HC Deb 07 May 1940 vol 360 cc1017-9
2. Mr. A. Edwards

asked the Secretary of State for War how long the Countess of Brecknock, Lady Elizabeth Pleydell-Bouverie, the honourable Mrs. Muriel Hornsby and Lady Carolyn Howard, respectively, has served in the ranks of the Auxiliary Territorial Service before being gazetted as officers?

Mr. Stanley

The periods are: Lady Brecknock from 14th November, 1938, to 19th January, 1940.

Lady Elizabeth Pleydell-Bouverie from 9th March, 1939, to 6th January, 1940.

Mrs. Hornsby from 26th January, 1939, to 6th January, 1940.

Lady Carolyn Howard from 12th March, 1939, to 3rd February, 1940.

Lady Elizabeth Pleydell-Bouverie had previously served as a company commander from 10th November, 1938, to 8th March, 1939, but found at that date that she had not the time to spare for the duties entailed by the post she held, and she re-enrolled as a volunteer.

Mr. Edwards

Do I understand that there are no exceptions to the rule that these promotions take place only from the ranks?

Viscountess Astor

Is it a very good plan to have promotions from the ranks in such a new service? Is not what we really need tried and able people, whether they are from the ranks or not, who have some authority over the young people? Is it not true that we do not care whether they are duchesses or kitchenmaids?

Mr. Stanley

The difficulty, of course, is to find out whether the ladies are tried and able people for the task unless they serve for a period in the ranks and go through a training course.

Mr. Shinwell

Who nominates this type of lady for commissions? Are they nominated by someone, or do they make application themselves?

Mr. Stanley

The position now is that anybody desiring to obtain a commission has to be recommended by her company commander and has to go through a training course. Only after going through that training course is she commissioned.

Miss Wilkinson

Will the right hon. Gentleman tell the Noble Lady the Member for the Sutton Division of Plymouth (Viscountess Astor) how many kitchenmaids have received commissions?

Viscountess Astor

Not many, I am sorry to say.

12. Miss Wilkinson

asked the Secretary of State for War whether he will consider the desirability of raising the minimum age at which commissions can be granted in the Auxiliary Territorial Service, as the granting of commissions to very young and inexperienced women is having serious effects on the welfare of the women under their command?

Mr. Stanley

I am not aware that any ill results have arisen from the appointment of young officers. Such officers do not work independently, and they have all gained experience in the ranks. The average ages of officers appointed from the last two courses at the Auxiliary Territorial Service Cadet Wing were 31 and 29, respectively.

Miss Wilkinson

The question of the average age does not enter into my Question. The point is that commissions are being given to girls of 21, and even in certain cases younger, and that they are quite unfitted in most cases for the responsibilities of an officer of such a corps. Can the right hon. Gentleman arrange that 25 is the absolute minimum?

Mr. MacLaren

Joan of Arc was 19.

Mr. Stanley

These women have to prove themselves, both in the ranks and during a course of training, that they are fit for a commission, and I do not see why it should be assumed that any woman is not capable of doing a job of this kind until she is 25. It is taken as a matter of course that young men can hold commissions at a much younger age.

22. Major-General Sir Alfred Knox

asked the Secretary of State for War what hospital arrangements have been made in London and generally in Great Britain for the treatment of women auxiliaries?

Mr. Stanley

Members of the Women's Auxiliary Services serving with the Army may be admitted to any military hospital when accommodationis available, any military families hospital, or any of the emergency medical services hospitals of the Ministry of Health under the same conditions as Army personnel.

Sir A. Knox

Will not the right hon. Gentleman allow that the accommodation for these people in London is insufficient and why do the War Office refuse the offer of the Gordon Hospital in Vauxhall Bridge Road, which is newly built and up-to-date?

Mr. Stanley

I was not aware of that fact and I will look into it.

23. Sir A. Knox

asked the Secretary of State for War whether any convalescent homes have been arranged for the use of women auxiliaries now employed in London?

Mr. Stanley

No convalescent home has been arranged for the use of Women's Auxiliary Services serving with the Army, but the question of the provision of convalescent depots is under consideration.

29. Miss Ward

asked the Secretary of State for War whether in order to advise the responsible authorities on health and hospital services in the Auxiliary Territorial Service, he will consider appointing a woman doctor in a senior rank to each command?

Mr. Stanley

This matter is under consideration.

Miss Ward

In view of the fact that the matter has been under consideration for some considerable period can my right hon. Friend expedite a decision?

Mr. Stanley

I hope to be able to announce a decision soon.