§ The Prime Minister (Mr. Churchill)
I beg to move,That, in the opinion of this House, for the purpose of securing the maximum national effort in the conduct of the war and in production, the obligation for National Service should be extended to include the resources of woman-power and man-power still available; and that the necessary legislation should be brought in forthwith.We have to call upon the nation for a further degree of sacrifice and exertion. The year 1941 has seen the major problems of creating war production capacity and manufacturing equipment largely solved or on the high road to solution. The crisis of equipment is largely over, and an ever-broadening flow is now assured. The crisis of man-power and woman-power is at hand and will dominate the year 1942. This crisis comes upon us for the following reasons. The great supply plants have largely been constructed; they are finished; they must be staffed, and they must be fully staffed. We must maintain the powerful mobile army we have created with so much pains both for Home Defence and for Foreign Expedition. We must maintain our armies in the East and be prepared for a continuance and an extension of heavy fighting there. We must provide for the expansion of the Air Force in 1942 and the far greater expansion which it will take in 1943. We must face a continuous growth of the Navy to man the great numbers of warships of all kinds coming steadily into service. We must provide modern equipment for the large armies which are being raised and trained in India.
1025 Apart from our own needs, we must keep our engagements to send a substantial supply of tanks, aeroplanes and other war weapons or war commodities to Russia in order to help make good the loss of munition-making capacity which Russia has sustained by the German invasion. We have had also to forgo very important supplies we had expected from the United States but which have now, with our consent, been diverted to Russia. We have also to recognise that United States production is only now getting fully under way and that the quotas we had expected will in many respects be retarded. This is only too often the case in munitions production. The House will remember how I have several times described to them in the last five or six years the time-table of munitions production. First year, nothing at all; second year, very little; third year, quite a lot; fourth year, all you want. We are at the beginning of the third year. The United States is getting through the second year. Germany started the war already well into the fourth year. If one does not prepare before a war, one has to prepare after and be very thankful if time is given. But all this disparity of production will rectify itself in the passage of time. All comes even at the end of the day, and all will come out yet more even when all the days are ended.
We have been hitherto at a disadvantage in having to fight a well-armed enemy with ill-armed or half-armed troops. That phase is over, and in the future the Hun will feel in his own person the sharpness of the weapons with which he has. subjugated an unprepared, disorganised Europe and imagined he was about to subjugate the world. In the future our men will fight on equal terms in technical equipment, and a little later on they will fight on superior terms. We have to make arrangements for all this, and we have to make arrangements in good time. A heavy burden will fall upon us in 1042. We must not be found unequal to it. We shall not be found unequal to it.
It has not been necessary, nor would it indeed have been helpful, to make the demands upon the nation which I am about to set forth until now. These demands will intimately affect the lives of many men and women. They will also affect the life of the nation in the following way. There will be a further very definite curtailment of the amenities we have 1026 hitherto been able to preserve. These demands will not affect physical health or that contentment of spirit that comes from serving great causes, but they will make further inroads upon the comfort and convenience of very large numbers and upon the character and aspect of our daily life. Much has already been done. Luxury trades have been virtually abolished by cutting off raw materials. The compulsory concentration of industry has. reduced labour used in making up what is left. This is passing away rapidly. It must not be supposed that there are large reserves of idle people leading a leisurely existence who can now be called to the national ranks. The entire adult British race, with very few exceptions, gets up in the morning, works all day and goes to bed tired out at night. In our form of society people have been accustomed to find their own jobs to a very large extent, thus saving a vast Government machinery. If all the efforts of everyone were really devoted solely to making war, there would be no food or fuel, no transport or clothes. We have to recognise the fact that a very large proportion of the population, particularly women, is occupied in ministering to the needs of the more actively engaged population and that that named has increased since the last war with the increase of population who have to be ministered to. The process which is now to be applied—and has indeed been continuously applied—much more vigorously is not the calling of idle people to work, but the sharpening and shifting forward of a proportion of their effort into work which is more directly related to the war. It is a general moving up nearer the front which will affect a large block of the people. What we have to make is a definitely harder turn of the screw. I promised 18 months ago "blood, tears, toil and sweat:" There has not yet been, thank God, so much blood as was expected. There have not been so many tears. But here we have another instalment of toil and sweat, of inconvenience and self-denial, which I am sure will be accepted with cheerful and proud alacrity by all parties and all classes in the British nation.
The severity of what is required must not be under-rated. The population of Great Britain to-day is about 46,750,000. Of this, 33,250,000–16,000,000 men and 17,250,000 women—are between 14 and 1027 65 years of age. Making allowance for the increase of population which I have just referred to, we have already reached, at the 27th month of this war, the same employment of women in industry, the Services and the Forces as in the 48th months of the last war. The munitions industries in Great Britain have increased in the first two years of this war more rapidly than in four years of the last war. We have 1,000,000 more men in munitions industries at this moment than we had at the end of the last war. What we have now to do is something more than that. I am not at all disguising the seriousness of me proposals which I submit to the House of Commons. On the other hand, it must also be remembered that the changes in our life which will take place, although severe, will not be violent or abrupt. They will be gradual, and gradually increasing in intensity. I propose to give to-day only the broad outlines and the principal features of the changes which we now propose. My right hon. Friend the Minister of Labour and National Service, who has devoted an immense amount of time to the proposals which are now put forward, and who has been assisted in his task by very strong Cabinet Committees and by repeated conferences on every aspect, will, in winding up the Debate on the next Sitting Day, expound the policy in more detail and also reply to any points which may be raised to-day. I am not attempting in my speech to state with precision the legal form of the new obligations. There are many verbal refinements, for example, as between Forces and Services, which would be necessary in a Bill or a Defence Regulation. My words are intended to convey the general aspect and prospect to the House. A White Paper will be presented before the Second Reading of the Bill, which will give definitions. Still, I imagine that what I will say is pretty nearly related to the actual facts. But I cannot cover every detail without preventing the House from seeing the picture as a whole.
I deal first with men. There will be three important changes in the case of males. Hitherto reservation from military service has been by occupational blocks. It is now proposed to change over gradually from this system of block reservation to a system of individual deferment. The method of block reservation 1028 under the Schedule of Reserved Occupations was a sufficiently good and flexible instrument so long as there was not an acute shortage of man-power. It avoided the waste of ardent men with highly specialised attainments which so disastrously characterised the opening years of the last war. There has been a very careful and steady husbanding of those who possessed specialised attainments of every kind, either in knowledge or in skill. The system of block reservation has already been modified by introducing protected work, which provides a rough test of the importance to the war effort of the work upon which the persons in particular shops are engaged; that is to say, a factory would be given protection, which meant that it was so directly connected with the war effort that its personnel would not be called up until a somewhat later age than in the non-protected factory. This has already been a refinement upon the system of block reservation by trades. The situation now demands that there should be a further refinement of the system so that men should no longer be reserved by virtue of their occupation, but that the sole test should be the importance to the war effort of the work upon which they are engaged. For instance, a carpenter may be doing work of direct importance to an aeroplane or to a ship, but he may also be making a piece of furniture. It is clear that there must be a discrimination at the point which we have now reached. The test will always be the relation to the war effort.
How is this transition to be accomplished? We propose to raise the age of reservation by one-year steps at monthly intervals, commencing on 1st January, 1942. That is to say, every month the reserved age will rise by one year, thus bringing a new quota into the area of those more searching, individual, detailed examinations. In this process individual deferment will be granted only to men engaged on work of national importance. Services such as the Merchant Navy and Civil Defence will, of course, be excluded from this scheme. Special arrangements will also be made for certain industries where particular problems arise, for instance, the mining and agricultural industries, and the building industry with its special system of allocation, although I must say that we look to a very considerable reduction in the building industry as 1029 the great works and plants come gradually to completion.
To cope with all these new complications, the existing deferment machinery of the Ministry of Labour will be developed by further decentralisation of 45 districts and the setting-up of 45 District Boards on the composition of which my right hon. Friend will say more when he speaks. In order that these District Boards may, with full knowledge, be able to give decisions, the object held in view will be twofold; first, to transfer men from less essential work to work of greater importance in the war effort, and also to obtain men to keep up the Armed Forces. Men in the munitions and other vital war industries and services who become de-reserved under the new scheme and in respect of whom deferment is not granted will, in general, be recognised as available for transfer to work of higher priority in those same industries, and a redistribution of labour within the munitions and other essential industries will be secured. This will, of course, affect only a fraction, but a very important fraction. Men in other industries, not war industries, not granted deferment, will be called up to the Forces. I am trying to keep the munitions clear of the new requirements of the Armed Forces as far as possible.
§ The Prime Minister
I shall come to that presently. Those not granted deferment will of course retain their individual rights under the National Service Act concerning conscientious objection, postponement of calling-up on account of exceptional hardship, and other mitigations. They will have the full protection and rights which are enjoyed by those called up by the National Service Act.
I come now to the point which the hon. Member opposite very rightly raised. The second great change affecting men is the raising of the age for compulsory military service from 41 to 51. Men called up over the age of 41 will not be posted for the more active duties with the Forces. They will be used either for static or sedentary duties to liberate younger men. It is not intended to call upon anybody to do tasks for which he is physically unfitted, but there are a great many tasks in the modern Armed Forces which can be discharged by men whom one would not expect to 1030 march with the troops. Very large numbers have volunteered already. The newcomers over 41 will all set free fighting men already in the Services for active mobile jobs. In other cases men between 41 and 51 will be directed into non-military tasks more closely concerned with the war effort than those which they are already discharging.
In raising the age of legal obligation from 41 to 51, we bring under review nearly 2,750,000 more men, the vast majority of whom are already in useful employment, but a portion of whom will now where necessary be directed forward into more direct forms of war effort. We may later have to advance another decade; in the last war, we went to 57. It is not necessary, however, to do this at the present time, because mercifully the slaughter has so far been much less. Of course, as you mount the age groups the effective yield even for indirect war purposes diminishes very rapidly, and it is more than ever desirable in these advanced groups to leave persons belonging to them in those useful occupations, which they have so often naturally found for themselves. But at the point we have reached in mobilising the national war effort, the avoidance of needless friction and disturbance becomes an increasingly important factor. Although you may say that by shifting A and B, from this job to that, you will get some improvement in the more direct war effort, unless it is a very marked improvement, the friction may rob you on the one hand of what you gain on the other. We must endeavour to administer the whole of this process with very great care and discrimination in the public interest and with the sole object of bringing the utmost volume of war effort out of this vast and varied community.
The third change is to the side of youth. It is proposed to lower the age of military service to 18½, thus bringing in an additional 70,000 recruits to the Armed Forces during the year 1942. I must explain that the wastage from the Army, apart from battle casualties, is very considerable. It has been greatly reduced by the fact that instead of moving men out of the Army when they are not fit as marching troops, they are now moved into those same sedentary occupations that I have been mentioning. But the wastage is very considerable, and it has to be made good, and the first half of the 1923 class—I said 1031 it would bring in 70,000 recruits in the year 1942—will be registered on Saturday, 13th December, and their calling-up will commence in January, 1942. The second half of the 1923 class will be registered early in the New Year. Assurances were given to Parliament that no one brought into the Army under the National Service Act would be sent abroad younger than 20. This did not apply, I may point out, and has not in practice applied either to the Navy or to the Air Force or to the many volunteers who have joined the Army, and there is no reason why it should apply to the Army above the age of 19. In case particular units have to be sent abroad at short notice, one does not want to pull perfectly fit young men of 19 and upwards out of their sections and platoons, and they themselves would be very much offended if they were to be so treated and if they had to see all their comrades going away while they were left, as if they were unfit, on the shore. It is not thought that any large use is likely to be made of this power in the near future, but none the less we ask the House to release us from this restrictive pledge.
§ Mr. Shinwell (Seaham)
I am sorry to interrupt my right hon. Friend, but it is desirable that there should be no misunderstanding upon this point, which is one of great substance. Are we to understand that the pledge previously given will be removed as regards youths of 19 and that youths of 19 can now be despatched overseas?
§ The Prime Minister
If the House releases the Government from its undertaking, that would follow, but it is entirely in the hands of the House.
I must now speak about the Home Guard. It is our great prop and standby against invasion and particularly that form of invasion by air-borne troops carried in gliders or crashable aircraft. To-day we have nearly 1,700,000 men, the bulk of them well-armed, spread about the whole country. I say that the bulk of them are well-armed. Although we have a good many million rifles in this country, we have not got rifles for all. We have several million men who will fight to the death if this country is invaded but for whom we have not been able to manufacture the necessary number of rifles, although our rifles are now numbered by a 1032 good many million. Therefore we supplement them with machine-guns, tommy-guns, pistols, grenades and bombards, and, when other things fail, we do not hesitate to place in the citizen's hands a pike or a mace, pending further developments. After all, a man thus armed may easily acquire a rifle for himself. At any rate that is what they are doing in Russia in defending their country. Although they have vast supplies of rifles, they are fighting with everything, and that is what we shall certainly do, if we are assailed in our Island.
The Home Guard is therefore, as I say, the great prop and stand-by against invasion. Because of its being spread out all over the country, it is particularly adapted to meet an air-borne descent. In the summer of last year we were an unarmed people, except for the few regular troops we had. Now, wherever he comes down the parachutist comes down into a hornet's nest, as he will find. The Home Guard was formed and founded in the passionate emotion of the summer of 1940. It has become a most powerful, trained, uniform body, which plays a vital part in our national defence. We must make sure that this great bulwark of our safety does not deteriorate during the inevitably prolonged and indefinite waiting period through which we have to pass or may have to pass. Power must now be taken by Statute to direct men into the Home Guard in areas where it is necessary, and to require them to attend the drills and musters indispensable to the maintenance of efficiency. Liability for service in the Home Guard will be defined by Regulation. We do not propose to exercise this power until that Regulation has been subject to a special discussion in the House of Commons, apart altogether from the discussions of this Bill. I do not want to delay the passage of the Bill when it comes on next week by a too detailed discussion on that point. We will have a separate discussion of it at a later period.
There is another change which applies to both boys and girls. It is proposed to register boys and girls between the ages of 16 and 18. This will be done by Defence Regulation. We must be careful particularly that our boys do not run loose during this time of stress. Their education, their well-being, their discipline, and the service they can render must all 1033 be carefully supervised. All boys and girls in these age groups will be registered and subsequently interviewed under arrangements made by the Youth Committees of the education authorities, who will thus be able to establish and maintain direct contact with all of them. We have to think of the future citizens as well as of the business of carrying on the defence of the country. Those who are not already members of some organisation or doing useful work of some kind, will be encouraged to join one or other of the organisations through which they can obtain the training required to fit them for National Service. There are fine opportunities for helping in the war open to strong, lively boys of 16 to 18. They can serve in the various Youth Organisations, such as the Cadets and the Junior Training Corps, the Air Training Corps, the Sea Cadets and in voluntary organisations on the civil side. Boys of 17 may already join the Home Guard, and we hope to be able to take some of the 16 year class—like the "powder-monkeys" in Nelson's day—in some areas where the Home Guard will be entrusted with anti-aircraft and coast defence duties. However, in all these fields the well-being and training of the boys will be the prime consideration.
§ Mr. Stephen (Glasgow, Camlachie)
Does the right hon. Gentleman mean that compulsion is going to be applied?
§ The Prime Minister
I am coming to the point which the Noble Lady has uppermost in her mind—the subject of women. In order to put as many minds at rest as possible, let me begin by saying two things. First, we do not propose at the present time to extend compulsion to join the Services to any married women, not even childless married women. They may of course volunteer, but they will not be compelled. Secondly, as regards married women and industry, we have already the power, and my right hon. Friend has already been given the power and has been frequently reminded of it, to direct married women into industry. This power will continue to be used with discretion. The wife of a man serving in 1034 the Forces or Merchant Navy will not be called upon to work away from her home area; nor will women with household responsibilities be moved from their home area. But there are some married women without children or other household responsibilities whom we may have to call upon to go to another area where their industrial services are needed.
Women are already playing a great part in this war, but they must play a still greater part. The technical apparatus of modern warfare gives extraordinary opportunities to women. These opportunities must be fully used, and here again the movement must be towards the harder forms of service and nearer to the fighting line. All women above 18 years, are already liable to be directed by the Ministry of Labour and National Service into industry, but we have not the power at present, according to our reading of the law, to require women to serve in the uniformed Auxiliary Forces of the Crown or Civil Defence. We propose to ask Parliament to confer that power upon us. We seek it and take it, subject of course to the rule that all affected will have exactly the same rights and safeguards as men subject to compulsory military service. The new power will be applied in the first instance, and probably for some time to come, only to unmarried women between the ages of 20 and 30. The power is general, but the new powers will be applied only to the age group between 20 and 30. The number in this class is 1,620,000. Of course the vast majority of them arc already usefully employed, and only perhaps a quarter or one-third will be affected and will be required to exchange their present employment for one more effective in the war effort. Those so required will have the option to choose, first, the Auxiliary Forces, secondly, Civil Defence and, thirdly, such industrial work as may be specified by the Ministry of Labour as requiring workers. This work comprises primarily filling factories and also a certain number of factories in places where it is difficult to obtain the necessary woman labour by the ordinary processes; also certain other bottlenecks and industries where there is a need for exceptionally speedy reinforcement. Those women who choose to join the Auxiliary Forces will not be free to decide which force they join. The Wrens and the Waafs, to use terms 1035 which have passed into the commonplace of our daily speech, both have waiting lists, and although the increasing requirements of the W.A.A.F. may at a later date outstrip their waiting lists, it is to the A.T.S. that this special movement of young women must be directed.
Why is it that we have to make this demand on women for the Army? Here I will make a digression. Two vultures hang over us, and will hang over us until the end of the war. We do not fear them, but we must be constantly prepared against them. The first is Invasion, which may never come, but which will only be held off by our having large, well-trained, mobile forces and many other preparations in a constant high state of readiness, which has to go on month after month at the same pitch of, readiness. Moreover, if we are to use the striking forces overseas at any period in the war, we must be sure that those that remain at home are of sufficient strength, because upon this island the whole fortune and fate of the world depend. Here is a case where the saying, "Better to be sure than sorry" deserves a larger measure of respect than it usually does in war. We do not want the horrors which are perpetrated by the Germans wherever they go in so many countries to be thrust upon us here, to the utter ruin not only of ourselves but of the world cause. It is absolutely necessary that not only the armies in the East should be maintained and reinforced continually, but that we should constantly stand in this island with a very powerful and perfectly equipped Army ready to leap at the throat of any invader who might obtain a lodgement from the sea or the air. Anyone can see that to maintain this readiness over a long and indefinite period is a great burden and strain and a first charge upon our military effort, but, in order to do our full duty in the war, we must always be trying to discharge that task with the highest economy of man-power, drawing as little from munitions as necessary and keeping as few people in sedentary or static situations if they are capable of acting with the mobile forces. That is the process we are applying—exactly the same process in the military forces as in industry—a move on to a more active form of employment.
1036 What is the other vulture for whom we must be ready? It is our old acquaintance the Air Raider, whom we already know so well. We have had a very easy time for the last six months, because the enemy has been occupied in Russia, but at any time Hitler may recognise his defeat by the Russian Armies and endeavour to cover his disaster in the East by wreaking his baffled fury upon us. We are all ready for him and will receive him when he comes, by day or night, with far greater forces and every modern improvement. But we have always to be ready. Great quantities of antiaircraft equipment are now coming out of the factories. Behind them are the range-finders and predictors and a host of elaborate appliances of a highly delicate and highly secret character which it is not necessary to specify. Besides these there are the searchlights and balloons, to which many new adaptations and complications are attached. We cannot afford to keep so many scores of thousands of trained soldiers, many of whom who are fit for the mobile field forces, standing about at these static defences. We must reduce the number in older to keep the field armies up to strength and to prevent our having to draw upon the munition factories for the maintenance of the field armies. This great Service called A.D.G.B., Air Defence of Great Britain, must yield a substantial proportion of its man-power to the field troops and mobile anti-aircraft artillery. Just at the time when it is receiving larger numbers of guns for which it has waited long, it has not only to manage to use these guns and bring them into service, but it has also to yield up a large proportion of the manpower it has. I must say that it has adapted itself to the task with great skill and ingenuity. It happens that all these new appliances, which so vastly increase the power of anti-aircraft artillery, require no great physical strength to handle. They are appliances which trained women can handle just as well as men, and every woman who serves in the Air Defence not only renders a high service herself, but releases a man—actually four-fifths of a man—for the active troops.
Over 170,000 women are needed for the A.T.S., and of these over 100,000 are required for the Air Defence forces. The mixed batteries which have been already formed have been a great success. They 1037 have been several times in action. There are more women than men in these establishments, which are as healthy, happy and honourable a community as anyone has ever seen.
We are asking the House to give us compulsory powers to call up single women. We propose to apply these powers to women between 20 and 30. We do not propose, when once they have joined the A.T.S., to compel them to serve in the lethal or combatant branches. Women will have the right to volunteer, but no women in the A.T.S. will be compelled to go to the batteries. It is a matter of quality of temperament, of feeling capable of doing this form of duty, which every woman must judge for herself and not one in which compulsion should be used. I want to make it clear that a woman may be compelled to join the A.T.S., but only volunteers from within the A.T.S. will be allowed to serve with the guns. I have no doubt we shall get the response which is required.
As I stated earlier, we do not propose to extend compulsion to join the Services or Forces to any married women at the present time. Nevertheless it is in this great field of married women or women doing necessary household work, comprising about 11,000,000 persons, that we see our largest reserves for industry and home defence for the future. The part-time employment of women in industry has already been developed, but on nothing like the scale which must be reached in the months which lie before us. This is a matter to which employers would be wise to give their immediate attention. They should consider whether and to what extent they can adapt their businesses, particularly smaller businesses and industries, to a part-time system. An immense variety of arrangements are possible to enable women to divide up domestic tasks and then be free to work close at hand in the factory or the field. The treatment of this problem must be flexible. In some cases women will arrange to "Box and Cox." In others a group of five or more may arrange for each to cook a day in turn, or again the development of crêches and public nurseries or combined nurseries may free, or partially free, mothers of families from domestic duties. Whenever practicable, work will be brought as near to the homes as possible. Some further spreading of 1038 components may be possible, which I need not refer to in detail. The whole of this process needs to be developed with the greatest energy and contrivance, and Government Departments here and in the provinces must take a share. I am very anxious that the smooth running of the great Departments, upon which so much of our life and war effort depends, should not be upset by pulling people out of the routine to which they have become accustomed. Nevertheless, a substantial contribution will have to be made from the young unmarried women in the 20 to 30 group by the public Departments.
Such are the new burdens which the hard course of our fortunes compels us to invite the nation to assume. Nothing less than these will suffice at the present time, and even more may be required by the ordeals of the future. We shall welcome Parliamentary discussion and the focusing of public opinion upon the details of a measure so intimately affecting the homes of our country. We desire to fit the knapsack with its extra load upon the national shoulders in the least galling and most effective manner. The aid of the House is required in this process, but that the load must be picked up now, and carried on henceforward to the end, embodies, we are sure, the resolve of the British people.
§ Mr. James Griffiths (Llanelly)
The Prime Minister has described the Motion that he has just moved, and the legislation which he has informed us will be brought forward, as a great new demand upon the nation. He has told us that it is necessary in order that the nation may put forward its maximum effort. Everyone will be at one with him, first in saying that nothing but our maximum effort can win in this struggle and, secondly, that it is our duty to see to it that the maximum effort of the nation is authorised for this great conflict. The Prime Minister has told us that there are two great vultures continuously hanging over our heads, the threat of invasion and the possibility of renewed air attacks upon a scale even larger than we experienced last autumn and winter and that, as a result, it has become essential to bring forward, first this Motion and then, as I understand it, a series of new Bills to implement the terms of the Motion. By their scope and their effect the Measures foreshadowed will be the largest measure of conscription ever introduced into this 1039 House or imposed upon this country. The first thing that the House will need to be satisfied about is whether these powers are necessary. They are enormous powers. They virtually give the Government control over the lives of all our citizens from 16 to 51 years of age.
The Government must first convince us that that is necessary, and I believe that the situation in Europe and the world convinces us that powers of this kind are essential if we are to organise our maximum national effort. The proposals are large in number and complex in character, and I am sure that the House will desire that there shall be the most adequate opportunity to consider in detail the proposals that will be made. While I appre-cite, as does the House, the urgency of the situation and the need for passing this legislation as quickly as possible, the proposals are of such a character, they are so wide in their scope, they affect the lives of the people so intimately, they even invade the sanctity of their homes, that I want to urge upon the Prime Minister that there shall be ample opportunity for the House to discuss this Motion. I hope that if it is the desire of the House to have more than the two days allotted for the discussion, the desire will be acceded to by the Prime Minister. I hope, too, that when the Bill is brought forward there will be ample opportunity for discussion both on Second Reading and on the Committee stage.
I propose to-day to raise some of the general implications of the measures which the Prime Minister has announced. Let me begin by saying how I view this matter. The measure of the power we get as a Government and Parliament is the measure of the responsibility we shoulder. We have no moral right to take powers of this kind over the lives of our people unless we fully accept the responsibilities which the taking of such powers places upon us. Those responsibilities are increased enormously, as compared with previous measures of conscription, by the fact that we are bringing women within its scope. There is an added responsibility, too, which the House will need to discuss and which I understand we shall have the opportunity of discussing when we are bringing the youth of the country, not within the powers of compulsion, but within State direction. There is one thing 1040 we must guard against with regard to the problem of youth. The talks and tales about youth in these days and the stories about high wages are exaggerated enormously and do far more harm than good. There is also a tendency to exaggerate the growth of delinquency among youths. I do not say that these problems do not exist, but I do say that there is a tendency to exaggerate them. In the proposals about youth, which we shall have an opportunity of discussing later on, one of the things we must guard against is that we do not adopt proposals for the regimentation of youth which may be disastrous later on. I hope that the opportunity of discussing these measures will be adequate.
I turn to the main thing I want to develop; that is, that the conferring on the Government of these powers places upon us obligations which we must accept. I want to say what I think are some of these obligations. The Lord Privy Seal, in introducing the Emergency Powers Act in June last year, said that it was necessary that the Government should be given complete control over persons and property, not just some persons of some particular class in the community, but all persons. I shall return later to the question of property and the use of powers over property which I desire to raise on behalf of my hon. Friends. For the moment, I want to put this very strongly—that it is essential that in the use of these powers in the calling-up of the youth, the men and the women of this country—and the nation will accept it— there shall be no discrimination between person and persons and between class and class. If we are to mobilise the manpower and woman-power of this nation, let us mobilise it fairly and equitably. Let no class escape. Let me. carry that one stage further. Not only is it essential that the Government should use these powers of call-up fairly and leave no trace of suspicion that there is discrimination between person and persons and class and class, but it is also essential that there shall be no discrimination in the allocation of service once the call-up has been made. There must be no soft jobs for the privileged and hard grind for the poor.
§ Mr. Griffiths
I know we are up against something, but I want to urge the Government that they are up against something, and that if powers of this kind are used unfairly, there will be dissent in the nation which will go far to destroy the powers they ask. I urge that as the first obligation which the giving of the powers to the Government confers upon the House of Commons. The powers also place upon us the obligation to see that, so far as it lies in our power, the sacrifice which is called for from men and women is equalised as far as it is within our power to equalise it. The hon. Member for Walsall (Sir G. Schuster) made a speech in the House last week which I think impressed all of us. He said, what everybody in the country feels, that the ideal way of organising the nation for National Service would be to put all, irrespective of person or class, on a common war footing. If that were possible, it is the ideal way, and I believe that the nation desires some measure of that kind. It may be impracticable, and I do not want to discuss all the considerations that arise out of a proposal of that kind.
I want, on behalf of my hon. Friends, to raise one aspect of the problem of equality of sacrifice which has been urged and which we shall urge again. I deprecate the suggestion, which I often hear in the House and see in the Press, which is made by comparing the pay of the working man in the Services and the working man in industry. If there are to be comparisons, they must not stop there. If there is to be a demand for equality, it should not only be a demand for the workman in uniform and the workman in overalls; if there is to be such a demand, it must be for equality between all people, wherever they serve and whatever their calling. There is one special obligation which we have and which is now increased enormously by the increased powers we give to the Government; that is the obligation that those whom we call to serve the nation in the Fighting Forces must be better treated than they have been treated hitherto.
Upon that I want to urge two points. First, we must raise the remuneration of those whom we call to the Services. I do not think we can defend, the present scale of remuneration, and when we are seeking these new powers we have an 1042 obligation to see that the remuneration is raised. The second point is that we ought not to leave the dependants of serving men in the position in which they are at the moment.
I sincerely urge upon the Government that as a corrollary to this Measure they ought to accept the obligation to deal with the conditions of pay and service of the Service man and the allowances to and the treatment of his dependants. My right hon. Friend the Minister of Labour will know that this problem can become very acute now that we are to call to the Services men between 41 and 51. They are the men of my own generation. In the main the men of that generation began work at 12 or 13 years of age. It was a generation which was half decimated in the last war, a generation that has borne 30 odd years of hard industrial toil. Many hundreds of thousands of them went through the experiences of the years from 1914 to 1918. They are now at an age when they are liable to crack. Every time I visit my native village I note with dismay that more of my generation have fallen by the wayside because they have been unable, at their age, to stand the strain of modern industrial life. When these men are called to the Services it is certain that there will be a larger percentage of breakdowns among them than among the younger generation. Once we call them to the Services the Ministry of Pensions must accept full obligation in respect of them. There must be none of the present quibbling on the lines of "You had this complaint before you went into the Army." I urge, and I believe I can do so in the name of the whole nation, that once a man has been taken into the Army there should be an acceptance of full obligations in respect of him and no effort to get out of them by quibbling. No one knows better than the Minister of Labour that the obligations which the State accepts now when it calls a man to its service in the Armed Forces is less than the obligation it places upon private employers. We cannot have that state of affairs. There must be a full acceptance of everything.
Thirdly, when we confer these powers upon the Government we must accept another obligation, and that is to see that the services of those affected are fully used to the best advantage both in the Forces and in industry. There is great danger in the exercise of compulsory 1043 powers. We are making it easy to get men and women, and that makes it easy to cover up bad organisation. If output is bad because of bad organisation, then a demand can be made for more labour to cover it up. The memoirs of the right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) have told us how, in the last war, military inefficiency used to be covered up by a call for more men, and there is great danger that the use of compulsory powers to enable more men and more women to be thrown into the industrial machine will lead to waste, inefficiency and bad organisation. Therefore, when these reserves of man-power are called up, we have an obligation to see what happens to them. We cannot evade the responsibility to see that this man-power is used efficiently in the interest of the nation and in the interests of nobody else.
I wish to raise two or three considerations on that point. The Prime Minister made scarcely a reference to production problems, outside the problem of the mobilisation of man-power, although the Motion itself does refer to production. I wish to know, whether it is proposed by the Government to depend entirely upon existing machinery for the disposal of this enormous labour force, its organisation and its division between all the calls that are made upon it—the calls of the Services, which we know must have primary consideration, and the calls of all our industries, and the decision as to which of them is essential and which is non-essential. The distribution of this man-power is the responsibility of the Government. I think it will be generally accepted in the House and the country that the machinery for the allocation of man-power between industry and industry is not all that can be desired, and I gather from what was said by the Prime Minister that the Minister of Labour proposes to create what is virtually new machinery for the purpose of solving this problem in some 45 areas or divisions of the country. We shall be interested to know what that machinery is, of whom the personnel will be composed, what powers it will have, and also what powers industry will have to make representations to it.
I presume that these divisional boards will not be executive bodies making decisions, but that they will be guided and directed, that within their divisions 1044 they will work to a common plan. Unless that is so, there cannot possibly be good organisation. In addition to the responsibility of seeing that the Government machinery both at the centre and in the divisions allocates man-power on the basis of need, there is a further responsibility. First, there will be the call-up, then the allocation, men and women being directed to this or that Service or industry; and then we come to the point whether we should not reconsider whether the industrial controllers working this enormous industrial machine are efficiently doing their job. There is an enormous number of controls in the country. Almost every industry is under a controller. We in this House have very little power over those controllers—I do not know who is answerable for them—but we do know what is taking place, and I would say here what is being said outside with much greater force about these controllers. I understand, though I will accept correction if I am wrong, that practically every one of the controllers is a representative of the big combines; and there is a large number of smaller people who believe that those controls are being exercised not in the interests of the nation but in the interests of big business. An hon. Member shakes his head. Very well, we shall hear the facts. It is urged with great force in many parts of the country that many controllers are too preoccupied with what is to happen to their industries after the war to pay proper attention to organising them at the present time.
The worst thing we can do here is to create a feeling in the country that the powers of the Government are being used in a discriminating way. Following upon the proposed legislation, there must be an obligation on the Government to see that production is efficiently conducted, and that is not to be achieved merely by organising man-power. This may, as a matter of fact, lead to less efficient organisation than we have at the present time. There should be an extension in certain instances of public control and planning of industry.
§ Mr. Griffiths
And ownership, but I am urging this extension now not as a piece of Socialist theory. I believe that theory is sound and I am prepared to argue it when 1045 the time is suitable, but this is not the time for theorising. [Interruption.] I listened to the hon. Member for Shettleston (Mr. McGovern) the other day for over an hour, and I hope he will have the goodness to listen to me.
§ Mr. Griffiths
When I listened to the hon. Member for over an hour he did not seem to propose anything. I hope that I shall leave him in no doubt as to my proposals before I sit down. I am urging what I believe to be essential measures for organising the nation for winning the war. The more I see of the organisation of industry in this country the deeper becomes my conviction that unless we extend State planning and State control to the mobilising of industry under a uniform system, and thereby pooling industrial resources, we shall not be able to get the maximum effort which alone will enable us to win the war. We ought to bring all munitions industries under State control. A number of us are disturbed by something which we have heard. I hope we shall have a Government reply on the point. It is that, at this moment, there is taking place, not an extension of State control, but a handing back of State factories to private enterprise. I want to know the reasons why that is being done. Someone whispered that the reason why some of the factories were being handed over was inefficient management. If that is so, will private industries which are discovered to be inefficiently managed be transferred to State control? There is a good deal of disturbance about this matter. It is stated that these factories are being handed back without the authority of Parliament. I want all the armaments industries to be brought under active and unified State control.
Another of our main industries that I urge should be taken over is transport. We cannot do this job of winning the war without a unified transport system. The major problems of this country last winter were concerned with transport, which is the key to other problems. No-one here will claim that the transport industry of this country is organised in a unified fashion. Hon. Members who are in doubt on the point should go back to their constituencies and ask the workers what they think of the transport system. Organis- 1046 ing that system would be a colossal job, but it is vital to the war effort. Extension of Government powers should be supplemented by powers to unify the transport system by bringing every part of it under State control.
In the last analysis it is upon coal and power that we depend for making our maximum war effort. I have sat here and heard hon. Members badgering my hon. Friend the Secretary for Mines. I know the mining industry. When my hon. Friend was made Secretary for Mines we handed to him an industry which has never been organised and which has a record of 20 years of conflict and bad spirit. You cannot blot out in a moment, not even in war-time, such a record. This industry should have been placed from the beginning under unified national control. That change is being advocated by the Mineworkers' Federation, the leaders of which have, in their spheres of responsibility and outside, done as much as anyone to support our war effort. They put forward this demand, not to raise controversy or to impede the war effort—I have discussed the matter with them—but because they think it is expedient to do so and that the coal required for our war programme cannot be obtained from the industry unless this is brought under unified control. This demand comes from the leaders of the Mineworkers' Federation as a conviction arising out of their experience. I share that conviction, and I believe the nation shares it too, and I therefore urge the Government that something should be done.
I have tried to urge upon the Government to-day that, in return for the powers which they now ask, they shall accept the obligations that I have tried to outline, and which involve action on their part to bring our war industries under national control. These measures are the material; the technique of registration, calling-up, deferment and the allocating of men, women and youths here and there is the machine, the most perfect machine in the world. In the end, I agree that this war will be won by a machine, and I agree that that machine must be efficiently organised, but in the end that machine will depend for its efficiency on the vitality of the spirit that inspires it. This is a great people. It is my conviction that we saved civilisation last summer. If we had given in then, 1047 the civilisation we have known, many of the things which we treasure and all our hopes would have gone. I am convinced that there are great moral and spiritual forces in the British people and that we have now an opportunity to make the nation's great effort something more than the mere passing of legislation. If we say to the people of this country that besides conscripting man-power we are developing the Government's powers to take over wealth, privilege and economic power, we shall give them an incentive which I do not feel is contained in this Measure. If we can give them a sense of a great co-operative effort in our mission, we shall build a dynamic democracy, and not only beat Hitler and all the other forces that make for war, but we shall win the peace as well.
§ Mr. MacLaren (Burslem)
In order that there may be no misrepresentation of my hon. Friend's speech, may I ask him whether he implies public ownership or merely public control?
§ Mr. Griffiths
I implied ownership as well, but the methods of the State in seeking the ownership of industries in wartime can be very different from those employed in normal times. I believe that the powers the Government now have would enable them to short-circuit the procedure. I meant ownership in my speech.
§ Mr. Horabin (Cornwall, Northern)
Of one thing I am certain. Both the House and the country will welcome the call that has been made to the men and women of the country to take a far greater part in the war effort. But I am equally certain that there will be profound disappointment in the country that the Prime Minister has not gone very much further to-day in organising us for a total war effort. Man-power is now to be completely conscripted, but there has been no reference to-day to the conscription of property, which I believe is equally necessary to the organisation of our war effort. I cannot agree with the Prime Minister when he says that our war production programme is following an orderly and a majestic progress. To-day I am not going to discuss the details of the manpower proposals that have been put before us. I agree with those proposals in principle, but what I want to establish is that there must be other, complementary proposals put forward as well.
1048 After all, we are now in the third year of the war, and Hitler is in complete control of Europe, out of which our land Forces have been bundled by the German military machine. After every military reverse the explanation that has been given to us by the Government has been the shortage of equipment. We have failed to take full advantage of Hitler's attack on Russia. Somewhere on the European Continent we should have formed a second front—I think that is common ground with all of us, except that once again the explanation was shortage of equipment. Government spokesmen, in fact, have no other explanation of their failure to take that action, which might well have brought this war to a speedy and victorious conclusion. For my part, I accept their explanation of our military defeats, but I would say that, as an excuse for military failure, shortage of equipment can only be justified if the Government have already taken every possible step to secure the greatest possible output in the shortest possible time. But have they?
My case is simple, and I want to state it bluntly and in unmistakable terms. The Government have failed to do all that could and should have been done to organise production. Of course, they have done very much better than the previous Administration, but that does not whitewash them. They could have done far more in the time. They have lagged behind this House and behind the country. When this Government first came into power, in the course of a single day we gave them the fullest powers over all persons and all property. To-day they are making full use of the powers over persons. We gave them those powers with the consent of every single section of the community, to enable them to use all our resources to sweep aside anything whatever that stood in the way of the organisation of this country for total war, but it is the Government that have failed to make full use of those powers.
I think one thing is very significant. The critics in this House have never accused the Government of doing too much, but have always criticised the Government for doing too little, too late. Over and over again, since this Government took office, what could be done, at the time when it should have been done, has been stated. What has actually happened in every single production Debate? 1049 The Government have always replied that such and such action has been taken, or that such and such a Minister has been replaced, and that everything will now be all right. Then a few months later the stark realities of war have proved that the Government have been wrong and the critics have been right. To-day, once more the Prime Minister has put before us laggard and inadequate proposals. Once more everything is going to be all right.
Why have the Government so disastrously failed over production? In putting this question, I have no wish to score debating points. The situation, in my view, is far too serious for that. To defeat Hitler as quickly as possible is my only wish; I take no pleasure in post-mortems, but an understanding of the causes of the Government's failure must be the basis of the constructive proposals which I should like to put before the House to-day. The Government's failure over production is due to their inability to realise the urgency of the situation, and I think that that appeared in the Prime Minister's speech again to-day. The Government have consistently under-estimated the productive capacity of Nazi Germany, and the Prime Minister has made that mistake again to-day. A year ago the Minister of Labour said that in another six months we should have topped Germany's production. Russia had not then come in. Yet after Russia's intervention we are still behind, and the Minister of Labour now asks for another 40 per cent. of production from the country. For this disastrous miscalculation I do not blame the Minister of Labour individually. I blame the War Cabinet's complacent under-estimate of German productive capacity.
§ The Minister of Labour (Mr. Ernest Bevin)
I did not say what the hon. Member suggests. If he looks at what I said, he will find that I said that if we hung on for the next six months grimly, we should then begin to be on the road to ascendancy. Getting on the road and reaching it are two different things.
§ Mr. Horabin
Instead of a ruthless pursuit of policies planned for victory, the War Cabinet is constantly caught 1050 napping in face of the aggressive energy and drive of the German leaders. The German leaders allow nothing to stand in the way, and Hitler is now master of Europe. What is the result? Potentially, he can produce 4,000 planes and 2,500 tanks a month. Who can doubt that this enormous capacity for producing tanks and aeroplanes will be used to the full by Germany during the coming winter months? I beg the Government not to make the same mistake all over again. They completely under-estimated German preparations for 1941. I fear they are in the same danger of under-estimating them for 1942. The enemy is fully organised for total war. We must be at least as well organised. Germany is using three-quarters of her potential capacity for war production. We, after three years of war, are using barely half of ours. Not because the Government have lacked time or because the people have lacked the will.
War production lags behind because the Government lack the moral courage to tackle the big problems—the transfer from a money to a production economy, a wages policy, conscription of management, the Civil Service—in other words, all these problems which involve the ruthless subordination of vested interests to the national interest. What is the result? Output lags behind, morale is being undermined since those great days of Dunkirk, when the Prime Minister fired this nation to face the impossible. We can measure the fall in morale. The measure of a nation's morale is whether it works all out for the common end, the determination of all sections of the community to make every sacrifice for the common end. During the Debate on the Address this decline in morale was the subject of comment by Members in all parts of the House. The hon. Member for Llanelly (Mr. J. Griffiths), speaking for the Labour party, said that this people was not yet all out, that something was holding them back. He has referred to it again to-day.
Is it any wonder that morale has declined? Look at the Cabinet muddle in the handling of labour. When the Minister of Labour first took office the critics begged him to exercise compulsion over labour, which he is now going to do. He indignantly refused on the ground that he was ''a leader, and not a dictator." A tardily growing appreciation 1051 of what is required has since forced him to introduce compulsion piecemeal in the docks, the shipyards and in the mines, then for certain classes of women, now for the whole population. As a result, he has introduced this compulsion without any quid pro quo in the form of compulsion of industry, which is equally necessary for the war effort. Output is not only a question of man power, as the hon. Member for Llanelly said. It is also a question of productivity. The right hon. Gentleman has introduced compulsion of labour without enforcing a wages policy. In war-time, a wages policy which will make the war industries relatively more attractive for labour than the non-essential industries is just plain common sense. Yet there is no wages policy. What is the result? One result is the recent serious situation on the Clyde brought about by wage anomalies as between skilled and unskilled workers and by the taxation of overtime. It would be unfair to put the blame for this deficiency, which has led to such a deplorable outcome, on the Minister of Labour alone.
These major issues cannot be relegated to watertight compartments. The entire War Cabinet must bear the blame. Already, miners have been prosecuted and convicted—I believe some of them are in prison—for refusing to obey the Minister of Labour's directions to return to the mines. I must say that I am surprised that my hon. Friends above the Gangway have not loudly voiced their indignation. Are these men criminals? Why are they in the dock? For the reason that, when the mining industry could no longer provide them with a job, they found work elsewhere and now refuse to give it up. Why do they refuse? The reason is natural enough. Because they are now being directed to return to the mines at a lower wage. They are in the dock because of the Government's policy—the Government's wages policy; also, because the Government have not made mining, which is an essential war industry, more attractive by providing the necessary wage incentive. Is it any wonder that industrialists find themselves in the same plight as the workers? Under the capitalist system profit is the main incentive of the industrialist. One hundred per cent. Excess Profits Tax has removed this incentive. Yet the industrialist is left to "carry the baby." He must carry on 1052 his business at his own risk. When deciding on production policy, he is therefore compelled to bear in mind the economic future of his business. He must try in war-time to keep some part of his peace-time production going against the day when he has to face the outbreak of peace, as it has been called.
The loss to war production from that is quite substantial. From the point of view of the war effort it would be better to abolish Excess Profits Tax altogether than to continue the present system, which is devoid either of incentive or compulsion. In point of fact, the incidence of Excess Profits Tax positively discourages the war effort. Engineering, a depressed industry in the standard years, but our most important war industry, has a very low rate of standard profit. The Excess Profits Tax fines the man who is efficient. I would advise the Chancellor to study the way in which Hitler has dealt with the problem so that efficiency is encouraged. Too often Excess Profits Tax places the national interest in conflict with the individual interest. I have seen the account of a business with a standard profit of £1,250 a year. In that balance-sheet there was an income from royalties coming from outside the business of £1,473—more than the standard profits. That business last year produced £123,000 worth of equipment for the Service Departments. Yet it would have paid the owner of that business to have closed it down, taken his £1,473, and a job outside. Is that the way to organise production?
How can we break this vicious circle in which war production has become involved? How can we quickly reach the point at which we are able to produce the greatest possible quantity of equipment in the shortest possible time? Surely the crux of the problem is this: Have the Government a plan to defeat Hitler? Is it based on optimistic romanticism or on realistic appraisal of the facts? Have they a strategical plan on which they are basing their production programme? They will refuse to tell us. I doubt if they have any plan at all. Otherwise they would not be constantly revising their production requirements in an upward direction. The Government must put their own house in order. Ministerial exhortations to workers and industrialists will not do it. To produce enough equipment for 1942 we must have from the Government, deeds, 1053 not words. Let us have an end to this pretence that a Minister of Production is not required, that this job would necessitate a super-man. In effect the Prime Minister to-day is Defence Minister and Production Minister at the same time. Does he consider himself a super-superman, or is the job neglected through sheer, downright overwork? It is not common sense that the Minister of Labour, as Chairman of the Production Executive, should have the responsibilities of a Minister of Production without the authority. Could self-deception go further than to name this production co-ordinating committee, which is completely devoid of executive authority, the Production Executive? There must be a Minister of Production, to allocate capacity as between the Services and to unify their requirements.
Has the Minister any idea of the adverse effect of multiplicity of types and constant modifications in design on the small arms ammunition output? It is simply shocking. Does the House realise that Lord Beaverbrook is setting out to duplicate the clearing centres for the exchange of available production capacity in the regions? The Production Executive has its clearing exchange in each centre. Now, Lord Beaverbrook proposes to duplicate this, with his own organisation, having its own staff, to call on the same firms in the same centres. Is it any wonder that alarm and despondency are spreading among industrialists to-day? One of the first jobs of the Minister of Production should be drastically to overhaul the personnel and the organisation of the Ministry of Supply. The General Staff can be cleaned up on the eve of battle, but the personnel responsible for the industrial planning department of the War Office is still in power, to continue its incompetent administration. Are civil servants sacrosanct? The Central Supply Departments, under the Minister of Production, should remain responsible for planning and the general oversight of the production programme, but there should be decentralisation of detailed control.
The regional boards are at present advisory. The representatives of the Supply Departments attached to them have no executive authority. The regional boards should be reorganised each under 1054 the full-time chairmanship of the leading local industrialist—a production man, not a financial man. They should have full executive authority and be responsible for detailed oversight, progress chasing, and handling of localised problems in the regions. They should have adequate powers to take any needful action which does not run counter to settled policies. In effect, they should become the munitions supply boards of the last war, but upon which labour is fully and effectively represented. Then, our war economy should be transformed from a money economy to a production economy. Only in this way can the financial consideration which so often stands in the way of a full use of labour and plant be eliminated. Only in this way can incentive be adjusted to ensure the greatest possible effort on the part of both labour and management. To avoid inflation and to release all possible production capacity, there must be all-in rationing. All persons can then be conscripted, and, by means of a wages policy designed to give adequate incentives, they can be directed to work where they will contribute most to the war effort. Overtime, output, and other bonuses should be exempt from Income Tax. Plant, management, and labour in each area should be under the full control of the region. The regions should have powers to move plant and labour from one factory to another. They should also have full powers to sack inefficient managements, and managements should be checked on the basis of the man-hours required to produce a given unit of equipment. Comparative figures of production costs should be published in terms of man-hours, and a bonus incentive given to management. By these means, management and industrial property would be conscribed, no less than labour. State, as well as private, factories should come under the full control of the regional board. The alternative is to pool industry, through the formation of State-financed holding-operating companies. At present it often takes nine months for such urgent expenditure to be authorised by the Central Supply Departments. Both labour and industrialists are anxious to work with a will to defeat Hitler. It is the Government who refuse to play their part —a part that no one else can play.
Perhaps the House will forgive me if I end on a personal note. Less than three months before the outbreak of war, I 1055 fought a bitterly-contested by-election. There were only two planks in my platform. One was to give full support to the arch-critic of the Chamberlain Government, the right hon. Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill). The other was to secure a truly National Government, under the leadership of the same right hon. Gentleman. Since he became Prime Minister, I have been touched by his generosity of spirit. For him, I have sincere admiration. Above the dead wood of the party hierarchies by which he is surrounded, the Prime Minister towers—a man. During the last 18 months I had hoped that the Prime Minister could pull things round. Of course, this Government is an improvement on the last, but I am now convinced —more particularly after hearing what the Prime Minister had to say to-day—that it cannot organise our war effort to the degree required to defeat Hitler. In war, petty compromises between sectional interests are no substitutes for ruthless policies energetically pursued. They induce paralysis of the will. They demean the fine spirit of the British people.
§ Mr. Higgs (Birmingham, West)
From time to time we hear of bottlenecks. The one major bottleneck existing to-day is the shortage of man-power. Time was when man fought man with bludgeon and so forth, but now it is necessary for each warrior to have six or eight men behind him, producing the goods he requires. To a great extent, the Minister of Labour is responsible for that production. I have heard a lot of hard words about the Minister of Labour from time to time. I have said them myself, and I shall probably say them again. But a certain Member of this House, speaking to me recently, condemned the Minister of Labour to such an extent that I had to take the Minister's part. I started to reason. What is the good of comparing the job of the Minister of Labour with the job of an industrialist? When you make such comparisons, you must compare it with like occupations in other nations. There is only one other nation in respect of which we can make a comparison at the present time—that is, the United States. We are very grateful for what the United States is doing for us; but when it comes to comparing the labour problem in the United States with ours, we have undoubtedly to give somebody credit for the absence of labour troubles here during the 1056 last two or three years. Probably we have paid for that absence of troubles. But we are managing our labour far better than the United States is. We have done a colossal amount of work during the last two years. We have progressed very far. When it is considered that great industrial organisations like the L.M.S. and I.C.I. have taken generations to build up, and that we have built up this huge war machine in two years, we have something to our credit, but the situation is still open to criticism.
I agree with what has been said by previous speakers that on practically every occasion when the Government have brought in new Orders and Bills public opinion has been ahead of the Government. We have had industrial and military conscription, taxation, rationing and so forth, and on every occasion there has been no opposition to the extra screw which has been put on to which the Prime Minister referred. Man-power is our limitation. We want additional man-power. When we talk about our own income, whatever it may be, it is never enough and we want more, but we do not pay sufficient attention to the incomes or to the man-power we possess.
There is room for far greater efficiency in the use of the existing man-power. I have stated in this House, as have other hon. Members, that the efficiency of production is low, but we can easily increase considerably the efficiency of production and limit the manufacture of certain commodities without any great loss to the community. We in this House may be in a sort of privileged position, but there are very few of us going without anything we really want, and until we feel the pinch, we do not put forth the effort which this nation and other nations and our Allies expect of us. I would stop temporarily the manufacture of all fancy goods, eliminate ornaments and considerably reduce advertising, which in itself is a saving but creates work in other directions.
I was looking through a Government publication the other day in which goods were being advertised that could not be supplied. What is the good of advertising and using manpower in this direction when man-power is so badly wanted for war requirements? I walked down the street yesterday and saw fancy slippers for sale, leather tobacco pouches, 1057 boot-trees, scents and so forth, and when we criticise the manufacture of these goods we are told that they were made months ago. They are being manufactured to-day. I know of the factories where they are being made, and I suggest that they should be cut out forthwith, so that we can get on with making the goods that matter. The difficulty of transport has been referred to, and yet no attempt has been made to give priority of travel to workers, which would be a very easy thing to do. A stamp on the registration card would be sufficient, and priority of travel would considerably help the worker to get to his place of occupation. We ought to standardise essential commodities, but there has been very little effort made in that direction. Household commodities and gardening implements ought to be standardised. It may be necessary to have these things, but we ought to reduce multiplicity of manufacture.
In common with all, we were pleased to hear the statement of the Prime Minister with regard to the registration of youth, but there is one section of the youth population of which full use is not being made. I refer to the public school boys and girls between the ages of 16 and 18. A year on munition work would not hurt these individuals in the slightest; it would do them a great deal of good. They are quick and intelligent and more adaptable than married women. There are some 2,000,000 of these young people in the country, though I do not know how many of them are at the public schools, but it is to that section that I am particularly referring. It would not seriously interfere with their careers. They will have taken their school certificate. There are differences between educationists as to the value of these years at school. The majority normally go into manufacturing or commerce, and they are at least learning something. If they were intending to go into the professions, the manual training would be of considerable benefit to them. I suggest that the manual training would be of considerable benefit to even a parson or a lawyer. Education is a preparation for life and not merely for the purpose of passing examinations. It would be to the benefit of all concerned if these boys and girls were put on munitions for a year, which could easily be made up to them after the war. People who cannot 1058 use their hands as well as their brains are not educated.
There is another section of juvenile labour, and I refer to children who are at school. In recent years we raised the school-leaving age to 14, and children, with their parents' consent, should be employed on work which is not detrimental to their health. It would be beneficial to relax existing conditions and reduce the school-leaving age to 13 on the understanding that, when the war is over, the children concerned put in an additional year at school or at some similar training. These children, of course, are only suitable for light work, but it is surprising in a factory what benefit can be got from the work of suitable children.
We have a lot of troubles at the present time among youths, especially with regard to high wages. I am not generalising on the wages question, but the high wage is responsible for drunkenness, absenteeism and many other vices. In my experience the problem arises to a great extent from our methods of costing. We all agree that the system of cost plus profit is wrong, and we are trying to discontinue that system as quickly as possible, but other evils are springing up of a similar character of which I am afraid the Government are not aware. One of them is in placing contracts unpriced and fixing the price during execution. It is desirable to have a fixed price contract every time, even if the price should prove to be wrong. The manufacturer prefers it. He gets greater efficiency if the price is fixed, and he knows what he is going to get out of it. Industry has to get something out of it. It has to have its profit; directly or indirectly, a profit must be made. I implore the Government to try and fix the prices of contracts before they are placed. They are finding time now to price contracts during the process of manufacture, but my point is that the principle of price fixing is to give on cost of wages only. If wages are £100, the principle is to give 120 per cent. or 150 per cent. on the value on wages paid. Therefore the manufacturers are induced to pay high wages. This is a very serious problem. I was talking to a costing expert the other day, criticising his methods and complaining about the way in which high wages were encouraged. He said, "What does it matter to the manufacturers? The Government pay 1059 them." This leads to the inefficient use of labour. It pays to pay people high wages.
§ Mr. Stokes (Ipswich)
Is the hon. Gentleman suggesting that Government costing officials base their rate on cost, quite irrespective of the overhead charges established? If that is so, it is not my own experience.
§ Mr. Higgs
I am making the statement that Government officials base their rate of cost on labour costs only, irrespective of a company's overhead charges. An alternative to this method is to include materials or to accept a method of costing that has previously been adopted by any particular concern pre-war, or to place contracts on a fixed price basis and have no costing. This method of paying on cost on the wages sheets is the cause of high wages and reduces output to a very great extent. There are three contributory factors to the efficiency of production. They are the Government, the employer and the employee. I do not intend to detain the House long and, therefore, it is impossible to deal with the many items under these headings, but one of outstanding importance, so far as the Government are concerned, is the question of priorities. The Prime Minister was recently asked a Question on this subject in the House, and part of his reply was that "almost without exception these conflicts have been settled by agreement between the Ministers concerned." I quite agree that these priorities have been settled between the Ministers concerned, but unfortunately the information is not getting through to the manufacturers and is not given to industrialists in a form in which they can say, "This job must be done first, this must be done second, this must be done third, that must be done fourth," and so on.
The difficulty is that industrialists still do not know which job to put in hand first. When an industrialist is told by the Admiralty to do a certain job, he will put his men on to it; then the Admiralty inspector goes away, and next day an inspector from the Ministry of Supply arrives and says, "We want that job done." The industrialist says, "But the Admiralty have asked us to do a different job," to which the inspector replies, "I do not care a hang. I want that job done. 1060 That is what I am here for, and I intend to get it." The story has not finished there. Later an Air Ministry representative comes in and asks for his particular job, and at the end of the week everyone is looping the loop and has to start all over again. That is the type of practical difficulty the manufacturer has to contend with to-day. I wish the Government would do something about this question of priorities and give more information to a manufacturer in a manner he can understand. The manufacturer tries to carry out instructions, but, worst of all, there is no court of appeal. The Regional Control Office has no control at all. If only the Government would put this information through to the manufacturer in a manner he could understand it would, to a great extent, solve our production problems. Time is lost in changing over from job to job.
With regard to the part played by the workers, we have heard a lot about absenteeism, but I have never heard the question of time-keeping forcibly brought forward. I think the Minister of Labour could do much to encourage improved time-keeping. In most factories one worker depends upon another. A number of girls depend upon what a certain machine will turn out, and if the operator of that machine is not present, he might be holding up as many as 50 women. So I say that the Minister ought to appeal to workers to keep better time. I know there are transport and other problems, but I think the worker could do better. When I was in a shop there was no short time. We were locked out every day, and it did us good. The majority of us got to work on time. With normal transport conditions a factory run on those lines would not have 1 per cent. or even ½ per cent. of their workers late in the morning. If transport is good these dark mornings, you do not get 25 per cent.—probably 50 per cent.—of workers in to time. Ten per cent. output is lost through bad time-keeping. People with key jobs can hold up a factory. I came across a case the other day of a factory employing 600 or 700 people which had a relay of stokers to feed boilers which were used for heating purposes only. One day the stoker on a morning shift did not turn up, and the factory was cold. Half the output came from that particular factory, yet one man is missing, and the whole factory is shut down for a considerable 1061 period. I cannot remember any occasion on which the Minister of Labour has made a real drive for better timekeeping.
With regard to the bad employers, the majority of them get there because they have been leaders. Those not good at leadership are generally eliminated. I know of many directors who are totally ignorant of the works they control. How they are to be replaced, I do not know, but there is a great deal of ignorance in very many boards and a great deal of inefficiency in management. I believe that promotion for efficiency should be practised in all works wherever it is possible. We have a great opportunity. We did not expect the lull in aerial bombardment. I often think that we are not altogether making the best use of our time. We have got to do something more before we win the war. It will be a war of exhaustion before we have finished and greater sacrifices will have to be made before the victory is won. In conclusion, it has been said that it is far better to dig for victory in the back garden than to plaster the front gate with slogans.
§ Mr. Gordon Macdonald (Ince)
I remember that the Prime Minister, in opening the Debate on the King's Speech, said that he experienced some difficulty in deciding what to say. He told us that if he spoke in a certain mood, he was accused of complacency, and that if he adopted a different mood, he was accused of spreading gloom and depression. In the Debate on the King's Speech and in this Debate I feel that back-benchers also have difficulties. If a back-bench Member indulges in hostile criticism, he is referred to as a disappointed person, a person who has not been given the position he expected to have, or it is said that he is to some extent irresponsible. On the other hand, if he praises the Government and hands compliments to them, it is said that he is a position-seeker, a place-hunter. If he tries to do a little of both, he is told that he is blowing hot and cold. I am afraid that in this Debate my right hon. Friend the Minister of Labour will find us blowing hot and cold, paying compliments and expressing disagreement.
I have always felt that the mobilisation of man-power was for the purpose of the utilisation of man-power, and taking that view, it is necessary to look back to see whether the present man-power is being 1062 utilised to the best advantage. I happen to live in an area where there are many munitions factories, and a great percentage of my constituents, both men and women, are employed on munitions work. These people bring reports to me from time to time, and although I must admit that only very seldom can they bring what I would regard as corroborative evidence for their statements, it is obvious that they are very uneasy about something. Some things are not as they should be in the factories. These people are not satisfied that the number of people employed and the number of machines operating result in the output which those numbers ought to give. I do not disparage the efforts of the Minister of Supply to deal with these difficulties, but I think that more needs to be done. Surely, at the present time it is possible to make some estimate of what is expected from the munitions factories. The Government know how many factories there are, the number of machines in them, and the number of people employed on the machines, and I cannot believe that it is impossible to make an estimate of what the national output ought to be.
Is there the machinery for doing that? I am glad to see in his place the hon. Member for Kidderminster (Sir J. Wardlaw-Milne), who is Chairman of the Select Committee on National Expenditure. I should like to compliment the Committee on their 25th Report. All the Committee's reports have been good ones, but I think this is one of the best in the suggestions which the Committee make and the reasons they give for their suggestions. With regard to production, the Committee appear to suggest that it would be diffi-cult to keep records. I cannot understand that Surely, it would not be difficult for each factory to make some estimate of its prospective output. My hon. Friend the Member for Stoke (Mr. Ellis Smith), whom I hope to hear in this Debate, tells me that all efficient factories do this already. Why cannot all factories do it? If they did, the sum total would give us some idea of the national output. If output fluctuates to a certain degree, it ought to be easy to find out why.
When the Measures contemplated in this Motion have been carried through, my right hon. Friend the Minister of Labour will have done a great job since going to the Ministry. I wonder whether it would 1063 not then be possible for the Prime Minister to consider transferring my right hon. Friend to a Ministry of Production, or confining his activities to those of a Ministry of Production. I am certain that the work he has done in the mobilisation of man-power is nearing completion. He has done wonderfully well a very difficult task, and he deserves all credit for it, but I think the Prime Minister would be well advised to suggest to my right hon. Friend that he should give more of his time—I am not concerned about names, and do not mind whether he is left where he is, or given the title of Minister of Production— to the question of production. If we could get some idea of prospective output from each of the factories, the Regional Boards would not have a very difficult task in dealing with the matter regionally. I have made these remarks because I do not think that the uneasiness revealed by the complaints I have heard, an uneasiness felt by thousands of men and women, is a good thing for production.
I realise, as do the Select Committee on National Expenditure, the importance of keeping the workpeople well informed. If they have idle time occasionally, they ought to be told the reason. They are intelligent men and women. At present all they know is that there is idle time, and they have no idea of the cause of it; they go home complaining, there is grousing among the civilian population and the Forces, and this is not good for production. A little more consultation of and information to those employed in the factories would do great good. I congratulate the Minister of Labour and the Minister of Supply on the works councils, but do not forget what happens with regard to those works councils. I know of one case where there are 25,000 people employed and there is a works council, but what sort of works council could keep in touch with all those people, who are spread over 1,700 different workshops? The scheme is impossible to operate unless there is workshop consultation. In the engineering industry, there is a very good method; in one undertaking every small shop has its own committee, which is in contact with the works council. I hope that my right hon. Friend, in consultation with his colleagues, will try to make this machinery far more effective.
1064 I want now to refer to another aspect of this matter which was mentioned by my hon. Friend the Member for Llanelly (Mr. J. Griffiths). It is no use the Government suggesting that the workers in industry are not troubled about these proposals. They admit that the proposals may be needed, and they are prepared to accept the Government's word as to the necessity, but at the back of their minds they wonder how it is that the mobilisation of man-power goes forward at such a rate and that business is not being dealt with in the same drastic manner. I know we shall be told during this Debate that we do not realise the extent to which we have interfered with private enterprise. The hon. Member for Ipswich (Mr. Stokes) has been constantly tackling the Chancellor of the Exchequer in regard to the land problem. All I can say is that if the position is so serious—and I admit it is serious—and we have to put forward this maximum national effort, it is difficult to convince our men in the different industries that there is the same need for a maximum effort in regard to man-power as there is in regard to business and industry.
My hon. Friend referred to the coalmining industry. I have spent the last two Fridays in colliery yards. We felt that in Lancashire we ought to make a bigger effort to increase our output. Lancashire is in a very difficult position, because we are burning twice as much coal as we raise, with the result that we require trains to transport coal, which makes an additional demand on manpower. I and my hon. Friend the Member for Leigh (Mr. Tinker) decided to visit every colliery and meet the men face to face as they came up from the mine. Last Friday we had a fine meeting, and, to my surprise, although the men were eager to get home and draw their wages, they stayed behind and listened to what we had to say. After the meeting some of the men told me that 30 or 40 men out of every thousand missing one day's work a week did not make a big difference on output. They told me that we should achieve a far greater output if we tackled the managerial side and if we realised the need for a change of management. It is clear that unified control was not coming from the top. My right hon. Friend knows that before many days are over the War Cabinet will be asked by the Miners' Federation, reinforced by the 1065 Trades Union Congress and the Labour party, to deal immediately with this question. It is something in which we have believed all our lives, and it is something which is essential to help us in the war effort. We have tried during the war and for years past to bring about unified control, but the attitude of the coal-owners has been to make no concession which is likely to endanger their privileges. They are pursuing a policy designed to safeguard their privileged position at the end of the war. The miners, on their part, are prepared to give up everything in this war. They realised in 1926 that their best friend outside this country was Russia. Their best friends were the Russian miners, which shows that the miners' determination to do all they can to win this war cannot be questioned. I ask the Government, when this application is made to them, to give it the consideration it deserves.
I believe that the intention of this Motion is essential. The Government can pursue no other course at the moment. I am worried about it because I know it will affect millions of women who have already been seriously affected. The job of the Government is to make these unpleasant proposals as acceptable as possible to our womenfolk. Already their boys, and in many cases their husbands, have been called up. Let us be quite clear about this. There is no section in this country which is more prepared to make sacrifices than our womenfolk. Their sacrifice has been tremendous in the war effort, and they will make all the sacrifices essential for winning this war. But in asking them to accept these proposals we ought to make them as pleasant as possible. For instance, take the case of a girl between 20 and 21. She is to be taken from her home and put in the midst of new surroundings. She has to leave her home, which has helped her to withstand all the temptations to which a girl of that age is subjected. Those who have daughters of their own realise that parents are naturally worried about their girls and wonder whether they can stand up to their new surroundings, or whether their characters will be undermined. I ask my right hon. Friend to bear that in mind in dealing with this question. Already he has done good work with his hostels. Our womenfolk are pleased to know that their daughters are being housed under such conditions. I 1066 ask him to get into touch with the Secretary of State for War and with the Secretary of State for Air and ask them to cooperate with him and see that the same standard of conditions exists in their hostels. I am told by those who have seen these so-called hostels for girls in the Army that they are little better than slums. If our womenfolk believe that we are placing their daughters who are helping in the war effort in such surroundings, they will not accept these proposals. We do not want to impose conditions, but rather to co-operate with our womenfolk. I am all out for this maximum national effort, and I realise that we cannot win this war by any other means, but I ask my right hon. Friend to think about the matters to which I have referred and see whether he cannot bring his influence to bear in the right direction
§ Sir John Wardlaw-Milne (Kidderminster)
Before I say anything else, I should like to thank my hon. Friend the Member for Ince (Mr. G. Macdonald) for the very kind references he made to the work of the Select Committee on National Expenditure. I feel like him, although I do not intend to pursue this subject to-day, that the House would be even more gratified if we had more acceptance of some of the recommendations which the Select Committee have put before the House of Commons. No doubt that is a matter which we shall be able to debate at some future date.
The whole House will, I think, have been pleased and satisfied with the statement which my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister has made to-day. I think that the country will accept it. It is, perhaps, just another example of what has already been said on other occasions during this war, that the response of the Government has come tardily to the pressure which has been applied to them by the people. Pressure in this matter has been applied to the Government for many months past, although I do not suggest that we are as competent as the Government to judge as to when a measure of this kind should be introduced. There is no question I believe as to the response of the people or their desire to contribute to the maximum national effort to win the war.
There will be various matters which we shall have an opportunity to discuss when 1067 the legislation comes before us, particularly in regard to the call up of women which will require very special attention. I do not propose to go into that to-day because, as I said, there will be other opportunities, and I wish to devote my remarks mainly to the other branch of the subject matter which is before the House on this Motion. Before I leave this question of the call up of women, however, there is one thing which I would like to say to the Government. It is desirable and it is necessary that the Fighting Services should have these women, and everyone knows the splendid work those already in them are doing. I have not the slightest doubt that the response will be widespread, and that eventually the Government will obtain all the women they want for the Fighting Services.
But the question of the proper employment of those recruited is important. It is within my own personal knowledge that some of the girls at present in the Fighting Services are not doing what might be described as a very hard day's work. A number of them, in a neighbourhood that I know well, do four and a half hours' work a day, have the whole of every second week-end off, and their duties are such as girls of a similar age are doing in civil employment for something like eight or nine hours daily. It is not surprising that a very large number of young women, many of whom have have waiting to be called up for months, are inclined to say, "Why do not the Government hurry up and call us, and we shall only have half the work to do that we are doing now?" There is no need to give details publicly, but I should have no objection to giving them privately. I think it is a matter that the Government should consider.
The result of the call-up will be, as the Prime Minister has said, a very much increased demand upon older people not only in factories and works but in all walks of life. There will be a demand for men and women of a more mature age. It must be within the knowledge of almost every Member of the House that there are hundreds, I have no doubt thousands, of men of 50 and over who have been trying to get jobs to help the war and have been quite unable to get them. The central and special registers 1068 are a mere farce and have been of no use whatever. I know personally of dozens —there must be many hundreds, if not thousands—of men, not too old, who have special qualifications and ability, to help the war effort, and they have been quite unable to get work of any kind at all. I think that is a matter that the Government will have to consider much more carefully, especially now that there is a further demand for older people to be met. A better machinery is required.
Then there is a large number of very valuable people working under the Ministry of Home Security. We are extraordinarily fortunate that in the last six months we have not had a continuation of the attacks that we experienced previously, but no one knows when they may return. It is also true that trained men who have done wonderful work in the time of the blitz must be retained —a nucleus of them at any rate, probably a good many—against the time when we may have a continuation of these attacks. But, if my information is right, we have something between 1,000,000 and 1,250,000, men of all kinds, many of them doing very valuable work, building experts, electricians and the like, in rescue and demolition and maintenance squads under the Ministry of Home Security and employees of local authorities who for six months past have had really little or nothing to do. In the emergency that we are in it ought to be possible to divert some of them temporarily to work from which they could be called back without undue delay if there was the slightest sign of their being wanted for their original purpose. The Government might well consider that matter.
§ Sir Herbert Williams (Croydon, South)
Has not my hon. Friend rather over-stated the numbers of those who are fully employed? His point is so important that I do not want him to overstate it.
§ Sir J. Wardlaw-Milne
My hon. Friend may be right. I can only give the particulars given to me. But it is immaterial to my argument, he will agree, whether it is 1,000,000, 750,000 or 1,250,000. I am not being dogmatic about the possibilities. It is a matter for inquiry whether tentatively we could not use some of these people at not too great a distance from 1069 their posts so that they could be called back if necessary.
But I am particularly concerned to-day with the question of our ability to supply the tools which our new labour force in the factories are going to use. The Prime Minister said that the crisis of the supply of equipment was over. I am glad to hear that after two years of war and three years of arming the crisis is past, but it is surely high time that it was. I hold the view that it ought to have been passed some time ago if we had been as efficient as we could have been. I do not question the Prime Minister's statement that the crisis is past, but I would ask the House to bear in mind the statement that accompanied it, that it will be another year at least before we have the full flood of munitions which are required for the winning of the war. Every day that we can hasten that may hasten the end, and that is what we are all interested in at the moment. No one doubts the Prime Minister's tremendous qualities, and no one doubts his leadership. The whole country is grateful for the way that he has built up our Forces in the last two years and altered our whole national position in the war effort. His determination and leadership are national assets. But when it comes to the question of production, I am bound to say that he seems to me to be a little too inclined to say that all is well. It cannot be too often stated that this is a war of machines, and it would be folly to suggest for a moment that there are not distress and disappointment throughout the country at the Government's handling of the production problem.
I know very well that the answer to all our speeches will be that everything is going well, that all our statements are exaggerated and that the system is the best possible in the circumstances. Every Member in the House has proof to the contrary. I do not know that the claim will be made quite as widely, and voiced from the Government Benches so vociferously, to-day as it was a few months ago. Then such humble suggestions as to the further effort possible were turned down at once. Our statements, however, have been since repeated by Ministers themselves over and over again, and we know what trade-union leaders, shop stewards and the rank and isle in the factories themselves say. It is not right that back-bench Members should accept these statements from the Govern- 1070 ment without question. They should not be expected to. When the war is over, a great many of us may have to answer to our constituents for the neglect of preparations for defence previous to the war. That criticism would really only be justified from someone who could say that he foresaw what was coming and pressed his Member of Parliament to do something, that he never voted against armaments or took part in Peace Ballots, for example. But we shall get that criticism. What is the position of the back-bench Member of Parliament? Previous to the war we were told by the Government of that day that everything was well and that there was no serious cause for alarm. The back-bench Member has no sources of information. He can only depend on the Government. We were caught napping once. One special claim which the Prime Minister has upon the confidence of the country is that he did foresee events.
Do not let us be caught napping again, and do not let the Government be free from inquiry and criticism. It is the duty of every Member to bring to the notice of the Government things that they think are wrong and it is no use telling us that everything is all right. We have been had once. I do not suggest that there is not a definite improvement. Of course there is. There could not be anything else. We have been two and a half to three years at it, we are putting more people into production daily; there is a definite improvement and we have every reason to be proud of what we have done. I do not in the least minimise the work the country has achieved in the great change-over from peace to war. I am only questioning whether we are yet doing everything we can.
The total effort of this country is not yet reached; it is not yet nearly reached. Increased man-power is not the only remedy. Another is the better use of the man-power we have got. I do not say that we do not want to increase manpower but there are other matters which are almost more important. There are faults on the part of both employers and employees, but the main trouble in this question of getting the total production of which the country is capable lies with the Government and their arrangements. Of course we are told that priorities are working smoothly and that all Cabinet Ministers work as one team. I do not deny it. I hope they do. I have not the slightest 1071 doubt they do, but I know, and every Member knows, that the priorities are still not working smoothly and that the orders of the Government are not co-ordinated right down to the bench. As I understand the system, the Cabinet decide the weapons required by the country and order the priorities for the production of them. The production executive under my right hon. Friend translates that decision into a general line of policy and lays down the limits for each purchasing Department. At that point the system ceases to function, for every Department goes throughout the country to get, as is natural, the utmost possible to fulfil their quotas.
One ounce of fact, however, is worth a ton of theory, and I will give a definite case which affects my division, I do not think there is any secret about what I am going to say. Some time ago it was decided that the carpet industry of Kidderminster should be largely closed down under the concentration of industry, because the labour was required for making munitions under the Ministry of Supply. Every manufacturer and everybody concerned with industry knows what a sacrifice it is to close down a factory in that way. Goodwill is lost, trade connections go and trained labour is dispersed. The decision, however, was accepted, not without misgiving and heartburning, but loyally by the manufacturers of Kidderminster. In that town we have some of the best men and women labour in the country. There is great pride both on the part of employers and employed in the labour of Kidderminster in the carpet trade. These men and women were to be taken from their usual work and put on munitions for the Ministry of Supply. They live in the neighbourhood and the factories were to be filled with machinery to make munitions. All that was done some months ago.
What happened? Before the Ministry of Supply could even put their machines into operation in the factories, other concerns were filled with orders from the Ministry of Aircraft Production and the Admiralty, so that a considerable portion of the labour the Ministry of Supply want will not be available for them at all. There is complete chaos in the labour situation in Kidderminster because of the competition between the various Departments. There is no better example of what I have 1072 told the House to-day and on previous occasions. The confusion comes, not from my right hon. Friend's area or control at the centre, but lower down when the orders are translated to production itself. No member of the Government can tell me that the labour situation in Kidderminster to-day is satisfactory. Why should there be this competition between the Departments? It is the system which is to blame and not the Departments. They are out to get the best they can for their own Services, but this situation is the result.
Employers throughout the country have done quite well as a whole, in spite of the conditions of taxation. The Excess Profits Tax was put on with little regard for the position of employers and without sufficient knowledge of the working of industry. The results could have been achieved in a different way. I do not think that the 100 per cent. Excess Profits Tax is a good system or is helping the war effort. I am not fighting against the rate of the tax particularly however. What I constantly fight against is the unfairness of the system. One factory which has been established for many years on a regular profit basis can easily get a settlement which is not unsatisfactory in war time for themselves. In another case the factory may have been building up through years of depression and had just got to the time when it could make a profit, and it is treated in the same way as the other. Apart from this matter, however, there are faults on the part of the employers. Some are still playing for position and are thinking of their interests after the war and of very little else. I do not say that that is widespread. Most manufacturers are as loyal and eager for the war effort as any of us and working night and day. In any case, the conditions of taxation have very much the effect of a brake but it is difficult for some employers to realise that it is not much use thinking of conditions after the war just now because there will be no future for them if we do not win it pretty quickly.
I realise that employers have had great difficulties. Some of them have lost their best men to the Services or lent them to the Government. Some of these men, some of the best in industry, are now working for the Government, perhaps on small salaries or perhaps with none at all. 1073 Some of them act as controllers in various industries. The difficulties of a controller have to be experienced to be realised. Perhaps the House will forgive a personal reference. I was the first chairman of the Government Shipping Advisory Board formed in India at the beginning of the last war, in other words, the first Shipping Controller, I suppose, and I very well remember that one thing of which I had to be perfectly certain was to commandeer the ships I was myself concerned with before I commandeered those of anyone else. That is very often a position in which a controller finds himself. He has to be very careful that he does not indirectly benefit concerns with which he has previously been connected. That does not make it very easy for him, and I think the position both of employers who remain in charge of their businesses and those who are working for the Government in these circumstances is difficult. Under the present system there is a danger of certain processes, certain new developments in industry, being rather damped down and discouraged because they may affect the position of established industries after the war. We must be very careful in regard to that matter. We need every new device, every new process we can get which will make us more efficient. As for the workers' side, even to give a summary of the enormous number of demands made from the workers' side for greater efficiency would occupy me for quite a long time. I am sure that every hon. Member gets them. I get letters from men who write to say, "We want to be dragooned, to be told. We are tired of seeing people standing idle." As an illustration of the point I am putting forward I will read a letter from a worker in a factory who is not at all a friend of mine nor one of my constituents:What we all want, myself included, is a little bit of bullying to make us realise what is happening to-day…. The working people of this country know it; in some factories there are hundreds of people just walking about doing nothing, and so if they put more in them they will be tripping over themselves looking for something to do.Another writes:I have had personal contacts with several men here who are employed at the local R.O.F. One has been sent to speed up production. His revelations would either cause your blood to boil or to run cold with horror. He estimates the majority of the women waste an average of four hours a day making cups of tea and powdering their noses.1074 I am not responsible for the type of letter received.
§ Sir J. Wardlaw-Milne
My right hon. Friend must not, if he will forgive me for putting it that way, try to ride off with a reference to women. Far more cases concern men than women, but I happened to read that particular letter.
§ Mr. Bevin
I do beg of hon. Members who get these complaints, which are very often written by people for the sake of writing, to give me an opportunity to investigate them. I have not only to get these people into the factories but have to deal with industrial disputes which may arise out of unjust accusations.
§ Sir J. Wardlaw-Milne
I will give my right hon. Friend quite a number of letters. If he gets all that come to Members of Parliament, they will keep him and his staff busy for some time, I fear. In view of what he has said, however, I hope the House will allow me to quote a definite statement from a person whom I know, a woman of education living in my own constituency and more than anxious to do her share in the war effort. The letter is dated 23rd September:It was suggested to me that I should undergo training, to which I agreed. I was sent to the training centre for an eight week course in oxy-acetylene welding. Just after seven weeks a good deal of pressure was put on me to accept a job at — on the ground that there were not many jobs available within reach of my house. I accepted the job, but after three weeks I asked for and got a release. My reasons for asking for the release were that most of the time I was sitting idle, and there seemed to be no prospect of continuous work. I then approached four firms at a lesser distance from my home. One did not reply at all. One informed me politely that they had nothing to offer me. The two others asked me to call for an interview.The firm I interviewed told me that they would be requiring a lot of welders, and if I would take a much rougher job at the moment they would transfer me to aircraft work as soon as possible.I agreed to this and started work on 23rd July. On August 2nd I transferred to the aircraft section and can honestly say I never did a full day's work from that date till I left the firm on 16th September. For a greater part of this time I had to share equipment with another welder, who had first call on it. 1075 … It is no exaggeration to say that during the week I was with this firm many of the employees, both men and women, were doing nothing.These are facts. My right hon. Friend may say that these are only occasional cases—I cannot say—but I can tell him that there are hundreds of such letters in the possession of hon. Members of this House. The people who write them are not fools. They are people who want to do their best and they do not spend money on letters and telegrams for nothing. There may be among them a few lunatics and cranks, but I repeat that there is still considerable dissatisfaction regarding the production effort of the country. I know that the bulk of the working men and women are working splendidly but there are still slackers. There is still absenteeism. Considering the improvement in canteen and transport facilities, to which I gladly pay my tribute, and much of which has been introduced since we were discussing this matter some months ago, I ask the Government to answer categorically this question, Is avoidable absentee-ism less to-day or more than it was four or five months ago? I am not at all sure about it. I have my own views, very definitely, that absentee-ism certainly is not less.
That brings me to the same conclusion as that put forward by my hon. Friend opposite. I am convinced that the only way to get the production position right and to get the best results is to have the whole thing under one head, and curiously enough—it is a sign, perhaps, of the times in which we live—I also came to the conclusion that the right person was the Minister of Labour himself, because labour and production are inseparable problems, and if we could get one man at the top, and under him regional boards which really had authority, I believe we should see a tremendous improvement in production. I hope the Government will not think that because they have once said that they do not want a Minister of Production they must never agree to have one. Even Governments can change their mind. They may not call him a Minister of Production. I am quite indifferent about what they call him, but whoever it is he must have regional boards with full-time chairmen in each area and these boards must have power. Each regional board must have 1076 a full time chairman. If we give them the power to plan and carry through the production in their areas, and there is one man at the centre to whom they can refer, I am certain that we shall see a large measure of improvement.
We are all very grateful for the help we are receiving from overseas. This is not the occasion on which to deal with the wonderful response we have had from the Empire both as regards men and materials, but the point which I desire particularly to impress upon the House is that we must get the people of this country to realise that it is we who have to win the war and that we cannot depend on anybody else, though in saying that I do not wish to deprecate the assistance we are receiving from the Empire and the United States of America. I am tremendously hopeful of what we shall get in time from America, and very grateful to the American people, especially for their supplies of raw materials, without which we could do very little. But there is an idea in the minds of some people, not that we can afford to slack, because that would be putting it too strongly, but that in the end it will be American production that will get us through. If the war goes on for another three or four years it may be so, but I suggest that we shall get no large supplies from America in the next year and, if Japan should unfortunately go to war, possibly not for a longer period.
I do not wish to make any statement of my own knowledge about American production or on information from any British sources at all. I want to give the House the ideas of the Americans themselves. Perhaps I might be allowed to read a very short extract from the "New York World Telegram":The figures in terms of appropriations, allocations and transfers, are large. In terms of deliveries they shrink like a pair of wool socks in the laundry….So far as the British are concerned, ours still is a popgun arsenal.We have not set ourselves an impossible task. It is only that we have dawdled at it, cluttering it up with compromises, with red tape, with delays amounting to weeks.Again, I give an extract from another American newspaper, "Life":At the most, it appeared, only 72,000,000 dollars worth of war materials had reached Britain under the Lease-Lend Act since March….1077 One of the U.S.A. Senators said:But as the sad and sobering import of the President's figures sank in, it became apparent that the torrent of arms which he envisaged in his Lease-Lend message was as yet no river, no stream, but still a wretched, inadequate trickle….
§ Hon. Members: What date?
§ Sir J. Wardlaw-Milne
The date is 29th September, 1941. I considered very carefully before reading even those very short extracts to the House. It may be said that they may do injury to the good feeling between this country and the United States of America but I do not believe it any more than I believe that it does harm to our own people abroad to be told that we are not satisfied that great as our output is, it is not the full production possible. I do not believe that it does harm to tell the truth as we know it. I do not believe that the American people are so foolish or unreasonably touchy. At any rate those are their own statements. It is no good the people of this country thinking that we shall win the war by the help of any other nation. We are getting valuable aid and we want it all but we have got to win it ourselves. Of course, we want more from America. We expect it and we know we shall get it, but it will not be for some time, and it is as well that we should realise it.
The most serious feature of the present situation for this country at the moment is not the time-keeping in the factories, very important as that is, but the inequality of wages throughout the country. I am not speaking now of the inequality between men in the fighting services and the workers in the factories, although that is also a very serious matter. As all classes are now being called up that position may not be so acute. I refer to the inequality of wages within industry. The outstanding case is that of the young people. It is becoming perfectly ridiculous. There is a case in this morning's newspaper of a boy of 17, whose wages were 17s. 10d. before the war, who is now getting five guineas a week for the same work. Possibly his father is a trained mechanic with years of experience and is earning not more than that wage, and possibly less. That sort of thing is now happening. People who were accustomed to wages of £3 or £4 a week are drawing very much higher sums for work which has no national importance.
§ Sir J. Wardlaw-Milne
Of course, I cannot say. That point of contracts of that class was raised a little while ago by one of my hon. Friends when the hon. Gentleman was perhaps not in the House. It is a matter in which I myself and other hon. Members have been greatly interested in the last two years. The Select Committee had denounced it and it is only fair to say that the Government have got away from it in a large measure; but some Departments still seem to cling to it unnecessarily. I will give just one further illustration of that kind of thing. I have here a letter from a prominent magistrate, who says:I sat as a referee at a Labour Exchange last Monday. Two Irishmen entered a complaint that they were only receiving £8 15s. a week while, on another shift, men were receiving £11 or £12.It is not entirely a question of the rate of pay. There was one remark which my right hon. Friend the Minister of Labour made in the country not long ago, and with which I am largely in agreement. That is, "If we get the production the actual wages do not matter." But you will not get production if you engender a spirit of inequality. That is what is doing harm. A great deal of harm is being done because wages are not evened out, and especially by allowing children to earn as much as or more than their parents.
I do not understand the Government's attitude to the whole question of the future and of the absence of a wages and prices policy. Over and over again I have pressed the Government for a wages and prices policy. What is their policy? I fail to understand what my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer is visualising for the future. It does not immediately matter what level is set for wages. That is not the point. The point is that at this moment there is an increase in the currency of about £200,000,000 as compared with the beginning of the war, and a very limited number of commodities on which the money can be spent. It is no use saying we are not in danger of inflation. We are in danger of it.
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Colonel Clifton Brown)
The hon. Member must realise that this Motion deals with man-power and not with finance.
§ Sir J. Wardlaw-Milne
I agree, and I bow to your Ruling, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, but, at the same time, may I be allowed to point out that it also deals with production, and that production depends upon the question of how it is financed and upon a wages and prices policy to control it?
May I say, in conclusion, that I think the whole future of wages and prices is a matter which will require very careful consideration by the country as a whole. I am not a bit surprised that the working people of this country want something better out of this war. If the war ends with the working people of this country not relieved for ever or the fear of unemployment, I shall be surprised at the want of genius of my fellow-citizens. After all, why not? Unemployment can be a charge upon industry like any other; it is an in-surable charge and it adds to prices. The thing that interests me, however, at the moment is that to get production we have to get rid of this inequality of earnings, and I hope my right hon. Friend's colleagues will press the Prime Minister to appoint him—for these two are inseparable questions, labour and production— to create order out of the conditions which still exist and enable every man or woman in this country to put forward a maximum effort for the victory which awaits us.
§ Mrs. Hardie (Glasgow, Springburn)
I want to raise one or two points regarding the conscription of women for National Service. While accepting the principle that women as well as men must be drafted into work of national importance —and no one has found very much fault with that, because whatever our opinions may be about war we realise that once the countries are engaged in war everybody is fighting for existence—I do object to women being conscripted for National Service. My point is that war is not a woman's job. In spite of the feminist attitude—and I am as good a feminist as anyone—I say they have no right to conscript women for war. It has been a tradition for many generations that war is a man's job, that women have the bearing and rearing of children and should be exempt from war. Some men and women say, "You ask for equality. Therefore, women as well as men should be prepared to take part in war." That seems to me a funny argument, because we have not equality. 1080 We have no equality in wages, no equality in the opening-up of various Services and so on. As a matter of fact, we have never had to fight to get into dangerous and difficult jobs. We have had to fight to get into the easy, well-paid jobs. It is no argument to say that because women ask for equality they have the duty to take part in war. The position so far has been that women are asked to take up work of national importance, but they have been offered a choice. For instance, you are told you can take nursing or go into munition work or other kind of work. You can also go into the Services. But now we go further than that, and you are going to say to young women between 20 and 30 that, no matter how they feel about war, about this particular military business, they have to go into the Services willy-nilly.
I regret to see that a number of older women are prepared to push the younger women into the Services—into work they are not prepared to do themselves. I have noticed that a good many older women do not want to do disagreeable work. Their argument is that those young women, who, through ability, have already good jobs, which are perhaps better paid and more responsible, ought to be pushed out of those jobs and into the Services, so that they themselves can take those particular jobs. There is a lot of women who have not worked at all, but who might do a little office or managerial work, but whose attitude is, "Do not ask us to go into munition work or a filling factory or into the Services." I do not want to attack my own sex, but it is rather unfortunate that older women are very much inclined to sacrifice younger women and get them out of the way so that they can take the places themselves. I have never felt like that. I regret that these young women are to be forced into the Services. I maintain that it is a kind of life not at all suited for them. Those women in the older days who fought for equality never contended that women and men were exactly alike, that there are not many jobs which men could do much better than women or many jobs which women could do better than men. Therefore I say that barrack life and camp life is not suited for women, and they should not be asked to do it if it can be avoided.
1081 Young women, I feel, ought not to be brought under military discipline. If women cooks, typists and clerks are needed, why not engage them without making them come under military discipline? Women are more sensitive about being bullied and checked than men. Military discipline is quite unnecessary. The only reason you have this strong discipline in the military Services is because it is necessary in an attack or something like that for men to be so disciplined that they do exactly what they are told. Women are not to take part in combatant service. What is the sense of putting them under military discipline? I think it is quite unnecessary. Give them jobs as cooks, or typists or whatever it is, and they will be able to do it. Such work could be well done by older women, and older women would be quite willing to take up a lot of that work. There is a great demand for young women to go away from home. Its advocates refuse to hear my hon. Friend the Member for Ince (Mr. G. Macdonald) putting forward the point of view that these young women need the support of the home to protect them from many temptations to which men are not subject. I believe that if women arc to be put into camps, away from home influence, the older and the less attractive they are, the safer they will be.
I was glad that the Prime Minister argued that women with children should be exempt. Women are going far too readily into occupations. In the City of Glasgow, I know, women are going into munition works and factories, and are leaving their children to run about the streets, dirty and ill-fed. I do not know what kind of mothers they are. Nobody would have got me to go into industry and leave my children. Evidently the Government recognise that women with children cannot be forced into industry. They further agree to exempt married women from going into the Services. They do that because they know that those women have men to fight for them. The girls who are to be forced into the Services are the single ones, from 20 to 30, who have nobody to fight for them. The plea I am making is not that women should be exempted from necessary work, but simply that they should not be forced into the Services. I trusted that the Minister of Labour and National Service would have looked after the interests of 1082 women, but I am not the first woman who has trusted a man and been disappointed. I suggest that the position should remain as it is, that women should be allocated to do necessary work and not forced into the Services. That is my appeal, and I hope that the Government will respond to it.
§ Mrs. Tate (Frome)
We have listened to several proposals from the Prime Minister which can be described only as exceedingly revolutionary. Unlike the hon. Member for Springburn (Mrs. Hardie), I do not oppose the conscription of women, because I believe that we are up against such appalling odds that it is idle to main-lain that women can keep out of war. On the contrary, we need the effective help of every man and every woman if we are to bring this war to a successful conclusion, as we must do. I know that there are one or two people who talk of the merits of a negotiated peace. I think that they are mentally defective. Personally, I do not know what the term means. You could have a negotiated surrender, but there is no such thing possible as a negotiated peace. I wish to see this war fought to the utmost, no matter what we have to sacrifice, no matter what we have to endure. Therefore, I do not agree with the hon. Lady that war is not the province of women. I support the conscription of women, simply because of the tremendous necessity and because I believe that in all walks of life it is essential that women should play their full part, both to fight in war to a successful conclusion and after war to build a new world that is worth living in and in which war may be forever ended.
I do, however, regret the extreme lack of wisdom that has been shown in the whole handling of the woman-power problem from the outbreak of war until the present day. The calling-up and the conscription of women may sound as though it would work great things on paper, but it will work no miracle. It will not help production or in the waging of the war unless from the women you call up, and from the men, you are to have a really effective contribution. Up to date it is idle to pretend that women have been able to play the part which, in the vast majority of cases, they have clamoured and have longed to play. From the outbreak of war until the present time women have bombarded the Employment 1083 Exchanges, where they have been treated with scant civility and interviewed by people who were quite unable to assess their qualifications or to direct them to those places where they could render the maximum service, and they have often gone away unable to find an outlet for their energy and their intense desire to help.
We have in the last few months made many women register, and hundreds of those women have not yet been told whether they are going to be called up or not. Hundreds of them have not been interviewed. Many of them went to register full of a longing to do their best, enthusiastically believing that now the moment had come when they were going to be directed to where they could make the best contribution, and from that day to this they have not heard another word. They have had no interview and no direction, and that must inevitably lead to a sense of despair and of frustration. I believe that you would have done far better to provide full machinery for absorbing women into industry and indeed into the Forces before you brought forward a measure of compulsion. I wish with all my heart that I could feel confident that, even at this late hour, when you are going to ask all these women to register, and in fact are going to compel them to register, that machinery will in fact exist, as it should-have existed after one year of war, and as it does not alas exist after two and a half years of war.
There has been talk of absenteeism in the factories. I agree that there is a deplorable degree of absenteeism in the factories, and that it is greater among women than it is among men. And why? The main reasons for the absenteeism among women in factories are simple reasons. One of the main reasons is the inadequacy of the number of nursery schools and day nurseries in which women can leave their children while they work in the factories. It is disgraceful that, after these many months have passed, we should not have at least a number of nursery schools of which we could be proud instead of the pitiable number of which the Minister of Health, so obviously but absolutely incomprehensibly, swells with pride when he boasts of it. [Laughter.] It is all very well to laugh, but if only the right hon. Gentle- 1084 man had as much capacity as he has self-satisfaction, what a great man he would be. I am sorry to speak heatedly, but people come here and talk about absenteeism among women, and these root causes remain, and the Minister of Health, still satisfied, gets up and says, "We now intend to give a chance to grannies and aunties; they have not been able to take part in the war, but now they are to be allowed to mind the children." A more fantastic statement I have never heard. A great many aunts are capable of and are giving service in our factories now. They are doing a great deal more than minding children. Further, the mere fact of being a grandmother or an aunt does not mean that you have the slightest knowledge of, or the capacity for, looking after many children.
The other day I asked a Question as to how many women there were working in munition factories in a certain town, the name of which I cannot, of course, give, for reasons of national security. I was told that there were 7,500. I asked how many nursery schools there were, and the answer was that there was one, taking in 60 children. To put it at a very low estimate, suppose of those 7,500 women 1,000 had young children—and that is a very low figure. Suppose they have between them 1,500 children needing nursery school accommodation. Do you realise that there is room for 50 of them in one school? The Minister said that we are aiming at having another five schools before the New Year, that is, accommodation for another 250 children. Is that a cause for complacency? It is a cause almost for despair and certainly a cause for putting some other authority in charge of setting up nursery schools and not leaving it in the complacent but flaccid hands of the Minister of Health.
Another reason for absenteeism is that there are not adequate shopping facilities given many women factory workers, and a further reason is the lack of transport to and from factories. If you call up men and women, you will not get the maximum from them if they see time wasted. The hon. Gentleman the Member for Kidderminster (Sir J. Wardlaw-Milne) gave one or two instance of factories where workers themselves have complained of time wasted, and I would ask the Minister of Labour to give me his attention for one moment, because he asked the hon. Member to give him a specific ex- 1085 ample. Therefore, perhaps I may be excused for giving a specific example from my own experience. The other day it was reported to me that there was a tremendous waste of time in a certain aerodrome and aircraft factory. This aerodrome and this factory are exceedingly private, and it is not possible for an ordinary person to get into them. I knew that if I asked to go into them as an M.P., I should not get a true picture, and, therefore, I decided to go illicitly. I dressed up and got into the factory and spent a day there. I passed six sentries, which is quite a possible thing to do.
§ Mrs. Tate
I dressed up as a mate of one of the men working in the factory. In the factory I saw men sleeping in a shed, men whose work it is to wheel out a few aeroplanes in the morning and wheel them back again at night. In the interval they do absolutely nothing. Surely, it is possible to find some way in which those men can work for the rest of the day. I saw large luxury motor-coaches which drive the men to work in the morning from about 15 miles away. The men who drive those coaches that tremendous distance of 15 miles in the morning and 15 miles at night are earning £7 a week, and they have no work whatever between the time they drive the men to work in the morning and drive them back at night. In the middle of the day they drive a coach out again—what for? To take themselves half a mile to the canteen. It is too exhausting for them to walk. I say that while you get that sort of example—and I could give one example after another—you will not get real enthusiasm. I see that sort of thing happening in my own constituency and I get letters concerning it from all over the country. Men who have given up their nights to do Home Guard duties and air-raid precautions work, men who only ask to make the maximum effort, are becoming completely disheartened and frustrated because of the waste of time and the waste of effort which they see all around them.
Like the hon. Member for Kidderminster, I deplore the influences that are at work among many of our young people. I very much deplore the fact that the Prime Minister is not going to take children from the moment they leave school and encourage them to go into the youth services. It is a great pity to wait until 1086 they are 16 years of age. I do not ask to see them fighting, but the finest thing that can be done for the young is to make them feel that they have a responsibility, that they can make a real contribution, and that somebody cares for them enough to give them a training which will be of incomparable value to them in after life.
We have heard to-day that women between 20 and 30 who are unmarried are to be compelled to go into the Women's Auxiliary Services or into the Civil Defence Services. The Government can already compel women to go into factories which may very well be in target areas. It is no longer possible on any grounds whatsoever to justify calling up those women, compelling them to do work which is as dangerous as any work done in the country, and then to say that if injured they shall receive from 7s. to 10s. a week less for their injury than a man in an exactly similar position. It is no use saying that those rates are based on the Workmen's Compensation Act. Work that is undertaken voluntarily in peace time, in which the person employed, the employer and the State contribute when the person is injured, cannot be compared with work which a person is compelled to do in war-time in the hour of the country's necessity. I do not make this plea as a feminist. We are fighting this war very largely on the issues of right and of justice. There is not a man in the House who would dare to get up and try to justify those unequal rates on the plea of justice or of right. They are wholly and fundamentally wrong. I put down an Amendment which would have enabled the House to vote on this matter. You have not accepted that Amendment, Mr. Speaker, but I give notice to the House that at the earliest possible moment, and on every possible occasion, I shall bring forward this issue again. I wish to see women giving everything they have to give and the country giving everything it has to give in the cause of justice. I ask for no preferential treatment for women. I do not speak on this issue as a feminist, though I am one, but as a human being who pleads for justice and who, at least, has a sense of right and of wrong.
§ Miss Eleanor Rathbone (Combined English Universities)
I agree with the hon. Lady the Member for Frome (Mrs. Tate) much more than with the hon. 1087 Lady who preceded her. The hon. Member for Springburn (Mrs. Hardie) is a pacifist, and, therefore, it is only natural that she does not wish to see women con scripted for the war effort.
§ Mrs. Hardie
If I speak from a pacifist point of view, that does not prevent me from supporting proposals to give people disagreeable jobs. The more disagree able you can make war, the more people will wish to stop wars.
§ Miss Rathbone
All I can say is that those who take her point of view should consider the position in which women would be put if the majority supported her. I wish to devote my remarks to that part of the Government's proposals which affects women. First of all, I consider that they do not go far enough. It seems to me, when I hear the Minister of Labour or even the Prime Minister approach the question of women, that a certain note of hesitation and timidity creeps into their voices. They seem frightened of women. I believe that these proposals will be warmly welcomed by the women of the country. I say that chiefly because I know that women wish to serve their country All they want is clearer direction as to how they can best do it. Many women hope that, if they are obliged to go into industry or the Services, their employers will be under an obligation to reinstate them. The fear that they may lose their jobs is the main motive which is holding many women back, and if this fear can be removed, then the feeling of many women will be one of relief. For some time I have tried to make a study of the obstacles which have hitherto prevented the recruitment of women being adequate. We have been told to-day that the W.R.N.S. and the W.A.A.F. have sufficient women. For one thing they are the smaller Services, and, therefore, it is easier to satisfy their demands, and for another the Navy and the Air Force have had the greater part in the fighting of this war, and, naturally, make a greater appeal to the romantic heart of youth. Why has the response been insufficient in regard to the A.T.S.? I will speak very bluntly on this subject. It is partly be cause those responsible have so far made blunders both in their method of recruitment and in the conditions of the service, which they have not managed to make 1088 satisfactory to young women and their parents. The very inadequacy of the response is the best proof that the methods of appeal have not been well chosen. These methods are ill-devised to call in the kind of woman who is most needed— that is, the really able young woman who is suitable for radio-location and other difficult forms of air defence, for which the Prime Minister has told us to-day no fewer than 100,000 additional women are required.
I do not say that I am no feminist. I am 100 per cent. feminist, and for that reason I am tremendously proud of the success women have already achieved in this difficult and more or less dangerous occupation. I hope they will be used even more in the combatant units. There ought to be no test of the kind of service that a woman should be called to but what kind of service she is able to per form. Do not let the Government be held back from asking a woman to under take any service, however dangerous, if they are satisfied that she is able to fulfil it.
But where a high quality of brain and education is required, as a representative of a university constituency I want to warn the Government that the kind of appeal that they have been making hitherto is not well devised to capture that particular type of woman. I will give one instance. A short time ago a lady secretary of the appointments board in one of the universities that I represent received a letter from the War Office asking her to use her influence among her applicants and to bring the claims of the A.T.S. before them. Accompanying the letter was a copy of "Vogue," an expensive fashion paper, and she was asked to show the portraits of girls in smart uniforms to her students. She replied that she would do all she could to put the claims of the A.T.S. before them, but the "Vogue" kind of appeal was not the way to reach them. All women and most men prefer a becoming to an un becoming woman, but this perpetual harping on smart uniforms and saluting and military titles repels the best kind of girl. It seems to her cheap and tawdry. As one of them remarked, it is as if what the Army wants is chorus girls rather than soldiers. There is a type of poster which has been very much seen lately, appealing to the adventurous type of girl. The 1089 hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Berwick and Haddington (Captain McEwen) referred to it in contemptuous terms, saying that only a negligible number of girls have a spirit of adventure and that the only form of appeal likely to reach them was the glamorous appeal, meaning an appeal to their personal vanity. I hope his remarks will receive the attention they deserve from his women constituents, both now and at the time of the next General Election. I think the services that women are rendering in A.R.P., ambulance driving, in aviation and in the Auxiliary Services are quite sufficient answer to that kind of silly calumny.
But the adventurous note is not really the best way to catch the best brains among women. The underlying motive can be expressed in the oldest of all appeals, "Your country needs you." If you want to get women who can bring clear, cool, accurate minds to the task of armaments, that is the sort of woman who needs definiteness in the information given her as to the kind of work she is wanted for, and that is not what she has had. Women of that sort want some assurance that, if they come forward, they will not be held back in their new career because they do not belong sufficiently to the smart set, that they do not use slang and perhaps speak with a Northern burr rather than in polished B.B.C. accents. These charges of snobbery in the choice of trainees for the A.T.S., and in their chances of promotion, are doing a great deal of harm. Another thing that has done a great deal of harm is the whispering campaign that is going on about immorality. Probably the greater part of these rumours are wholly untrue, or grossly exaggerated, but untrue gossip can do as much harm to recruiting as true gossip. I suggest that those responsible for the Service should appoint two or three impartial, sensible women with the kind of experience which would carry confidence with the women and with their parents. Not that I have myself much patience either with the over-cautious girl or the over-cautious parent. Girls, like boys, have to take risks in these days, and if the Army wants a bigger and better A.T.S., the Army has to get it. If there is reason to believe that everything in the garden is not lovely, that is all the more reason for going into the garden and 1090 making it lovely. Every Service is what those inside it make it.
Another thing which is holding back recruitment is a much more mechanical matter. It is simply that the Government, working on the analogy of men, have concentrated on the ages between 20 and 30. It was a disappointment to hear that the compulsory calling-up for the Auxiliary Service was to be limited to 20-30, because that is the very age when a woman is most likely to have a baby in the cradle and a husband in the Forces. If the Government are not going to take the young married women, will they get a big enough response? I beg the Minister to pay more attention to the younger girls and the older women up to 40. I was glad to hear that girls in their teens are to receive some attention, although not compulsion, because not only are girls of these ages less likely to be married and be doing work of great value to their employers, but they are also fresher from school and more likely to have clear brains. I was pleased to hear that there is to be a certain amount of compulsion for the lower ages from 16 to 17. Nobody wants to take boys and girls of that age from school, or apprenticeship in a skilled occupation, or from their homes if they have homes fit to live in, but there must be work done in preparation for the Armed Services and war work for which boys and girls of these ages are just right. They ought to be getting their preliminary training, whereas at present many of them are idling about the streets, changing their jobs with unnecessary frequency, demoralised sometimes by extravagantly high wages, and the despair of the police magistrates when they unfortunately find their way into the police courts, as they sometimes do. It is anomalous that there should be compulsion for adults and no compulsion for quite young people. If he is going to lay a hand on these youngsters, it is all the more important that the Minister should be careful that the conditions for safeguarding their morals and their physical welfare are thoroughly good.
I believe that there have been two principal obstacles to the employment of older women—recalcitrance on the part of employers, who do not think anybody over 35 is any good, and the staffing of the Employment Exchanges. They are largely staffed by young girls, who think 1091 that any woman over 35 is approaching her dotage, and so they do not press them upon employers. Employers should be obliged to take the older women when the younger are called up, but I would strongly urge the Minister to take in older and really well qualified women into the Employment Exchange staffs. In order to do that, there must be better premises. It is shocking how bad the premises of some of the Employment Exchanges are. The Minister must, too, get first-class women if they are to advise other women and determine the future of younger women. He cannot do that unless he has women of high quality, with experience and educational qualifications.
I will not dwell on all the difficult problems of part-time workers, day nurseries, shopping facilities and so on. I know that a good deal of work is going on those subjects, but I believe that other Members have studied them more than I have. I just want to say this about them, that I believe one necessary factor in the solution is to have more really first-class men in places of authority to deal with these subjects. The hon. Member for Kidder minster (Sir J. Wardlaw-Milne), in his fascinating speech, wanted a Minister of Production, so that everything might be coordinated and concentrated in one hand. Going much lower down the scale of administrative problems, one is constantly meeting the difficulty that there is no one who holds all the threads of a problem in his or her hand and who is able to see a job through from A to Z. We need more concentration of responsibility, so that employers shall not be driven frantic by the number of authorities and departments which they have to consult. One more obstacle is that which arises from the lack of security regarding the chance of re-employment, and there I hope the Government will tell us exactly what it is they propose to do. The Minister said the other day that this ought to be regarded as a matter of social obligation, but that is not precise enough. We want to know what that obligation will be, so that girls who are not compelled to join up but who are longing to do so if only their future is safeguarded may know where they stand.
The Government themselves can set a good example. I am continually getting 1092 complaints from young women in the Civil Service, from young women in the employment of local authorities, young women teachers and young women in banks. They are longing to join up, and say they are only doing work which could be done by younger girls or older women, but their employers will not give them any assurance that they will be taken back if they leave. If that difficulty could be over come I believe the Minister would get that response which his appeal deserves. One, thing which has been hindering the appeal in some ways is that the country is almost too confident of victory. Even a year ago, when there was not a country in the world which believed we had a dog's chance, there was hardly one man or woman in 20 who ever seriously envisaged the possibility that Great Britain might be defeated. That is a very fine spirit and we want that spirit to continue, but it should be conditioned by the reflection that it will prove true only if every man and woman does his or her best until victory is assured. We cannot afford to have laggards either among men or women.
§ Mr. Brooke (Lewisham, West)
I wonder whether hon. Members will agree that to-day we have been experiencing the House of Commons at its very best. We have had a succession of remarkable speeches, all aimed at assisting the Government to grapple with this central part of our war task, and that is the strain upon our man-power and woman-power. I know that some of the speeches have sounded critical, but I am sure that every Member who has spoken had it in mind not to discredit any member of the Government, senior or junior, or any Government Department, but simply to use the 10 or 15 minutes available to him to put his own constructive suggestions into the common pool. The hon. Member for Kidderminster (Sir J. Wardlaw-Milne), in a speech which held the House, made the essential distinction between the two sides of the problem, on the one side increasing the number of men and women avail able and, on the other, making the very best use of those whom we have already.
Let me speak about the loss of production which is experienced now through lack of understanding of one kind or another. There is, for instance, the In come Tax question. A great deal of wild gossip goes round the country about the 1093 effect of the Income Tax in discouraging people from doing extra work. We must not exaggerate this, but it exists. I have known those who say in the most normal way, "Of course, I work hard in the week, but I don't bother to work Saturdays or Sundays because of the Income Tax." That attitude of mind, whatever we think of week-end work, is indefensible in these days. It strikes me that Government Departments as a whole have not exerted themselves sufficiently by way of publicity to bring home to people who are, for the first time, seriously feeling the burden of Income Tax the essential fact that the harder you work, though more money may be taken from you, the better off you will be in the end. I would like to know whether it is the fault of the Ministry of Information or the Board of Inland Revenue or the Treasury that so little action of this character has been taken. I hope very much that, as a result of this Debate, the matter will be thrashed out and that the Departments in conjunction will plan effective measures to remove from the public mind the slightest excuse for misunderstanding.
I wonder whether one of the Government speakers in this Debate would be good enough to tell the House what arrangements the Production Executive has for removing misunderstandings, psychological or otherwise, that are found to interfere with production. I under stand that the Production Executive has under its control a publicity committee, but I have not been able to establish that that committee has any direct relationship on the spot with the regional organisation of the Ministry of Information. In the old days the Ministry of Information was a much abused body. It has by now acquired a very large number of people spread through the country who know their job. It certainly should be within the competence of these people, if they were given the material, to remove misunderstandings that were interfering with production. At the present time not nearly enough of that kind of thing is being done. I believe it would relieve Ministers of an immense number of personal and other complaints if there were a smooth working system, whereby, when ever the authorities responsible for production in any area became aware that 1094 ignorance or misunderstanding was diminishing output, there could be direct touch with the regional organisation of the Ministry of Information to plan a campaign to remove any misapprehension that existed.
May I give the House an example? I am not sure whether it has been mentioned here before. Some time ago, the dockers of a certain port were begged to get a ship ready to join a convoy by zero hour. That meant, for two or three days, appalling hours of overtime. The ship was got ready to sail; but when zero hour came, did it sail? No, it remained where it was for another three days. Do you imagine that in that port there was the same response from the workpeople when next they were asked to work long hours on a rush job? What was the reason for the delay? There was a perfectly genuine one; a ship had been sunk farther down the channel, in the estuary, which made it impossible to get the first ship out. The Admiralty, on grounds of security and acting quite within its right, absolutely prohibited any announcement of the sinking and of the reason for the delay. Yet, though that created a disastrous situation from the standpoint of future production, there was no Government plan in existence in that area for grappling instantly with a situation of that kind and making certain that, although the real reason could not be given, at any rate there was no possibility left for thousands of men to suppose that this was yet another case of Government muddle.
The subject of strikes is a delicate one in war-time, but this House has a reputation and a duty of facing facts. We are losing by strikes far more time than we should be. [HON. MEMBERS: "Where?"] If hon. Members will look at the figures, they will see that in each of the last two months we have lost about 100,000 working days by strikes and stoppages. That is the equivalent of the full-time work of 4,000 men. Of one thing I am perfectly certain: it is not the business of this House to instruct the Minister of Labour or any body else in the way of stopping strikes. All we can do is to draw attention to the seriousness of the position, not exaggerating that seriousness, but properly evaluating it and doing all we can to produce in the minds of both the Government and the people at large a proper attitude towards these stoppages.
§ Sir Frank Sanderson (Ealing)
Does my hon. Friend agree that the 4,000 days to which he refers are less than one-four-thousandth of one per cent.?
§ Mr. Brooke
I think it will be within the recollection of my hon. Friend that I said I did not want the House to exaggerate these figures. We all know that 95 per cent. of the people of this country are working gladly, and I think it will be of the greatest value if we can maintain this distinction between the 95 per cent. of that character and the other five per cent. or whatever it may be who are not pulling their weight and who, by their actions, are unfortunately giving rise to a lot of loose talk in one direction or another which does immeasurable damage. The importance of these stoppages is not in their cumulative figures in terms of working days, but in their suddenness when jobs are urgently required to be finished, and the fact that they argue a lack of responsibility. If the House will look at the details given in the latest issue of the "Ministry of Labour Gazette," they will see a case of 2,000 men who went on strikeagainst the dismissal of certain men who had been convicted of pilfering.They will see another case of the stopping of nearly 6,000 men on account ofalleged victimisation of a convener of shop stewards.This one may have arisen out of a perfectly genuine case of friction. But why was there a strike at all? How was it settled? By work being resumed pending consideration of the dispute under constitutional procedure. That is the point I am trying to establish. This constitutional procedure—
§ It being the hour appointed for the interruption of Business, the Debate stood adjourned,
§ Debate to be resumed upon the next Sitting Day.