? In the last evacuation it was anticipated that some 3,000,000 children would avail themselves of it. It was not long before only 400,000 were left in the reception areas, and probably the same state of affairs will obtain now. We have been informed that only one in five of the school children are availing themselves or are likely to avail themselves of the opportunity of evacuation.
On the question of compulsory evacuation I wish to express my personal view. It is supplemented, I can assure the Committee, by a number of conferences we have had on Tyneside with various Labour organisations. When the situation has been fairly put to them by those who have experience of evacuation conditions, and by those who are competent to envisage the conditions in an evacuation area where bombing might take 1479 place, we have obtained a virtually unanimous agreement on compulsory evacuation. I think that if it could be stated—and it might justly be stated—that it was a stern military necessity, that it was essential to the success of our war effort, the parents would undoubtedly consent to such evacuation. If bombing takes place, the children who remain in the evacuation areas will be in the greatest peril. I do not think any parent in any area where bombing is likely to ensue, could refuse to permit the children to be removed, if possible, to safety, but if there were any such cases I am sure compulsion would undoubtedly succeed and would have general assent. Voluntary evacuation is a heritage from the last Government. Ministers are treading in footsteps which, in the judgment of this Parliament, were not too wisely directed, and the right hon. Gentleman should give deeper consideration to this question, particularly in view of the failure of the voluntary system hitherto.
In the judgment of the majority of citizens this is a matter of paramount importance. That being so, why have we not had a preliminary campaign in favour of compulsory evacuation? As far as I know, there has been little or no Press or platform campaign. I would be delighted to take the platform anywhere and I have no doubt so would many of my colleagues, in support of such a campaign. There has been no pulpit campaign and no wireless campaign to demonstrate the urgent necessity, in the national interest, of preserving what is the nation's most valuable asset at the present time. By reason of the fact that the Minister has been bequeathed a certain policy, we have had only a half hearted attempt to deal with the problem. The Minister cut away a good deal of his own ground when he said that the Government would not rule out the possibility of compulsory evacuation from areas where attack was likely to ensue. Does not that apply to all the evacuation areas? Unquestionably it does and if the statement were to be made, with the authority of the Government behind it, that evacuation from certain areas was an essential part of our war effort, I am convinced that the great bulk of our people would assent to it.
Everybody must sympathise with the view which was so admirably expressed 1480 by the hon. Member for West Fulham (Dr. Summerskill). We all feel the burden which is imposed upon parents who have to send their children away, but, after all, parents have an obligation to the State as well as to their offspring. If the true position, in relation both to the safety and the ultimate welfare and health of the children, could be painted in the proper colours, I have no doubt that parents would assent to whatever measure of compulsion might be found necessary. The Minister has said that the Government's responsibility, in the event of children being killed or injured in reception areas, would be very great if they applied compulsion. But the Government are the custodians of the whole nation and particularly of the children. Is their responsibility not equally great, if they fail to take the opportunity which is in their hands of ensuring that those who are unable to protect themselves shall be transferred to safer areas and, if necessary, compulsorily moved from place to place, in order to make their protection as complete as possible?
§ 8.16 p.m.
§ Viscountess Davidson (Hemel Hempstead)
I wish to support what has been said by the hon. Lady the Member for West Fulham (Dr. Summerskill). The Minister made it clear that if the Government were advised that, for military reasons, a certain area should be cleared, then compulsion would be used. Obviously, nobody would object in a case of that kind; everybody would be most anxious to fall in with compulsory orders in that event. I am very anxious, however, that compulsion should not be applied except in such circumstances. I agree with the hon. Lady the Member for West Fulham that only a mother can really understand this question. No man can understand it; certainly no one who has not children can understand it. It is a matter of psychology. Whoever you are, or what your position is, wherever you live, or how you live, if you are a mother you feel a drag when your children are not with you. Then, nothing else really counts. I know it. I think one may be allowed to mention one's personal feelings in a case like this. Full as my life is, and interesting as it is, only one thing matters to me, and that is to get back to my children when I can get back to them.
1481 If that is so in my case, how much more does it apply to the working-class woman who has a hard life, working from morning till night. The one thing that counts with her is the compensation of her children and her love for them and their love for her. Yet it is proposed to ask these women to send their children away, perhaps for months, perhaps for years—no one can tell. True, it may be possible for them to visit the children occasionally. But it is a very big problem, and I repeat, one which only a mother can really understand. The most devoted father in the world does not really understand, except perhaps through his wife, the full meaning of the drag of maternal love, and what the children mean to the mother and what the mother means to the children. That is why I cannot support certain hon. Members in the desire that compulsion should be used.
I agree with the hon. Lady the Member for West Fulham that this matter might, perhaps, have been approached in a wiser way. I think this is a question which should be put to the women of the country by mothers who have faced it and decided it for themselves. Many of us have had to decide it for ourselves and make up our minds whether to let our children go or not The hon. Lady and I may know where our children are going and who is to have the care of them, but a number of these women do not know either where their children are going or who will have the care of them. But even that knowledge does not compensate the mother for the fact that she is not with the children herself. These other women, who are being asked to send their children away, have to take the chance that their children will receive understanding, love and a home life. It is so very easy to say that compulsion should be used in the case of somebody else's children. That is why I urge the Minister to use every means of putting this appeal across to the mothers, with the help of the mothers who understand what these women are going through. Then perhaps there might be a better response.
Another point I wish to emphasise is the question of keeping the minds of the children employed. There has never been anything more disastrous than the six months during which children were running wild. Every child is feeling this 1482 war, and is feeling it acutely. That is so even with the smallest child I know because I have the advantage of having children whose ages range from 18 to five years. I know pretty well how the minds of these children are working and how deeply anxious they are, whether it is my 18-year old, 16-year old, 12-year old or five year old child. I know how deeply anxious they are about this war, and that there is only one way to keep their minds quiet, and that is by keeping them occupied all day long until, physically tired, they go to bed to sleep. I do hope that as compulsion is not being used—and I do not want to see it used—the Minister will see to it that the children who remain in the towns are occupied, and that arrangements will be made for the schools to keep open. I hope that we shall not see children running about the streets in these grave times, otherwise the effect on their minds will be very serious indeed.
As one who represents a reception area, and I know my reception area pretty well, I would like to say how much we owe to the devotion, the unselfish devotion, which has been given to thousands of children in these areas. I do not believe that people living outside reception areas quite know what these people have been through. It is not only the really hard cases, the extreme cases, but it is the tremendous tie on these working-class cottage women. There have been cases of women who have never been able to leave their houses since these children first came to them. As an hon. Member said, it is the responsibility of having other people's children—that, I know, is, perhaps, even worse than being responsible for one's own child. You feel that you owe more to other people's children than you do to your own, and you want to give them the same love and the same kindness and understanding. I am sure that that is the case with most mothers in the countryside. It is a tie for those who have other people to help them, but it is a tremendous tie for those with no one to assist them, for those who live in small and crowded houses and have to cope with numbers, and it is often numbers, of extra children.
Again I say that I would not like to see compulsion used. If you can still appeal to the voluntary spirit you will get the right response. I know so well from representations made to me from all over 1483 my constituency the very difficult times these people have been through, but I do not think they will fail the Government or the country if they are appealed to again in an emergency. No one in the country will fail when that emergency comes, but it would be as great a mistake to try and force these people to take children as it would be to force children by compulsion to leave their mothers.
§ 8.25 p.m.
§ Mr. Viant (Willesden, West)
There is one aspect of the hospital problem to which I desire to direct the Minister's attention. Through unfortunate circumstances it has been necessary for me to attend a hospital a good deal during the last three months. It was one of those country hospitals which had been reorganised to meet possible contingencies arising from war conditions. What struck me most was the inadequacy of the number of nurses, and I am persuaded from my experience gained in the hospital which I have been visiting that if we have anything in the nature of an inadequacy of nursing staff, hospitals will be totally inadequate to deal with the situation. I will give an illustration. In a ward, with 25 beds, there was, during the daytime, a sister with two and sometimes three nurses. The hospital routine had to be gone through in the morning, but the sister, and possibly a nurse, had to go round with the doctor to visit the patients, with the result that the work accumulated and had to be done later in the day. At night there were two nurses on duty. I made it my business to inquire what the situation was, and I discovered that the county authority was compelled under the reorganisation imposed by the Ministry of Health to deplete its staff to the extent of 50 per cent. and to send them to another establishment. I know there are V.A.D. nurses who may come in and render assistance in the event of an emergency, but it is conceivable that even some of these assistants will not be able to stand the strain. I am raising this point because I visualise that if this is general throughout the country, the hospital system will break down. I am not raising this for the purpose of criticising, but because I feel it is a weakness. I hope the Minister will be able to bear it in mind and if he desires to have the name of the hospital, I will gladly give it to him 1484 in private. I hope it is not a general state of affairs throughout the country.
I pass from that to the subject of evacuation. In my constituency mothers come to me with their problems. The evacuation scheme last September was carried out in a great hurry. For the transport and organisation we can pat ourselves on the back. I find, however, that a large number of mothers are adamant in their refusal because of that experience to allow their children to go away again. The children of a mental defective school were sent to the East coast, and we know what has occurred there in recent months. We can imagine the mental condition of the mothers when they learned of the terrifying experiences through which their children were going. These things are not confined to the few hundred mothers, because they become propagandists and pass the experiences of their children on to other mothers. I hope that that condition of affairs has been remedied. A large number of mothers say they will not allow their children to go away again for another reason. They are very poor and their children were none too well clothed when they went away. During the winter many of them were walking about in ordinary indoor shoes in the snow, frost and bitter cold. A number of them had no top coats, and the parents were not in the position to provide them. It is to be said for many of those who took the children in the reception areas that they gave them boots and shoes, clothed them and gave them top coats. The mothers, knowing that in many instances that is impossible, are reluctant to permit their children to go through those conditions again. In one large school last week where a number of children had gone through that type of experience only 17 children and seven teachers volunteered to go away again.
I hope that we shall try to avoid a number of the mistakes that were made in the haste of last September. In two instances, unfortunately, children died while they were away. Friends of the parents visited the local authority with a requisition that the children might be brought home to be buried. The local authority, however, said that they had no power to pay for sending home the bodies. That has had a bad effect upon other parents, and one can appreciate their reluctance to allow their children to 1485 go away again. I should deplore anything in the nature of compulsion. I do not think it will be necessary, provided—andwe might have done a great deal before now in this direction—we select from among the mothers who have seen the wisdom of allowing their children to go away again those who are able to put the essential points to the remaining mothers and coach them to the need for agreeing to their children going away. It should be emphasised that the mothers are to be given something in the nature of a guarantee that their children will be well cared for while their children are away.
In the experiment of last September those who were responsible for placing the children in the reception areas had little or no time in which to select the types of home for the various children. Our experience was that a number of children who had tolerably good homes and parents indecent circumstances were put into some of the poorest homes, while children who were brought from the poorest parts of the constituency were sent to better-class homes. More care must be exercised in that matter. The children who went into the better-class homes could not adapt themselves to their changed circumstances and were uncomfortable and uneasy. One mother complained to me and said that her daughter was in Northampton and that the people with whom she was billeted were well-to-do, had their own car and took her out to social functions. I told her I thought it was rather a good thing and that she ought to be pleased. She said, "No, I am not; I do not want her brought up in that way," and she brought her daughter away.
A little more care might be exercised by those responsible in the reception areas to see that the children are placed with hosts with whom they will feel more at home than that girl could feel in a well-to-do home. We might say that it was to the girl's advantage, but the girl and the mother were unhappy about it. The homes should be so selected that the children are sent into environments similar to their own where they will feel happy. I particularly emphasise the need for educating the parents to the advantage of permitting their children to go away, and I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for West Fulham (Dr. Summerskill) that that can best be 1486 done by those working-class parents who have already seen the wisdom of taking this course. If that course is adopted, probably we shall avoid a situation which might end in something in the nature of a disaster; but if we create the wrong spirit there will be a feeling of rebellion against evacuation, whereas at this time we want everything to be done in a spirit of co-operation.
§ 8.41 p.m.
§ Mr. Adamson (Cannock)
I think the Committee can congratulate itself upon undertaking this discussion on this important subject at this crucial time. As the hon. Member for West Willesden (Mr. Viant) has indicated, the period of experiment has passed, and we ought to have gained experience for any further action which may have to be taken. I wish to emphasise one or two aspects of this problem which I fear may be overlooked even in this later stage. I would urge particularly that care should be taken in the selection of reception areas and would illustrate my point by an instance from my own experience, without indicating the district. The particular area to which I refer, which has a population of about 40,000, was classified originally as a reception area. A census was taken of the accommodation available and for weeks and months the people were expecting the arrival of children who were to be billeted upon them, but none came until about a fortnight ago, when, after a few days notice, between 600 and 700 children arrived. Unfortunately in the meantime between 5,000 and 6,000 soldiers had been billeted in the area. Also, within easy distance there is a training camp, which began nine months ago with 4,000 trainees and is rapidly developing. The area is, too, within eight or ten miles of one of the most thickly-populated industrial districts in any part of the country. Obviously the industrial areas will be an object of attack if the enemy, in addition to seeking to create confusion, wants to destroy the centres from which come the supplies for carrying on the war. I am certain that the people in that area are prepared to welcome these children and to make them contented and happy, but when selecting reception areas we ought to consider the possibility that they may be the object of enemy attacks by reason of the presence of training camps or their proximity to industrial areas.
1487 This Debate must also have emphasised the point that one of the reasons for the re-evacuation of children from certain areas is that those areas are now regarded as likely to be danger spots and to be lacking in facilities for protection. Is the Minister quite certain that many of the new areas into which children have now been drafted have sufficient protection for a greatly-increased population? As he will appreciate, all urban authorities have not the same resources as large boroughs or county boroughs to inaugurate schemes of Civil Defence. I very much fear whether the normal population of those areas would have adequate shelter accommodation in the event of a raid. Will it be possible for them to cope with an increased population and to guarantee the safety of the children?
We have been discussing the vexed question of voluntary versus compulsory evacuation. Like many of my colleagues, I believe that, in the main, the voluntary principle is the better, admitting, of course, that emergency situations might arise in which no one could complain if compulsory action were taken, and taken promptly, to safeguard the population. But there is a good deal to be said in favour of the plea which has already been made that greater efforts should be made to get parents to understand more thoroughly the realities of the situation. To realise what might happen in the event of large-scale air raids, one has only to look at the pictures from Continental countries showing streams of refugees leaving towns and villages to seek places of refuge, some of them even leaving their own country. If only we can impress upon the people now the realities of what may happen, I am sure they will make the necessary arrangements for the evacuation of their children. I believe there is something to be said, if circumstances demand, for the mothers to go with the children. That would tend to solve the problem of the younger children, who would not only have the care and attention that they need but the faithful loyalty to which they are accustomed. I believe the suggestion was made that women themselves should plead with the mothers of the country to fall in with the appeal for evacuation. There is something very natural in such an 1488 approach, and I hope that it will attain the object which we have in view.
In emphasising these aspects of the question, we desire that the Ministry should try to safeguard the interests of the younger generation in respect of those things that will make or mar them when they are divorced from their families and are carried into a new environment among strangers. In some respects this change may enlighten them, but, nevertheless, it will be a strain. I hope there will be an extension of emergency health measures, with a view to giving that individual attention which the children usually had in their home life, and that the development of their education will be safeguarded to the highest possible degree so that they may be prepared to face the greater eventualities that may arise.
§ 8.55 p.m.
§ The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Health (Miss Horsbrugh)
The greater part of this Debate has been on the subject of evacuation, but I should like to deal for a few moments with the subject of the emergency hospital scheme before I pass on to the points that have been put forward on the subject of evacuation. During the past two weeks, we have had the first full trial trip for our emergency hospital scheme, particularly in dealing with casualties which have come to this country. I would first like to say what wonderful work has been done in the hospitals by those who have been dealing with the disembarkation, entraining and detraining ofcasualties—the stretcher bearers, surgeons and nurses and all others who have been dealing with this work. This test took place at the beginning in rather more difficult circumstances. We have only to remind ourselves of the number of casualties that we received and that came to this country in circumstances which will never be forgotten and are part of the history of this country. Wonderful work was done.
From visiting the hospitals I know that there is one opinion I would never take, and it is that given to me by wounded men, because they have been so grateful and so full of appreciation for all that has been done for them. They have been patient under the most trying circumstances, and I feel that I must go further and listen and look at every other criticism and every suggestion as to how we 1489 can improve the service. To those of us who have had the opportunity of going to some of these hospitals and seeing the work going on, it has been something that we shall not forget. Not only have we had gratitude from the men themselves, but from their relations and from those who have been in touch with them we have had appreciation also. I should like to tell the Committee that we have had it from those who have come from the Allied Armies. The other day, in one of the hospitals, I met an officer of the French medical service. He came to thank me, and he asked me to thank the Government and the people of this country for the way in which the French and Allied wounded had been received and looked after.
It is clear from the statement of my right hon. Friend that our object now is to find every case in which there has been difficulty, slowness or lack of efficiency in any way, and to endeavour to deal with each single case. I hope that every hon. Member will bring to our notice particular cases that they may hear of, as they go about in their constituencies or elsewhere. I believe that my right hon. Friend has said that we are looking particularly to every region at the present time to find out the difficulties. We want to give the speediest and most efficient treatment to every injured person. We know the difficulties, and that we may not reach perfection. There may be appalling difficulties as the war proceeds, and our scheme must be elastic. There must be great mobility, if we are, during this time of war, not in a distant country but on our doorstep, or in this country, to be able to deal with difficulties.
I speak of efficiency. By that, I mean taking advantage of all that science has given us. Especially we want to hear every form of criticism and of opinion, in order to try to weigh up the opinions of specialists. There may be many points of view and many treatments for different types of case. The subject of physiotherapy has been brought up this afternoon. I might say that an advisory committee has been set up, and my right hon. Friend is desirous of ensuring not only that we get advice or decisions, but that decisions are carried out. The hon. Member for St. Albans (Sir F. Fremantle) put his finger on one of our difficulties 1490 when he spoke of the different authorities. There are the Ministry of Health, the medical profession, local authorities, and hospital authorities, and what we have to get, as far as possible, is real co-operation between them all. When the machine is really working we shall be able to see whether there is sufficient co-operation. Perhaps in some cases information has not reached the officer-in-charge of a particular branch of the service.
As for the subject of air-raid precautions, I think the hon. Member for London University (Sir E. Graham-Little) will agree that in dealing with air-aid casualties we must remember that it means dealing with them in the middle of a raid. It must be remembered that the places where we have our precautions and posts are liable to be bombed, and it may not be possible to get transport to them. We must be able to set up first-aid posts at other places, and we must be prepared for all the difficulties which are likely to arise. As for surgical treatment, we must see that our personnel and equipment are mobile. It would be a disaster if we had too many of our expert surgeons in certain places when in time of an air raid it might be impossible for them to reach casualties. We must face the fact that during air raids hospitals may be bombed and we may lose equipment. The more we go into this scheme, the more we must see how we can best provide the personnel and equipment, so that whatever happens we can give the maximum attention with the minimum delay. All the points that have been raised to-day will certainly be looked into, and this matter in particular will be under constant survey. Reference was made to the experience of Barcelona, but we have later experience than that. We have experience of what is happening every day. It is only by learning what is happening in the different countries that we can improve our system and be able to deal with the various emergencies.
Another point that was raised was the subject of the evacuation of expectant mothers. The question was asked whether it was laid down with no exception, that expectant mothers should go in the last month before they expect their confinement. I think it is understood that expectant mothers who have registered to go out are urged to go in the last month, 1491 but we have tried to impress upon them over and over again that, should they be willing to go before, we shall be only too willing to make arrangements for them to go. The accommodation in maternity homes which have been set up has been approved, I think, by all who have seen it.
A point was raised with regard to nurses. We have tried, if possible, to staff up to full capacity—and I think we have succeeded—all those hospitals which are receiving casualties. In the other hospitals we adopt the idea which the hon. Member brought out in his speech, that certain members of the staff should, perhaps, move to another hospital. It is the clear understanding that both kinds of hospitals will again be staffed fully when the patients come in. We are bearing in mind that it is not simply a case of putting in one grade of nurses. In each district, we are keeping in a pool, as it were, the names of nurses and the various grades of sisters. It is not the case that when sisters are removed from a hospital V.A.D.'s or nursing auxiliaries, with less experience, are put in their places.
§ Miss Horsbrugh
If the hon. Member will bring to my notice any hospital which is now under-staffed, we can certainly give it more staff. We have nurses waiting to go to the hospitals where staff is required. I will never say that we are actually satisfied that we have all the staff that is required; we have to look ahead. It is because we want to look ahead that I recently made an appeal for more trained nurses. I want to make it clear that it was not the case, as far as I knew, that any hospital was understaffed. We are endeavouring to see that the number of fully-trained nurses is ahead of requirements, while bearing in mind that it is not a wise plan to have nurses standing by month after month. We have to consider the need that we shall have to fill speedily, and to keep ready a corps of trained nurses and V.A.D.'s so that the other hospitals may be staffed as quickly as possible.
§ Captain Sir Ian Fraser (Lonsdale)
Would the hon. Lady extend to me the 1492 courtesy of requesting the committee, under the chairmanship of the late Secretary for Scotland, which is going round at this very moment to see whether there are deficiencies, to find out how many of the hospitals are equipped with massage and medical electricity clinics, and in how many cases steps are taken to see that the deficiencies are made good?
§ Miss Horsbrugh
That is one of the points which is being laid down. My hon. Friend the Member for St. Albans said that he thought that some hospitals had perhaps not been making full use of all that they have been given. It is important to see that the suggestions and the arrangements made by the Minister for that particular treatment in the hospitals are being made use of.
Now, we come to the vexed question of evacuation. To-day we have been dealing with an exceedingly difficult problem, the difficulties of which have perhaps come out more in this Debate than in any other Debate on evacuation that we have had. Now we seem to have got down to the main problems of the subject and really to have got away from detailed points, from the difficulties we have known and from what we went through last September. In putting aside most of the details, I want to deal with the main problems that are before us. I realise that details are important. The hon. Member for West Willesden (Mr. Viant) spoke of the clothes question. We know those details. The details can be got over, and they are being got over. We realised them fully in September. As I went about from one area to another, probably I saw the difficulties in the areas and had a chance of seeing them more than anyone else, because I went practically into every region and found nearly all the difficulties. Therefore, if I leave the details this evening, hon. Members will realise that we are not trying to avoid the details, but there are the main problems which have still to be solved.
Without in any way trespassing upon other Votes and keeping strictly in order, I can probably deal with most of the subjects which hon. Gentlemen have raised. The main point is that we want to see how every possible opportunity can be given to the people of this country, and above all to the children, to escape, as far as possible, the worst horrors of war. In dealing with the children we all realise 1493 that it is not simply the body of the child; we want to see that the child, body, soul and mind, will get the best possible chance. That is the object of us all; we are all trying to reach the same thing. The difficulty is as to how we are to reach that point. Not only are we dealing with the problem of the desire of the mother, of the parents, very naturally to see that the child has the best chance possible, but, in spite of their anxiety as to how the child may fare if it goes away, we are also dealing with the problem of this small country at war.
As I listened this afternoon to the references to the various districts I realised that I had never known the map of England so well as I have known it in the last few months. To many of us in the Ministry of Health "Bradshaw" is now almost known by heart. I wonder whether hon. Members realise as well as we realise that the more we are desirous of moving people from certain districts, the more the districts into which we can move them are becoming smaller. We have heard to-day that the children should not be on the East or on the South coast. Then we come to the inland districts where, as we have been told, various industrial efforts are going on, and there are various regions which might be thought to be dangerous through the presence of the military. If you begin to exclude all areas within eight or ten miles of industrial undertakings, and every area which may possibly be marked out as a military object very little of this island will remain. We have to look as far as we can day by day to the districts which we consider to be the safest. I would make this point quite clear to all Members who have spoken. Every day, in conference with those who can speak for various Service Ministries, decisions are taken as to which particular districts are the safe stand which districts are the most dangerous still. The war is not static. It is changing, and the dangers change. Defence and industrial schemes are changing, and I am quite certain hon. Members will agree that we cannot always give reasons why particular areas are not the best and the reasons why we choose another area and move children. So we have the difficulty of the geography of the areas which may be considered and the best areas to which children should be sent.
1494 In dealing with evacuation, we have, as most of us know, the chance of using areas not confined to this country, such as the Dominions and the United States. We have heard lately of generous offers of help from people who are willing to extend homes to children in this country, and the Minister, in conjunction with other Departments, has been considering what is the best way in which we can reply to these generous offers. Within a few days I think some scheme will be known by which it is suggested that these generous invitations will be responded to. I would like to say to the hon. Member for Farnworth (Mr. Tomlinson) that he need not fear that only those who can afford to go beyond this island will go. I hope very much that in a few days it will be made clear that those who would like their children to go beyond this island across the seas, to the Dominions or elsewhere, will be given the opportunity. It will not be the case that only those who can afford to send their children will be the only ones to send them. We hope to extend our reception areas far beyond the limited area of this country, but will they go? The crux of this Debate is whether children will go to Cornwall, Devon, Canada or the United States.
My right hon. Friend, in opening the Debate, gave us, I think, what is our new conception of evacuation. The war is here, and because of war we must look upon our evacuation scheme from a new point of view. My right hon. Friend referred to the fact that there may be certain areas in this country where we shall be told by those best able to advise us that large numbers of the population, not only children, should be removed. There is not the slightest doubt that when that time comes evacuation will be compulsory. But compulsion there would not be the compulsion of taking the children from their parents. If it was the case that because it was necessary, from a military or defence point of view, that a large proportion of the population should move from certain areas, I have not the slightest doubt that the country would support us in saying that that move should be compulsory. Some of those who have discussed evacuation to-day have not had in mind that this is what we might call a newer form of evacuation which has to be faced. We have to realise that in moving large parts of the 1495 population we are making areas smaller. The boundaries of many areas which have been neutral areas or reception areas in the past may be changed. There is before us now a bigger move of the population than there has ever been in the past.
Even if that move takes place, there will be other areas, crowded and densely packed, where aerial bombardment might quite probably occur, and there may be a disaster to large numbers of the population. What are we to do? The Committee has this afternoon shown itself in a really debating mind. I have been counting the number of hon. Members who have expressed their opinion this afternoon, and I am right in saying that the majority of hon. Members, and I believe the majority of the people, still prefer an effort being made without compelling parents to give up their children. Those Members who are in favour of compulsion would like to see a scheme of orderly evacuation in order that large numbers of these children should be in safer areas. But those hon. Members who have put forward a scheme of compulsion have never said that they would impose penalties upon those who refused to go or that they were prepared to send parents to prison because they would not give up their children.
We have heard what is going to be the effect of this peculiar war situation on the children and how it is going to react upon them; what will be the effect upon them in after life. As I listened to the Debate, I wondered what will be the effect on the children who are taken against their will and against the will of their parents from their homes. What will be the effect on the children if we make it compulsory and the police call at the house and say, "This child must be taken away; it is the law of the land"—and the parents still object? The hon. Member for West Fulham (Dr. Summerskill) expressed the feeling that is in the mind of many parents. What will be the effect on the child taken compulsorily from home? I have seen a good deal of children who have been evacuated. Of course, there are cases of shy children and homesick children, who do not want to leave their parents. Hon. Members know how much depends on the help and support of parents. I have seen mothers saying "Good-bye" to their children and 1496 telling them that they are off to the country, keeping up heart themselves and trying to be cheerful in order to help the child. It is on these parents that the burden has rested to make the child happy in going away, and if we are not going to get even that support but a feeling against evacuation, I ask hon. Members to consider what effect that is going to have on the child.
The hon. Member for Hemel Hempstead (Viscountess Davidson) referred to the effect of compulsion on the reception homes. What we want to get for the children are homes where the people are ready to take them, make them part of the family, and give them all the care and attention they possibly can. It would be a very difficult task to make the children who have been taken forcibly from their homes really feel happy and at home and at ease in their surroundings if it is done under compulsion. I would not perhaps have dared to put this so much from my own point of view, if we had not had a great deal of expression already from various points of view. I might have said to the hon. Member for East Islington (Miss Cazalet), as one maiden aunt to another, that it was difficult for us to express an opinion. But I have my own opinion, which I hold very strongly, on this subject, and I am glad that the decision of the Government and of my right hon. Friend has been against this country, with all its feeling for home life and parental responsibility, with all that we have done to build up the ideal of the home, taking this course, if it meant that, with everything else that is to be smashed and destroyed in this war, that ideal was to be smashed and destroyed also.
It has been suggested that there should be more propaganda and more appeals by mothers who have sent their children away, or from mothers in reception areas, to those who are still waiting and wondering what to do. My right hon. Friend is only too anxious that there should be all expressions of opinion that could help. It has been suggested that those mothers should speak on the wireless. That might be effective, but I have some doubt. I would like to see more personal contacts, more meetings of parents, and discussions among themselves. I would like to see the mothers who have decided, or those from reception 1497 areas, talking to the parents who are yet undecided. I think a quarter of an hour's talk, face to face, would do far more than five minutes, 10 minutes, or even a quarter of an hour's talk on the wireless. It would be more personal. I believe that the very fact—although the number may be small—that the children who have been registered in London started to go into the reception areas to-day, will prove useful. If that is successful, I believe we shall find more readiness here in the London area to send the children. Every child who is happy in a reception area, every evacuation that is a success, is better propaganda than any number of words. I also wonder whether it would not be possible for some of those who are considering registering their children, to go to the various areas and to talk to the people in those areas. There is I agree a feeling of fear. There is a feeling which many mothers have expressed to me in these words: "We cannot say that in the reception area there is complete safety." Mothers have said to me, "If there is to be danger, if my child is to be hurt or merely frightened, I do not want him to be away from me. He will be more frightened with strangers." That point of view has to be considered.
Nothing would give my right hon. Friend greater satisfaction than 100 per cent. voluntary evacuation. That is our ideal, and when reception areas beyond this island are available to the people of this country, many who do not consider the reception areas here to be completely safe may be willing to send their children further a field across the seas. That we have yet to see, but as the war continues, we realise that there will be changes, not only in the minds of people, but, much more, changes in the actual effect of the war in this country. Hon. Members may say that by that time it may be too late. I cannot help feeling, however, that the people of this country will more and more, realise the danger and that as the danger comes nearer to one part of this country or to another, people all over the country will begin to feel that they ought to take advantage of the opportunity which is being offered to them. Every scheme which is put forward we shall consider most carefully and also every suggestion for getting into touch with these people. I should like to see any number of ex- 1498 periments tried but for myself I believe there is nothing which will bring the matter home more to the people of this country than the facts which we shall probably have to face in the days ahead.
Every day for the next six days children will be leaving London. We have already changed the areas of reception, and in the last few weeks children have been moving from one part of England to another. I agree that far too many are still left in certain areas, but I would ask hon. Members not to under-estimate the number of children who are now in safer areas and those who are about to move. Of those who were registered to leave London, to-day, 80 per cent. cheerfully went off; everything, so far as we have heard to-night, has gone off well. If 80 per cent. of the whole go, we shall be pleased, although, I hope, in the next few days we shall reach 90 per cent., or even more.
§ Miss Horsbrugh
I quite agree. It is 80 per cent. of the children who were to go to-day. I quite agree that that is only one-quarter of the school population, and we do not try to minimise it in the very least. But, if 80 per cent. of those who have registered have gone to-day, I consider that it shows that people are not drawing back and that those who have registered do realise the importance of the appeals which we have made. The hon. Member for West Fulham said that those parents who have allowed their children to stay behind could be best influenced by those parents who have allowed their children to go. If the parents of every one of those 121,000 feel that it is a success, and that they were right in their action, I am convinced that they will be able to induce another 120,000 or 240,000 or 360,000.
The Minister said that the Government's decision was not to make this method compulsory, and I believe that the majority of the people in this country will be relieved to know that. I know cases where children are being taken away from school—I know this from school attendance officers—because their parents fear that their children might be compulsorily taken from them. These are the dangers that we have to face, but I hope it will be clearer after this Debate that at any rate, the Government's pledge 1499 up to the present is that they will not take their children without the parents' permission. Let that be clear, but at the same time we urge parents to consider the dangers and to realise the opportunity they are being given to register now. We urge them to realise the difficulties of transport and moving large numbers of the population when the worst moments of danger come. We urge them to consider that the Government are taking into account what the members of the Defence Services have told us, and taking into account all that has been learnt from other countries. We believe it would be wiser and safer if parents took the opportunity the Government are giving and continuing to give them for their children to enter those areas which are considered more safe, whether in this country or to areas even more safe farther away.
§ Motion made, and Question, "That the Chairman do report Progress, and ask leave to sit again," put, and agreed to.—[Major Sir James Edmondson.]
§ Committee report Progress; to sit again upon Tuesday next.
§ The remaining Orders were read, and postponed.