HC Deb 16 December 1941 vol 376 cc1794-6
7. Sir T. Moore

asked the Secretary of State for War whether he will give an assurance to the House, that every care is being taken to safeguard the physical, moral and spiritual welfare of the women in the Auxiliary Territorial Service?

Captain Margesson

Yes, Sir. The comprehensive system of welfare services administered by the Director-General of Welfare extends to all units of the Auxiliary Territorial Service. Moreover, in addition to the general expenditure on Welfare and education in which the Auxiliary Territorial Service have their full share, funds have been specially allocated to providing extra comforts and conveniences for Auxiliary Territorial Service quarters. Lectures on moral welfare and hygiene are given to Auxiliary Territorial Service officers, and it is impressed on them that their first duty is the care and well-being of the women under their command.

Sir T. Moore

Is my right hon. and gallant Friend aware that this answer will do a great deal to silence ignorant criti cism and to comfort anxious parents?

Major-General Sir Alfred Knox

Will the officers of the A.T.S. look after the comfort of the personnel?

Captain Margesson

Yes, Sir.

Viscountess Astor

Does my right hon. and gallant Friend not think that it would be a little more practical to see that the A.T.S. do not have wet canteens, which is worrying the mothers far more than the question of giving lectures? [Interruption.] I can only tell my right hon. and gallant Friend that I am speaking for many of the mothers.

Mr. Messer

Is the Minister satisfied with the number of welfare officers, and are the welfare officers who are appointed drawn from those who have had previous experience?

Captain Margesson

I have had no complaints as to numbers or the experience of welfare officers.

Rear-Admiral Beamish

Are there any real grounds for these insinuations about the moral welfare of these young women, and is it not a fact, and has it not been truly said, that when vices leave us we think we have reformed?

Captain Margesson

There is absolutely no foundation whatsoever for this whispering campaign, which I regret very much indeed, as they are a fine body of women who are doing a fine job of work.

18. Lieut.-Commander Hutchison

asked the Secretary of State for War whether he is now in a position to make any further statement on the practicability of establishing a system of immobile units in the Auxiliary Territorial Service?

Captain Margesson

This proposal has been re-examined, but it has been decided that any advantages that it may possess are outweighed by the difficulties referred to in the answer given to my hon. and gallant Friend on 14th October. Every effort will, however, be made to post Auxiliary Territorial Service personnel to the vicinity of their homes so far as military requirements permit.

Lieut.-Commander Hutchison

If any further evidence is produced, will the Secretary of State investigate it?

Mr. Mathers

Will applications receive consideration on domestic grounds for those already in the A.T.S.?

Captain Margesson

We always do our best.

Miss Eleanor Rathbone

Does the right hon. and gallant Gentleman recognise that the women of the A.T.S. think with pride not only of the A.T.S. but of the military command to which they are attached, and that is a sentiment that should be encouraged because it is easier to be attached to a particular Army unit than to the whole body?

Captain Margesson

I am aware of all that.

14. Sir Leonard Lyle

asked the Secretary of State for War whether he is aware that Auxiliary Territorial Service girls at the training centres need 100 male noncommissioned officers and men for each 1,000 women; and whether, in view of the efforts to increase the strength of the Auxiliary Territorial Service, and with the object of using man-power elsewhere, he proposes to dispense with the services of most of these male supervising officers and replace them with efficient women?

Captain Margesson

A male cadre was provided for each Auxiliary Territorial Service training centre, in order to assist in the administrative control and training of Auxiliary Territorial Service recruits and, in particular, to provide instruction and supervision for the Auxiliary Territorial Service officers and other ranks selected as potential permanent staffs at these centres. It was never the intention to retain the male instructional cadres indefinitely, and they will be gradually withdrawn as soon as circumstances permit. The process of withdrawal will begin early in 1942.

Sir L. Lyle

Does not my right hon. and gallant Friend think that the proportion of males to females, one to 10, is rather too heavy, in view of the fact that the A.T.S. was designed to relieve men for the Services?

Mr. Bellenger

What is the purpose of these male cadres? Is it to teach girls how to march and salute?

Captain Margesson

It is to render general assistance at the beginning of this process.