HC Deb 17 September 1940 vol 365 cc92-5
16. Mrs. Adamson

asked the Secretary of State for War whether he has now considered the Report of the Select Committee on National Expenditure regarding the Auxiliary Territorial Service; and what steps he intends to take on the proposals submitted?

Mr. Eden

Since the return of the British Expeditionary Force from France the Army Council have at my request been considering reports upon the work of the Auxiliary Territorial Service, in which over 30,000 women are enrolled for military duty of various kinds throughout the Military Commands. All these reports have testified to the keenness and efficiency of the Auxiliary Territorial Service, and also to the great value of the work which it performs. Many suggestions have also been received from the Director and senior officers of the Auxiliary Territorial Service, from the Military Commands, from important women's organisations, and finally from the Parliamentary Select Committee which issued a report on 21st August.

The general purpose of these suggestions, which have taken many forms, has been to bring the organisation of the Auxiliary Territorial Service, which came into being under very different conditions in September, 1938, into closer conformity with the proved requirements of the present time; to make fuller provision for its welfare and technical efficiency; and finally to raise its numerical strength. The plans for reorganisation, which in some directions affect the Women's Royal Naval Service and the Women's Auxiliary Air Force as well as the Auxiliary Territorial Service, are not yet complete in all respects; but in the meantime various changes have been approved by the Army Council and are being brought into effect at once.

The following are the changes already approved:—

  1. (1) An Auxiliary Territorial Service Council is being formed under the supervision of the Adjutant-General, which will consist of the following officers:
    1. (a)The Director of the Auxiliary Territorial Service—President. The Director is on the staff of the Adjutant-General and will be responsible under him for the administration of the Auxiliary Territorial Service.
    2. (b) A senior Auxiliary Territorial Service officer attached to the staff of the Quartermaster-General, who will deal with clothing, feeding and accommodation of the Auxiliary Territorial Service.
    3. (c) A senior Auxiliary Territorial Service officer attached to the staff of the Director of Military Training, who will be responsible for all branches of training in the Auxiliary Territorial Service.
    4. (d) A woman doctor attached to the staff of the Director-General of Army Medical Services, who will be responsible for the health and general welfare of the Auxiliary Territorial Service.

The Council will deal with all questions of policy in the Service and will be corporately responsible to the Army Council through the Adjutant-General for its administration in all respects.

(2) A Selection Board for the promotion of Auxiliary Territorial Service officers is also being set up. This Board will consist of the Director, Auxiliary Territorial Service, the Assistant Directors, Auxiliary Territorial Service, in all the Military Commands and, when officers they deal with are under consideration the Auxiliary Territorial Service Inspectors of M.T. Companies and Catering. Confidential reports on all Auxiliary Territorial Service officers are to be rendered to this Board at once. The recommendations of this Board will be subject to confirmation by the Adjutant-General. These will deal with:

  1. (a) Welfare qualifications, interest in the women serving under them, readiness to advise and help.
  2. (b) Administrative qualifications.
  3. (c) Special qualifications, for example, in domestic science, languages, driving, clerical work and business experience.

(3) The normal type of soldier's ration having proved too heavy for women in some respects and deficient for women in other respects, a new scale is being introduced more appropriate to the needs of the Auxiliary Territorial Service.

The main changes are:

  1. (a) A slight reduction in the heavier foods such as meat, bacon and bread.
  2. (b) A supplementary ration of eggs, 50 per cent. extra milk, fruit (fresh when possible), and a higher scale of fresh vegetables.
  3. (c) The supply of a breakfast cereal, a cup of chocolate, and other minor variations of the same kind.

The general purpose of these changes is to bring the Auxiliary Territorial Service under the control of a council consisting of its own director and three senior commandants; to facilitate promotion on the recommendation of immediate superiors with personal knowledge of the officer or member reported upon; to improve technical training; and to provide more fully for the health and welfare of all branches.

Mr. Bellenger

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that there is some discontent in the ranks of the A.T.S. regarding the system of selection of members to commissioned rank? Does his statement mean that he is going to make it much more widespread for an opportunity to be given to those serving in the ranks to reach commissioned rank, as is done in the Army?

Mr. Eden

That is exactly what my very long answer implies, among other things.

Sir Ralph Glyn

In view of the very satisfactory reply, can some steps be taken to bring it to the notice of would-be recruits that this reorganisation is taking place, in view of the very great importance of increasing the numbers of the A.T.S.?

Mr. Eden

That is exactly what we have in mind. We are anxious to increase the number of recruits.

Mrs. Adamson

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the public concern with the mismanagement of this Service has been somewhat justified by the reply that he has now given?

Mr. Eden

I do not like to look for motives. I have only tried to obtain results.

Miss Ward

In view of the fact that the satisfactory carrying out of the new recommendations depends on the quality of the personnel who are to carry out the task, may I ask for an assurance that the choice of officers to high and important rank will be very carefully made?

Mr. Eden

All the senior appointments are referred to me.