HC Deb 05 March 1942 vol 378 cc817-900

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That this House doth agree with the Committee in the said Resolution."

The Joint Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Labour (Mr. McCorquodale)

May I at the outset of my remarks on rising to address the House from this Box for the first time crave that indulgence and sympathy which hon. Members are accustomed to afford each other in similar circumstances. I should like also to express my personal gratitude to my Minister for receiving me so kindly at the Ministry of Labour and for allowing me the privilege of making the opening statement to-day. He proposes to wind up the Debate, and I am sure I may add that suggestions and criticisms which hon. Members may make will receive due weight in their consideration both from my right hon. Friend and myself. In the three weeks or so in which I have been at the Ministry I have, of course, not been able to become fully acquainted with the whole vast range of its activities, and so I hope the House will not object if I stick rather closely to the notes that I have prepared.

I thought I had a good working knowledge of the woman-power position from day to day as an ordinary Member of Parliament listening to or reading the Debates and from my normal contacts, but I soon found, on arriving at the Ministry, that I had very much to learn of the care, thoroughness and completeness with which the mobilisation of woman-power for the war effort had been undertaken and of the hugeness and complexity of the task. The House will not expect me to spend much time on the extent of the demand for man-and woman-power for our war effort. To anyone who for a moment contemplates the number of our population and the extent of our commitments, and then compares them with the man-power resources of our enemies, it must be as plain as day that the country cannot afford to waste the energies of any single one of us, man or woman, if we are to make victory sure, and, although we have to-day the most gallant Allies, it is none the less true that we must always be prepared to save ourselves by our own exertions.

I came to the Ministry with the definite view that two principles should obtain in the handling of the call-up of women—first, that no personal inconvenience should be allowed for a moment to stand in the way of the war effort; second, that cases of hardship and welfare should have full and individual consideration and attention. I am glad to be able to tell the House that I have found that those principles are carried into effect even more completely than I had frankly hoped or expected, and I hope to show that this is the case in the brief review that I propose to make of woman-power mobilisation as it is proceeding under the National Service Act, which we passed last December, and under the Registration for Employment Order. Women are mobilised for the war effort both under the National Service Act, which alone can conscript women for the Forces, and under the Registration for Employment Order, whereby the Minister can direct women to undertake civilian employment of such a character as he may choose.

Under the National Service Act I would remind the House that all persons of either sex are declared liable to national service either in the Armed Forces of the Crown, in Civil Defence or in industry. Single women in the 20 to 30 age groups have already been proclaimed and beginning of the compulsory call-up for women for the auxiliary services has been made with those born in 1920 and 1921. Girls in these two age groups have been given an option to say whether they would rather serve in the Forces, in Civil Defence or in certain industrial jobs. Of those who have made a choice, it is interesting to note that about half opted for the Forces and Civil Defence and half for industry. Large numbers, however, expressed no preference, and they will be called up either for the Forces or industry as required. Women already in certain vital jobs will not, of course, be called up, but only a limited number of jobs come in this category. Generally, if an employer engaged on work of national importance wishes to keep the services of a girl of 20 or 21, he must make an application for deferment to the district man-power board as in the case of men. The medical examination of those who are to join the auxiliary forces began a fortnight ago, and the first batch of women to be called up will join the A.T.S. in a few days' time. I am sure the House will join with me in wishing these girls all luck in the new life on which they are just entering.

I have heard people complaining of what they call delay, in that we have not called up these girls sooner, but the facts are that after the passing of the National Service Act last December, very large numbers of girls and women volunteered for all the three women's Services, and even the A.T.S. with their large demands have recently found themselves for the first time with a waiting list. For the present the girls who are being called up are going to the A.T.S., but shortly we expect that more will be required for the W.A.A.F. and a few possibly for the W.R.N.S. as well. Those girls who have special qualifications for one or other of the Services have been sorted out and will be posted in due course to the appropriate Service. We have endeavoured to adapt the machinery of the National Service Acts to the case of women, and my right hon. Friend is very grateful to those ladies who have come forward to help in this work. The district man-power boards, which deal with deferment, have women officers as members. The medical boards for women also have women members. If any girl wishes to be examined by women only, boards consisting wholly of women have been set up for this purpose, although very few, if any, demands for this have so far been made. My right hon. Friend is also about to appoint a woman to be a member of the Medical Advisory Committee of which Lord Horder is Chairman.

Again, women will sit on the hardship committees and also act as assessors to the umpire in dealing with applications for postponement for calling-up on grounds of exceptional hardship. Yet again women are being added to the conscientious objector tribunals. The number of cases of girl conscientious objectors is only a tiny fraction of one per cent.—very much fewer than in the case of men of the same age. Those in the 20–21 age group who have chosen industry will normally go to a Royal Ordnance factory, but specially suitable girls may go into agriculture, hospital work, or training for engineering. Girls with special qualifications, such as shorthand typists, will be directed to jobs where they can be used as such. Nursing is in a special category. Large numbers are required, and as nursing is essentially a profession in which volunteers are required, girls can volunteer for it any time up to the issue of their actual calling-up notices. So much for the National Service Act. The House will see that girls have a choice of occupation, machinery for hardship cases is ample, but no shirking of service is allowed.

By far the greater number of women come under the aegis of the Registration for Employment Order. Already women in the age groups 21–34 have been registered. On Saturday the 35 age group registers, and the 36's, who are those in the 1905 class, will register a fortnight later. Special steps are being taken to check-up on people who fail to register, and appropriate action will follow in due course where necessary. It is essential, however, to plan ahead. More and more women will obviously be needed, and I would here announce that registration will go on for women up to and including the 1901 age group, which should be completed by the end of June. We realise that we cannot meet the future demands for women from these older age groups, for an increasingly large number of them will, for obvious reasons, be unable to leave their homes. The demands for mobile women must be met, therefore, by a more thorough comb-out from less essential work of the younger women without household responsibilities. The older women who cannot move can help enormously by taking the places of the younger girls who are transferred. I will explain in more detail later the progress we are making in this direction.

We will also register shortly the younger girls of 16–17 under the Youth Scheme. Particulars of these girls will be passed over to the local education authorities, and it will be their responsibility to deal with them. The Ministry of Labour in this case is merely providing the machinery of registration. We propose also to register shortly the 18 and 19 year olds, and thus obtain a complete picture of the woman-power available. I have here a list of the dates on which it is proposed to register these girls. I will give them to the House if they would like, but they will be published shortly. The last date of registration will be 27th June.

Miss Eleanor Rathbone (Combined English Universities)

Are they to be registered for purposes of record only or for interview and direction?

Mr. McCorquodale

We shall certainly take some action after registration. Up to date 5,000,000 women have been registered. Already 1,500,000 have been interviewed, and the interviews are continuing at the rate of 50,000 a week. I obviously cannot give the figure of those who have been placed in vital war industries each week, but I can say that apart from the Services and Civil Defence requirements, over 35,000 women are being placed in jobs every week, or about 150,000 a month. When we consider that these figures are for women only and that we are handling men at the same time, the House will agree that a colossal task in this direction is being accomplished. The total increase up to date over pre-war in the women force in munitions and other vital industries is already 1,500,000. These women have been transferred from less essential industries or they were not previously occupied.

Registration is normally followed by interview at the Employment Exchange, except in cases of those who have children under 14 of their own living with them or those already in vital work. It is important to remember, however, that for some women a considerable time may elapse between registration and calling for interview. Those not in jobs are called first, then those in less essential work, and so on. Women should not immediately after registering invariably expect to be called up and taken away from what they are doing. Those women already engaged on important work are not being interviewed at present, but no doubt they will be later on. It is interesting to note that in the 1915 age group, for example, only 25 per cent. were available for immediate interview, and in the 1910 group only 20 per cent. At the interviews the women are divided into two categories, mobile and immobile. Perhaps I may be allowed to digress for a moment and make my protest against these frightful words which have developed in war-time to describe the fair sex. It is enough to make the poets of old turn in their graves to know that in 1942 we can describe the young ladies of this country by two categories, mobile and immobile. I should not like the task of dividing the lady Members into either of those two categories. However, I am afraid that these words have come to stay, and we must use them.

If the interviewer thinks a woman is mobile but the woman disagrees, her case is put to an advisory women's panel. If she disagrees with the decision of the panel and a direction is issued to her, she can still appeal against it to the local appeal board. If it is finally decided that she is mobile, she is generally sent to war work away from home, even though there may be, in some cases, local war work available. To the individual this may seem unreasonable, but we must remember that a large number of the war factories are concentrated in certain areas and that women who can leave home must be sent to those areas.

A very careful scheme has been worked out for this, the country being divided into areas into which women must be imported, other areas which balance woman-power within themselves and other areas from which mobile women will be moved. For example, the North-Western Region is being fed from the Northern and the North-Eastern Regions. The Midlands are being fed from Scotland, London and the North Midlands, and the South-Western Region is being fed from the Southern Region and so on. All this means that an increasingly large number of women must be taken away from their present jobs in less essential industries, but we do not ignore the needs of those industries. The employer is always given opportunities of stating his case for keeping his workers and his views are carefully considered. We have discussed the general question with the representatives of several industries and have worked out orderly schemes of withdrawal from these, for example, retail distribution, clothing and insurance.

I have endeavoured to explain the general policy towards mobile women, women who are able to leave home, but many women, because of household responsibilities or for other reasons, are classified as immobile. This does not mean that they cannot be used in the war effort. Often enough, there is local war work available to which we can send them, or they are needed to take over the work of the mobile women who have been withdrawn from less essential jobs. Some women who cannot leave their homes, can do full-time work but many cannot. As more and more immobile women are enrolled to take the place of the mobile women who are being moved there will have to be a great extension of part-time work. I cannot too strongly emphasise the importance in the national effort of a wide extension of this part-time work. I know there are considerable difficulties. They are obvious to everyone, but they are not insuperable, and may I appeal to employers to endeavour, as a national duty, to start part-time schemes wherever possible? The local Ministry officials are only too anxious to help. Part-time working has been tried with great success in shops, both large and small. Many engineering and other factories have started this system, and our reports and personal conversations which I have had with several people have shown that the firms which have tried part-time working are, one and all, agreeably surprised at the output they have received. The Ministry of Labour has, itself, instituted part-time working at one of its largest offices and with great success, and we are now arranging that, at the interviews, immobile women will be classified as available either for full-time or for part-time work.

Full-time and part-time working can find many more recruits where there are war-time nurseries to care for the children under five years of age of those who wish or are willing to undertake that work. The House may like to know the latest position as to the establishment of these nurseries as we have been given it. Wherever the Ministry of Labour and the Supply Departments notify the Ministry of Health of the need for these war-time nurseries the Ministry of Health give first priority to the work and, I am told, press on with its provision by the local authorities. There were 276 of these at the end of January and their growth may be judged by the fact that while about 100 were open during January and February, the Ministry of Health expect that from 150 to 200 more will be opened in March alone.

If workpeople are to be directed to employment and are not to have an unfettered right to leave that employment, there is an obligation on the Government to see that proper provision is made for their health and well-being. This is especially so, as I think the House will agree, in the case of women many of whom are leaving home and sheltered lives for the first time. The Ministry has, of course, a wide-spread Welfare Organisation for the purpose of developing welfare arrangements for the workers both inside and outside the factories, and this organisation is being used in connection with the transfer of mobile women. The arrangements made for the transfer of women from Scotland to the Midlands provide, I think, a good example of what we are endeavouring to do. The women are informed of the time of the train from their home town, they are given full instructions, they are seen off by a member of the Ministry of Labour staff, they are met by the Department's officers in Glasgow or Edinburgh, as the case may be, where arrangements are made for providing them with food and, if necessary, lodgings for the night. Carriages are reserved for them on the trains to the Midlands. They are accompanied by convoy officers, who, in some cases, go all the way with them and see them right to their hostels, and in other cases the women are met on arrival by officers of the Department or of the firms to which they are going, and are taken by them to their hostels or billets, or to the factories. From the beginning of their journey to the end, we endeavour to look after them, and the most detailed arrangements are made for their comfort and welfare. We all know that The best-laid schemes o' mice and men Gang aft a-gley. But the intention is there, and it is only in very few cases that, by reason of the lateness of trains or for some other cause, a slip-up occurs.

I have endeavoured to give a brief but full outline of the way in which woman-power is being mobilised for industry. I would like to say that in this work the Ministry have been very greatly helped by the Women's Consultative Committee, over which I now have the honour to preside. This Committee has been of invaluable assistance to my right hon. Friend in the experienced advice which they have given him on all topics connected with woman-power. The Ministry owe them a deep debt of gratitude. They meet regularly once a fortnight, and among their distinguished membership, which is representative of a wide section of the community, are three of the most respected Members of this House, all of whom I am glad to see in their places to-day. It would be churlish of me not to mention also my immediate predecessor in office, who is now Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Supply. If I may be allowed for a moment to touch a personal note, I would say that my hon. Friend and I shared "digs" together at the university as undergraduates, and he it was who first interested me in politics. It is pleasant to find oneself once again following him; but I need not assure the House that every day that I am at the Ministry I am more and more impressed by the very high standard which he has set for me to follow.

As the Spring approaches, I think we all feel the necessity to brace ourselves for the tremendous effort which will be needed from us, if we are to overcome the dangers which lie before us this Summer. In this task I am wholly confident that the woman-power of Britain, carefully mobilised on a scale hitherto unparalleled, will play a worthy and a mighty part. Recently I had the privilege of paying a visit to a colliery in Lancashire near Leigh. In parts of Lancashire they employ women on the surface at coal mines. We visited the women, who were working on the screens sorting coal. I am not very conversant with the technical terms in mining, and if I make a mistake, I hope the House will forgive me. Those girls were singing as they worked in a building which was erected over the railway lines, so that the coal coming off the belts should drop straight into the railway trucks. The sort of platforms on which they worked were of necessity lightly-built structures, and the roofing was of either blacked-out glass or boards; I could not tell which. All the girls, I noticed, had steel helmets handy, and I asked the manager the reason. He told me that all through the blitzes on Merseyside, which is close to Leigh, those girls would not stop and seek shelter, but went on singing and working, and the management had to insist that at least they brought their "tin hats" with them. With that sort of spirit in the country, I thought to myself, we can go forward undaunted, confident that we shall overcome whatever lies ahead.

Miss Ward (Wallsend)

I am certain that the House will wish me to congratulate my hon. Friend on his first speech from the Treasury Bench and to wish him all success in his new office. Curiously enough, the House does want its Ministers to lead it well, and also hopes that young men will establish themselves in the Government of the country. Therefore, we are very glad indeed to have the hon. Gentleman on the Treasury Bench and to know that he is concerned with the question of woman-power. I should also like to say, as I have been associated for more than a year now with the work of the Women's Consultative Committee of the Ministry of Labour, that I know that my colleagues would like me to thank the hon. Member for his kind references to the work of that Committee. I should also like to pay a high tribute to the staff of the Ministry for the work they have done in the past year in the organisation of woman-power. It has been a tremendous task to create this vast organisation for the calling-up of women for service, and I know that in the observations which I am going to make, and the few possibly critical remarks they may include that they will believe me when I say that those remarks are put forward in a constructive spirit, because my feeling about the vast majority of public servants who are helping to organise the war effort is that they are as anxious as anyone else to get on with the job. The real difficulty appears to be that the House of Commons, the Civil Service and the country itself seem to be unable to get over the hurdles which it is necessary to surmount as quickly as we should like them to do so.

Before I go on to deal with the real question of woman-power, I should like to make one point arising again out of my hon. Friend's reference to the Women's Consultative Committee. In view of his high tribute to the work of women on that Committee, and the help that he very graciously said we had been able to give to my right hon. Friend, it is a little curious that other Ministers have been less forthcoming in making use of the advantages which they can gain from calling upon women to serve on consultative committees. As long ago as last September the Committee made representations through the appropriate channels that the extension of women's consultative committees might, be helpful, and that if they were set up in other Departments, they might give confidence to women that the Government were pre- pared to accept help from women in the planning of policy. We were very modest in our demands, because in the first instance we asked only for the appointment of a committee at the Ministry of Health and another at the Ministry of Food. We thought that those Departments would be able to obtain some benefit by associating women's consultative committees with their work, and I feel the Government have been unreasonably slow in deciding whether they will accept that recommendation. From last September to March of this year is a long time. To-day is the anniversary of the woman-power Debate held last year. Things have taken a rather different form this year. We had all hoped that the House would jointly take part in this Debate, because we believe that to get the full impetus of the war effort more co-operation between men and women in all aspects of our national effort is essential, and we think a Debate of this kind ought not to be confined mainly to women Members but that we shall get a better approach to the subject if other Members make their contribution.

I want to come back to the discussion of some of the real problems of woman-power. My hon. Friend said there had been some criticism of the slow working of the machine. I entirely and absolutely agree. I hope that before long the Government will be able to find means of speeding it up, because we realise that upon production, and more production, depends how quickly we can achieve victory. I would first draw attention to the point that there has been a great deal of criticism of employers for not introducing women into their factories more quickly. I know just how difficult employers can be. There are, of course, good employers and bad employers, and I thought it would be helpful to good employers and to the many people in managerial positions if on an occasion like this my right hon. Friend would say a word of encouragement to those who are playing a very gallant and a very difficult part, and that perhaps on some future occasion my right hon. Friend the Minister of Supply would make an equally complimentary statement about the vast body of workmen who are doing such a gallant job not only by their work but by their co-operation in and their advice on the speeding up of the war effort.

To come to one or two detailed points of the organisation. I know of a certain aircraft factory which was visited by members of a Government Department—I am not sure whether the Ministry of Labour or the Ministry of Aircraft Production. The firm were told that they ought to absorb women into their factory at the rate of 50 a week. The firm protested, and the figure finally decided upon by both parties was an intake of some 30 women a week. That decision was taken in June of last year. When I went down in January of this year to that aircraft factory, I learned that, from the time the decision was taken until January, the Employment Exchange had never been able to supply the women. There must be something wrong with the machine when a firm is pressed to take a number of women and agreement is finally reached on the subject, and then the machine fails to provide the number agreed upon. Naturally, that sort of thing arouses dissatisfaction and criticism from the employers. Somehow or other the Ministry ought to be able to establish a personal relationship between themselves and these firms, which ought to employ a larger proportion of woman labour.

I want to come to another vitally important point. As a member of the National Committee on war expenditure I go round to a very large number of factories. Undoubtedly the major problem for the future will be the supply of labour. The skilled labour, accustomed to factory life and disciplined—I know that my use of that phrase will not be misunderstood—has more or less been absorbed already in our war effort. Now we have to introduce numbers of women who have never had any real experience of factory life. It is vitally important that a very great deal of attention should be paid to the personnel management side of the factory. It is absolutely essential that we should do so. I am not certain that sufficient attention has been paid by the Government to this matter. I went the other day to a factory which has been very much in the public Press recently. It has a very excellent labour manager, who said to me that it was very curious that all the people who came down there from the Ministry of Aircraft Production spent their time considering production only from the point of view of the machine and were not interested in the human side. I am convinced that, if we are to get full production out of our factories, the better the leadership, the stimulus and the human approach between management and workers, the better it will be for our production.

I have made as much inquiry as it has been within my power to make, and I have never been able to find out that the Ministry of Aircraft Production is interested in that side of the work. Contrasting the personnel management in factories under the control of the Ministry of Aircraft Production and those controlled by the Ministry of Supply, particularly the big R.A.F. factories, I find the standard of personnel management, so far as women are concerned, is vastly higher in the Ministry of Supply factories. There are some absolutely grand women doing a fine job. The other day I went over one of the R.A.F. factories, and I had a very interesting talk with the deputy labour officer there. She pointed out to me that you could tell which foremen, were good by the way they got their production in the shops. If you had the right type of foreman, he would go into the shop and say, "Look here, girls, I have not got my target for this week," and he would be quite sure of getting it. Another, who did not know how to handle his woman labour, would not be nearly so successful. If we are to stimulate and bring out our production effort, the Government ought to pay far more attention to the personnel management side. They ought to see that women personnel managers are given proper status and an adequate salary. It is extraordinary, when you go round some of these factories, to notice how no expense has been spared in lay-out and amenities to make a really first-class job of the factory, and then, when you ask how much the women personnel officer is getting, you find that she is receiving probably about £250 a year, has no status and has had relatively little training.

I remember going to one of the factories, and, as I usually do, asking to see those who were concerned with personnel management. A man came along. I said, "How long have you been in this factory?" and he replied, "about eight weeks." I asked, "What were you doing before?" and he replied, "I was making the thunder and lightning at Drury Lane." Then I asked him how he had got the job, and he replied that he got it through the Employment Exchange. That indicates to me that the Government have not seriously got down to the job of seeing that those responsible for drawing production from the workers are highly qualified, know their problem and are real leaders. The argument is often used that it is difficult to find such people, but I do not think they are difficult to find. My own view is that the Government are far too frightened of dealing with such matters in factories run by private enterprise for fear of getting into trouble. If the Government were to come to the House of Commons for support in making sure that officers in these factories got proper salaries and status, they would receive the full support of the House of Commons.

There is one other point. To the big R.A.F. factories, where transport is difficult, girls sometimes come from very long distances. I am told that when they get there they have no time to go into the canteen and get something before they go into their shops. Incidentally, they sometimes leave home at four o'clock or five o'clock in the morning, and, if they live in billets, their landladies do not prepare any breakfast for them. Consequently the girls go into the factories without having had any food, and they do a hard day's work before the break. Surely that is not the way in which to get their best production. On this side of the matter I want to end on this note: I believe that you must give the best possible conditions inside the works consistent with what we can afford in this country. Having done that, and satisfied your soul that you are providing everything possible to make work as easy as possible, you should insist upon discipline. Women are not very difficult to discipline, if you know how to handle them. It depends upon whether you provide them with reasonable conditions and with the right type of personnel management to lead them.

I want to mention two other points briefly, and then I have finished. The first is reconstruction. We all know that when the war is over and the victory is won we shall have, if possible, an even more difficult time ahead. I am very glad to know that both men and women are facing up to the problems which will come after the war, but I have never heard it publicly said that in any of the plans for after-the-war reconstruction, either by the late Minister for reconstruction or the new Minister, the Government have really decided to give women a part in the planning of policy. We all feel that that is vitally important. We realise that we have to accept what comes after the war as have the men, and we are willing to do it, but we feel that there are special problems on which we are possibly well-qualified to give advice.

The Government would give great reassurance to the women of this country if, when they make their announcement about the new Ministry of Reconstruction and what its plans are to be in the future, they could associate women with them on the top level, and not on the basement or cellar level. We want a clear part in co-operation with you. If we look back to the period between last year's Debate and this year's, we realise that very gradually we are beginning to take our position. I have no hesitation in saying that if greater use had been made of the services which the women of this country have to give in the approach to the planning and building-up of policy, you would not have found yourselves in quite as many difficulties. It is not for me to lecture or to offer advice, but there have been one or two examples in which the Government would not have found themselves the subject of so much criticism if they had made a proper approach.

Finally, I want to touch on a subject about which it is very difficult for me to speak, and I am not sure that it makes any contribution to the woman-power problem. It does, I believe, make a contribution to the country's approach to the war effort. I am not qualified to say it, but I think somebody ought to say it, and it is this: I think we all recognise that there is a spiritual side to this war, and we all accept it. We know it, it is in the very fibre of our being, and without it we could not achieve success. But as I go about the country, and move about in London circles, I hear a frightful lot of people destroying those who are trying to help us to win the war, and I loathe it with every bit of me. I think it is the most frightful thing that any man or woman can do in the difficulties in which we find ourselves. I think the names of those who are doing it are very well known, and I believe they will get their reward, but I wanted to say this, because I think that we have such difficult times ahead that those who are charged with responsibility need helping, stimulating and encouraging. The people who go around indulging in loose talk which destroys confidence in those who have to lead us make no contribution to the war effort, and are destroying the spiritual side without which this country cannot win the war.

Mrs. Adamson (Dartford)

I would like to join in congratulating the hon. Gentleman on his initial speech from the Treasury Bench with which he has opened this Debate on woman-power, in which will be heard the voices of the women Members of the House. May I suggest to him that if he will listen to the suggestions which are made and carry them out effectively, he will have a happy and successful career at the Ministry of Labour? The efficient organisation of woman-power is a highly important part of our war effort, and if the task is carried out with the maximum of foresight and common sense, with constant regard to the special problems which the mass employment of women raises, an important contribution will be made towards the victory over the Axis Powers which this country must gain. With this end in mind, I shall voice certain definite views based on exhaustive inquiry and founded on fact, in the hope that those responsible for the mobilisation of the women of this country will take particular notice of them, and speedy remedial action.

It will be agreed that we must place women in the category of work for which they are best suited. We have heard many allegations of misfits, and this does not make for efficient working. Can we have an assurance that women are being absorbed into industry as quickly as possible? Is it not also a fact that there are many men of military age doing work which could be done equally well by women? How many men, for instance, without pre-war Civil Service experience, have sought shelter from military duties by worming themselves into departmental posts and into Government-controlled establishments, securing those positions outside the machinery of the Employment Exchanges? Is it not a fact, to quote a terse Army phrase, that they are dodging the column? Have we not all seen and heard of the young women whose parents may enjoy a good social status and who, while they may be wearing uniform, are not being effectively used or directed into essential war work and are not rendering any service to the community? Then we also have the young married women with no children, whose husbands may have a good social status. These women do not even render any useful service in the running of their own homes, and they are allowed to continue idling their time away while other women with more responsibilities are directed to take up essential war work.

I speak with great emphasis on this matter. My own family are with the Forces and doing their bit. The Government will be wise if they do something effective to allay the growing feeling among many families in this country that the price of the sacrifice of their sons and daughters is the easy living of others. The mothers of many of the young folk who are to-day fighting our battle lost their husbands as a result of the last war. For years these women worked and struggled to give their children a chance in life. The price they have had to pay has often been broken health and an uncertain economic future. For their sake alone I submit that it is little short of criminal to impose further hardship upon them while others take the backdoor entrance to soft jobs and trade on the spurious credentials of indispensability.

So far as the organisation of women is concerned, I should like to draw attention to certain matters which demand immediate examination. There is, for example, the question of billeting. Complaints reach me from women war workers about their troubles. Many housewives, I am sorry to say, make these women war workers feel that they are unwanted. The girls are frozen out. As the housewife is required to provide only accommodation, water, and sanitary convenience, the girls often suffer great discomfort. In many cases, they have to go out to work in the mornings without breakfast, or without even a cup of tea. They have also to go out to supper, as their landladies object to their presence in the kitchen. To some extent, I admit, canteens and British Restaurants are helping in the matter of adequate feeding, but there is much to be done. I cannot leave this question of unhelpful landladies without pointing out the strong contrast to my own experience as the "mother" of Britain's war orphans, because we have more homes available than orphans, and I am deeply grateful to the motherly souls who are caring so effectively for my large family.

In regard to private billets, the position seems to be better than it was, say, two months ago. I receive fewer complaints, although there are thousands more women in billets. Most of the billets seem to be in working-class homes. While the majority of girls would prefer the atmosphere of a nice working-class home, such homes do not afford facilities for privacy—and privacy when you are away from home is absolutely necessary. This should be borne in mind, and not more than one or two girls should he billeted in the ordinary working-class home. We have a repetition of what happened in the reception areas with the billeting of evacuees. They put too big a burden on the small working-class home. It should be possible to take over parts of larger houses to billet groups of workers; and if the domestic staffs in such houses are not large enough to attend to all the girls, older married women could be employed, possibly on a part-time basis. More should be done to provide clubs, etc., for girls in private billets, and local education authorities should be asked to cooperate. It is true that the youth committees set up by local education authorities are supposed to concern themselves with the young people from 14 to 20 years of age; but in areas where there are large numbers of women of the older age groups in billets, the education authorities might be asked to provide club and recreational facilities at different times of the day, to suit the workers on different shifts.

If you are to divert more women with no domestic ties into industry and away from their homes, you must have a speedup of hostel arrangements. You must look after their comfort by the provision of decent accommodation as well as proper transport. The accommodation and amenities at most of the hostels of the Royal Ordnance Factories seem to be satisfactory. It is true that there are complaints; and in most cases they are about food, especially about bad cooking. The Government should insist upon properly qualified cooks. It is necessary to have more experienced wardens, who would be available not just to listen to complaints or grievances but to give advice to the girls on personal or domestic troubles. Large numbers of young girls away from home, possibly for the first time, working in new jobs, require experienced wardens, who could help to make them much happier and more attuned to their jobs. The right type of warden would not object even to helping with domestic work if she felt that that was part of her contribution to the war effort. I feel that the hostel charges should either be reduced a little, or should include some of the items which are at present paid for separately.

I want to say a few words about the proper utilisation of women's labour. There is a good deal of exaggerated talk about misuse of women's labour. In total war certain kinds of factory work, skilled, semi-skilled and unskilled, must take precedence over other work, and all sorts of people have to be pressed into the work that is necessary. In a sense, there may be waste of skill and training with women, just as there may be with men. Women cannot all expect to be placed in jobs that will suit them. They must adapt themselves to the jobs that are most urgently necessary. There are doubtless, criticisms to be made about the way in which women, and men, are used in the production effort which the war demands; but the question is how to transfer the labour power, men and women, from civilian to war needs as speedily and efficiently as possible, so as to obtain the maximum production of war materials But it is important to see that all women with special training and skill are used in work for which their training fits them. Women who have been trained in Government training centres and have made good should not, when they go into factories, remain on unskilled work. There should be continuous up-grading. Women who were in factories before the war on unskilled work should be given opportunities to go in for skilled work. I know there is feeling about this among women war workers. I find it in my own large industrial constituency. Women with years of factory experience should be given a chance of becoming welfare workers or hostel wardens, provided that they have the temperament and the necessary gifts of leadership for such jobs.

I was interested in what the hon. Gentleman had to say about part-time employment. What compulsion do the Government intend to put on employers who stubbornly refuse to accept this form of labour, which thousands of women workers could give, although they cannot give full-time work? This is proving a scandal in many parts of the country, and the Government should take its courage in both hands and bring pressure upon employers who refuse to move along these lines. Could not women with technical knowledge and skill who, on call-up, opt for the uniformed services but fail to pass the high standard for the technical duties, be released for engineering instead of being transferred to clerical or domestic work in the Services? This may not affect a large number of women but it is a matter which is well worth looking into. It would also be interesting to learn what proportion of women in the auxiliary Services are actually engaged upon work which could be clone by women in a civilian capacity? That is a question which is frequently asked. Also, what proportion of these women now in the auxiliary Services have taken the place of Service men? Perhaps the Ministry of National Service can give the appropriate returns in these two categories.

There are other problems involved in the question of woman-power besides that of welfare. There is the question of the standard of life of the womenfolk. Take the case of wages for example. The trade unions have made great efforts to establish a rate for women workers in industry. There is still, however, a great amount of under-payment and many employers are exploiting the patriotism of the women by the payment of low wages and the enforcement of long hours. I realise as a trade unionist myself, that the women must, themselves, become members of their industrial organisations and use the power of the trade unions to try to get the best possible wages as well as the best possible conditions, but the Government ought to keep a watchful eye on this problem. I object to my sex being used for cheap labour to under-cut the rates of pay of men workers and lower the standard of life for all. I feel very strongly that the Employment Exchanges ought not to send women into firms which do not conform to trade union conditions or pay trade union wages.

We heard on the radio the other week an account of women navvies digging trenches on an important site. They were praised by the firm and by the con- tractor for the fine job of work which they were doing and for their patriotism. One of the women came to the microphone and admitted that she had eight children, including a baby a year old, and that she was dependent upon her neighbours to look after them. Then we were told that these women were being paid the princely sum of 1s. 2½d. per hour—cheaper of course than the cost of the employment of men. I felt a sense of shame at the low wages that were being paid and the under-cutting of men, and also at the fact that we were evidently so hard up for woman-power, that we were asking a woman with eight children to turn out to do such a job. I would like, too, to make a point about the fact that married women are not covered by the Restriction of Engagement Order. This may mean that young married women who want work will not be used to the best advantage. There is nothing to prevent a private employer engaged in any luxury trade, whose staff have been called up or taken away from him, from engaging these young married women. If young women come under the Restriction of Engagement Order they should be asked to enter employment that is useful at the present time in the national interest.

I come to the important problem of married women with children. They are not conscripted, but an appeal has been made to them to do their bit. Some of us hold the view very strongly that the factory is not the place for mothers with young babies. I know from my own experience that running a home, looking after a husband and rearing a family make a full-time job and represent work of the very highest national importance, but the fact remains that many mothers are already in employment. The Government have made the appeal and have also stated that, if these young women go into the war-production factories, their children will be looked after. We have been told that the production programme needs the recruitment of married women. When will the Government realise that no mother, however urgent is the national need, will leave her children uncared for? Motherhood is an instinct as strong as patriotism. The Nazis realised that truth, when, before the war, they established 15,000 day nurseries able to accommodate 500,000 children of their women workers. Russia too has enabled its women to play an important part in its war effort by the widespread provision of nurseries.

I say, emphatically, that if the services of British mothers are to be utilised effectively there must be a sufficiency of day nurseries of the right type. The Government will have to realise that the provision of these nurseries ranks in importance with the building of factories and the machines which will ultimately be operated by the women. What is the position? When the new regulations for the setting up of war-time nurseries were announced in the Ministry of Health Circular 2388, in May last, local authorities were given the power to establish nurseries for the young children of all women in employment. They can be kept open from 12 to 15 hours daily and can provide all meals. The mother is asked to pay 1s. a day and the full cost of the nursery is borne by the Government. In spite of the opportunities which are offered on paper, progress in setting up these nurseries has been disgracefully slow. In December last, more than six months after the original announcement, it was stated in this House that only 195 nurseries had been opened with accommodation for 8,000 children; that a further 209 had been approved and 264 were in course of preparation. These figures are now entirely out of date, and the hon. Gentleman gave us some later figures this morning. If I heard him correctly, he said that there were 276 nurseries in operation, 100 had been approved and 150 would be opened by the end of March. May we have the up-to-date figures?

Mr. McCorquodale

There were 276 at the beginning of January. I understand that the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Health will be able to give later figures.

Mrs. Adamson

Perhaps the hon. Lady the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Health will give us the full details when she replies.

Mr. Kenneth Lindsay (Kilmarnock)

The figure of 276 was given by my hon. Friend as the number at the beginning of January. Is there now a different figure?

The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Health (Miss Horsbrugh)

When I reply on the question of nurseries I hope to be able to give further figures, more up-to-date than those which have already been given.

Mr. Evelyn Walkden (Doncaster)

Surely it should be easy for the hon. Lady to give the very latest figures?

Miss Horsbrugh

I will present the figures up to 28th February.

Mrs. Adamson

I am sure we shall all listen with interest to the figures when they are given by the hon. Lady. I would like to ask the House to remember that there are something like 2,250,000 children under five years of age in England and Wales. Why has progress been so slow? We know there are certain difficulties in regard to accommodation, equipment and staffing, but they are not insuperable. In my judgment, delays are due, first, to the unwillingness of some local authorities to take the necessary steps and, second, to the long time taken by the Ministry of Health to approve schemes submitted to them by progressive local authorities. These authorities complain that their schemes have been held up for months, while the Ministry haggle about the cost. I would like to make it perfectly clear that, in my own constituency, we have not had this delay, except in one instance. I gladly pay my tribute to the Ministry of Health for the advice we have had in the solution of this problem, but the fact remains that local authorities are complaining very strongly about the hold-up at the Ministry of Health.

The latest Ministry of Health Circular 2535 has, undoubtedly, caused confusion and disquiet by the great stress laid on the importance of getting women to make private arrangements with their friends and neighbours for their children. It is stated that an arrangement of this kind should provide for the care of most of the children of women workers. Apparently, nurseries are to be set up only for those for whom private arrangements cannot be made. While, of course, we admit that public minding of this description may suit individuals in some circumstances, it is unsatisfactory from the point of view of the health and wellbeing of the child, and uneconomical of women-power. Women who can mind one or two children in their own homes could possibly look after greater numbers, if they were helpers at nurseries under the supervision of matrons. The standing joint committee of working women's organisations, which represents over 2,000,000 working women in the Labour, trade union and Co-operative movements, regard this suggestion as an attempt to evade promises previously made by the Government, that the children of mothers who volunteer for war work would be properly looked after. These practical women consider that such private arrangements cannot be for the benefit of the children, and must lead to absenteeism and loss of production.

This committee recently organised a conference for Greater London. Twenty-two organisations were represented and over 60 women councillors attended. Included in this number were 14 who were actually chairmen of maternity and child welfare committees. These were women who could give first-hand information about the problems in their own localities and all voiced deep concern at the attitude of the Government and at the stranglehold of the Ministry of Health. They declared, quite emphatically, that the care and supervision of young children whose mothers were in employment was a national responsibility which ought to be undertaken by the Ministry of Health, the Board of Education and local welfare and education authorities. I believe they have forwarded constructive suggestions to the Ministry, but if encouragement is to be given to these mothers of young children to take up war work, there must be set up greater numbers of day nurseries, coupled with a wide extension of nursery schools for children between two and five years of age and additional residential nurseries.

Further, facilities should be provided in every area to train an adequate number of nursery attendants and the salaries of student nurses should be sufficient for their proper maintenance. I think one of the reasons why young women will not take up this kind of work is because of the scandalously low wages which are being offered. I regret also to hear—and I speak rather strongly about this—that this inadequacy of nursery provision by the authorities has already led to the establishment of a number of factory creches in this country. We do not think that factory grounds are suitable places for creches for young children. This service is a function of child welfare authorities, not of employers. If it is not possible in certain areas to provide nursery schools and nursery classes for young children, the Ministry of Health should require local authorities to prepare registers of minders who will care for children in their own homes, under supervision of health visitors. These minders should be paid by the local authority and the Ministry should take steps to extend the child life protection provisions of the Public Health Act, 1936, to all persons who undertake the care of children under five during the day.

In conclusion, I desire to get back to the general question. It is assumed that a pledge has been given to men under the National Service Acts for reinstatement in their old jobs on demobilisation. If this is so, then it is to be hoped that similar guarantees on demobilisation will be given to women. I do not pretend to know how it can be done, because conditions have changed and many shops have gone out of business within recent months, but we can, surely, guarantee adequate maintenance until our men and women are on an economic footing. I hope that we in this House will face our responsibilities for the future of our people so that when the struggle is over and peace again comes, those who sacrificed all in order to help the nation will be assured, at least, of social security. We must prevent a repetition of the scandalous position which arose after the last war, when many of those who had done their bit to help the nation in her hour of trial were condemned to long unemployment, grinding poverty and insecurity. The nation is behind the Government in the war effort and the British people are determined, not only to win the war but to win the peace. We must, therefore, see to it that our womenfolk, as well as our menfolk, get a square deal.

Sir George Broadbridge (City of London)

To dare to take part in this Debate in which the opposite sex is so much concerned, is akin to rushing in where angels fear to tread. There is an old saying, to which I do not necessarily subscribe, which runs: Fear no man and do right, Fear all women and don't write. I feel happy to-day, at any rate, in being able to say a few words in laudation of the wonderful work which women are doing. There is no doubt that the women of this country are only too anxious to do what they can to help those who are fighting and in the war effort generally. I am bound to say that I entirely agree with the remarks made by the hon. Member for Walsall (Miss Ward), in her very able speech, when she referred to the necessity of women being taken into consultation in the matter of reconstruction. Perhaps I may give a small example of that necessity. In all our buildings—houses, blocks of flats, and so on—it is only men who design those structures and the result is that when women go to see whether there is anything there that suits them, they remark at once, "If only a woman had been consulted, this would have been done and that would have been done, and then the place would have been ideal." In numerous cases the result is that those buildings fall very flat because the knowledge that women have of those subjects has not been taken into consideration.

It is not the fault of women that more of them have not been absorbed into the war effort. As evidence of that, we know of the wonderful work that women have been doing since the war began. I can enumerate only a few examples—in shelters, in canteens, and in hospitals, as nurses, in the Women's Voluntary Service, and in Civil Defence units. Many of those who work all day would gladly take on evening work if arrangements could be made. I know of several instances of working women who have offered their evenings for some sort of war work and have been willing to do it voluntarily; but there still seems to be too much of the close at 5 p.m. attitude, and there is no opportunity for their part-time services to be utilised. I suggest to my hon. Friend that the Ministry might with advantage make use of that type of worker.

There are still, unfortunately, a great many women who try to live their lives as they did in peace time, and who are doing nothing to help in the war effort, and it is those who should be called up and directed either into the Services or into some sort of war work. Let me give one example. I know a case of a girl who has been with a firm of large woollen manufacturers for 14 years. In that time she has proved her worth and has obtained a full knowledge of the business, and she does extraordinarily useful work. Her employers, quite naturally, applied for her exemption. By the way, she is, in addition, married to a soldier. The application of the firm for her exemption was turned down, and they have been informed that the girl must be replaced within seven weeks by a woman over 50, a woman who will have no knowledge of the business, who has had no training, and who will have to be trained before she is of any use. The girl concerned feels, quite naturally, that there are many of her own age who are not working, or who are childless wives, just keeping house, who might have been called before she was. She has been doing a good job for such a long while. I hope the Government will consider cases of that description.

Women are not mechanically-minded like men, and it would not surprise me if the response of women for munitions work was not on a large scale. I hope it has been. I am satisfied that if it has been, their work, whatever they put their hand to, will be magnificent and perfect. There is one way in which women can certainly replace men, and it is in that part of the Services which is known as the Pay Board. They can replace men there in order that the men may be applied more to the war effort. The woman-power of this country represents a vast potential army, and a hard-working and willing army, and I hope the Government will see that their services are not allowed to remain wasted. I, personally, have seen their work in the city, in banks and industrial undertakings, and I have experienced their efficiency in Government Departments. I have always found them to be full of resource. I am confident that with proper training, there is no position they could not fill, either in business or Government Departments, or even in diplomacy.

I realise that constructive suggestions are required. It is difficult for a man to judge a woman's qualifications, abilities, and experience, for appointment to any position, and that is why I am glad the Government have appointed a Committee largely, or at any rate strongly, composed of women to inquire into the women's Services. It is the best thing that could have been done. Women should have equal chances with men and should be selected on their merits and qualifications for a position. I hope the Ministry will see that tact and consideration are always exercised in the handling and employment of women. I was very glad to hear my hon. Friend say how women are looked after when they are going to approach some position. I trust they will be given a real chance to occupy important and responsible positions and take their full share in the country's fight and the country's management. I am confident they will never let the Government or the country down.

Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Colonel Clifton Brown)

Before I call the next hon. Member, I should like, after listening to the last two speeches, to read out a Rule: A Member may not read his speech, but may refresh his memory by reference to notes.

Mr. Wakefield (Swindon)

I should like to support what was said by my hon. Friend the Member for Wallsend (Miss Ward) earlier in the Debate. She drew attention to the fact that too much attention is given to the efficiency of machines and not always enough attention to the efficiency which can be obtained from the people who work the machines by giving the necessary thought to their welfare and well-being. Much has been done to further the contentment and well-being of workers, but much more could be done. It is astounding how quite a small effort in this direction can produce very substantial results. A business in which I and my colleagues became personally interested not very long ago, took the opportunity to make certain improvements of quite a minor character in welfare. Immediately production went up by 25 per cent. There is no great cost involved in doing this, for it needs only a bit of commonsense and human sympathy. If more of this could be done throughout the country we would undoubtedly see a great increase in production.

If we are to obtain the fullest advantage and the most effective use of our woman-power, I would urge that the women be taken more into confidence in connection with the goods they are producing. I am quite sure if managements explained to the workers the work they were doing, asked them for greater help and co-operation when difficulties arose, and explained why difficulties arose, the response would be well worth the small amount of trouble it would take. I should like to see a closer contact between producers and consumers. Many workers, particularly women workers, are engaged in producing some small part of a machine which is vital to the war effort, but they do not know what is its purpose. I suggest that, wherever possible, they should be shown the completed article, and those who use the completed article should visit the factories and explain its importance. I am sure greater results would be obtained by adopting such a scheme. For example, a certain factory was engaged on producing dinghies fgt. the R.A.F. One or two pilots who had been saved by these dinghies paid a visit to the workers, who were greatly interested to have first-hand account showing the value of their work in the national effort. There would be a much greater response if such a scheme were generally adopted.

I hope more attention is to be given to the provision of temporary housing accommodation for workers. We cannot expect men and women to work their best when the places in which they live are unsatisfactory. Our workers realise there is a war on, and that when temporary accommodation has to be provided it cannot be of the standard of peace-time requirements, but they ask that any buildings which are put up should be dry and should not be mere hovels. Recently I saw some of these temporary buildings, and they were a scandal. I went into one room and found three children in cots which had been placed in the centre of the room because of the damp which was streaming out of the bare concrete walls. The clothes were all damp, and the mother had to go to the expense of drying them by electricity. How can a mother do part-time work if she has these conditions to contend with when she returns home? In the case I have mentioned the floor was of bare concrete. No carpets could be laid down because there was a lot of red matter in the concrete which would spoil them. The electric wiring was bare and seemed to be dangerous with the damp walls. That sort of thing should not be allowed, and unless greater attention is given to such elementary matters, production will not increase. Dissatisfaction will, quite properly, arise and we shall not have a total war effort.

When the Parliamentary Secretary opened this Debate he drew attention to the importance of part-time work. I hope it will be possible to do something for the Civil Defence workers at present standing by with nothing much to do. They are eagerly waiting and eating out their hearts for work. There are millions of man-hours and woman-hours being wasted, which could be properly utilised if greater attention and thought were given to these problems. To utilise this untapped source, no great expense and effort would be required. It merely needs imagination and organising ability, and I hope a greater effort will be made in that direction. The Parliamentary Secretary in his remarks on part-time employment quite rightly stressed its importance. Part-time employment primarily affects married women, and in this connection I hope we shall have a very full statement from the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Health on the subject of wartime nurseries. Certain figures have been given which show that progress is being made, and it has been stated that the building of war-time nurseries is a first priority. We must keep clearly before us that the main object of war-time nurseries is to meet a war need, and that these nurseries must be built rapidly if we are to obtain a war gain from them. We do not want to erect many war-time nurseries if there is no war gain, and I hope the Parliamentary Secretary will be able to give us some information of what is involved in man-hours and material and how many women are likely to be brought into war work as a result. I should also like to know how many skilled men are to be released for building these nurseries in order to make it possible for married women to enter industry. Those are important matters but I think, by now, it should be possible to give some figures and some information on such points.

It might be interesting also to know what is happening in Russia. We all know the great part women are playing in the Russian war effort. Do they get over the difficulty by a wife attending to her neighbour's children, by war-time nurseries in the neighbourhoods where the married workers live, or by nurseries built near to the factories? The hon. Lady the Member for Dartford (Mrs. Adamson) referred to the fact that some 15,000 nurseries were being built in Germany. I do not know whether that figure is accurate, but I should like to know whether these nurseries are built in the residential areas or in the factories. It would be extremely interesting to have some information on that point. I can well understand that, in some ways, it may be difficult for nurseries to be attached to factories. I do not think it wise that they should be attached to dangerous factories. On the other hand, it is not much use having a nursery placed where it is not convenient. How will transport problems be affected by the setting up of war-time nurseries? Is transport available for the carrying of the children and their mothers, first to the nursery in the district where they reside and then on to the factory and so forth? Is it expected that there will be much increased transport requirements in this connection?

In an industry in which I am interested arrangements were recently made for collecting mothers who were willing to work whole or part-time and their children, and a war-time nursery was set up in the factory with a trained nurse. I can say from personal knowledge and experience that there has been a war time gain in that case. The children are well looked after, with good mid-day meals and so forth, the mothers work part of the time in the factory and part in the nursery, and the cost in materials and labour was small, compared with the resultant gain in married women being able to work in the factory. In my constituency, where the social services are as far advanced as in any part of the country, four war-time nurseries are being built. The work is in progress but, so far, it does not seem likely that the nurseries will be filled, and it looks as if the experiment will be, not a war-time gain but a war-time loss. I shall be interested to have further information on the point. I hope the Parliamentary Secretary will be able to answer some of these points and give us greater information than we have had up to the present on the subject. We must be careful that, while taking into account the improved conditions which might result from children coming into the nurseries, we do not go into a large programme of construction which will result in loss rather than gain. I hope the Ministry of Health will be able to give us assurance on the point and some encouragement for the future.

Dr. Edith Summerskill (Fulham, West)

I should like, first, to say something about the whole policy of the Govern- ment towards women's questions. I have had the opportunity during the war to sit on many committees and attend many conferences on women's subjects and I have played some part in the whole women's movement, and I must say that after two and a half years of war the Government are showing a regrettable tendency to appoint men to executive positions, both at the centre and at the periphery, to deal with questions concerning women about which they have not the scantiest knowledge. The matter is becoming a farce. I wonder what the country would say if the whole question of man-power were dealt with by women. I am a little tired of going to meetings and finding men who have been given positions, getting up and looking at me apologetically and saying, "Of course, I do not know anything about women but I have been asked to deal with this subject for the period of the war." I am beginning to feel that the war is being prosecuted by both sexes but directed only by one.

The hon. Member for Wallsend (Miss Ward) was a little too mild. She said that at the beginning of the war the Women's Power Committee went to the Government and said, "Let us help, Let us advise. We women have devoted most of our public life to women's questions. Surely we can make a useful contribution." But except for about one committee, the Government turned the women down, and that is the position to-day. We find reconstruction committees being set up—committees to deal with housing—and perhaps, as an afterthought, the Government say, "Perhaps we had better put on a woman or two, otherwise there might be a fuss about it." The Ministry of Works and Buildings set up a committee for the housing of about 20 men. It had on it one woman and it co-opted another. This was to deal with the planning of houses and the planning of reconstruction after the war.

I feel that the Government are dealing very unjustly with the women of the country. Look at the Departments of State, the Air Ministry, War Office, Admiralty and the Ministries of Labour and Pensions, where a policy is formulated for millions of women by men who would never presume to direct the lives of their wives or daughters, not because they do not dare to but because they would say, "A daughter of 20 or 25 knows how to conduct and direct her life better than I can tell her." Yet we find men who have never dealt with women's questions before, and perhaps never attended a women's conference, being given executive positions to deal with and to direct a policy which concerns the lives of hundreds of thousands of young women in this war effort. I would remind the House of the ridiculous committee set up to inquire into the women's Services. That was not an exception, but it happens that the limelight was focused upon it. It was laughed out of existence. Similar committees are being set up all over the country. We women are finding that we have to use a great deal of our energy to prevent this kind of thing. We have to be vigilant all the time in order that women who can make a special contribution on a subject, shall be represented on these committees. I am beginning to wonder whether the new world that we hear so much about is to be planned by one sex and for one sex. I do ask the Government seriously to reconsider their policy concerning this question of women.

I want to say a word about women in industry. There are many old-established factories which are still resisting the large-scale introduction of women for no other reason than that they have never had women. The Ministry of Labour have approached many of them and have proved to them that women are capable of performing the processes which they should be called upon to do, but the factory has never had women, and the management is prejudiced against women as women. Although there is a small replacement of men by women, on the whole the old-established factories are obstructing the war effort. What action are the Ministry of Labour taking? Are they going to allow this prejudice to jeopardise our war effort? I would remind them of the Government's policy towards women employees in factories. They are conscripted and directed to a factory, and if they do not accept employment there, some penalty is imposed on them. But the curious anomaly arises that, although the women are forced into the factory, the employer has a right to refuse to employ them. The Ministry of Labour should bring pressure to bear upon these reactionary employers and impose some penalty in the cases where they refuse to employ women. Such an employer is equally guilty with the girl who disobeys an order to go to a factory and help to prosecute the war, for in his way he is obstructing the war effort.

The question of day nurseries has been brought up in the House for the last 2½ years, until we are all heartily sick of hearing about it. I am sure the Minister of Health is, and I should have thought that his instinct of self-preservation was so strong that he would respond to it and settle this question. I feel that the Government and the public are rather puzzled that local authorities are not anxious to introduce day nurseries, in view of the fact that they now receive 100 per cent. grant for that purpose. Most people believe that a local authority which is slow to introduce some new social service is reluctant to do it because of the expense involved, but the Minister of Health goes to local authorities and says that the Government are willing to give them a 100 per cent. grant. But still the local authorities do not respond. We hear about the 100 or 200 or so day nurseries that are being set up, but they represent practically no contribution. What we must consider is the number of children who will be accommodated. At this stage, after 2½ years of war, when we need the labour of every woman in the country, when married women are offering their services but are unable to obtain work because they cannot find accommodation for their children, I discover the rather curious situation in which the Minister of Health and the President of the Board of Education, both heads of large and important Departments, had to leave London together and go to a conference of local authorities to plead with them and cajole them to open day nurseries. The Minister of Health shakes his head, but I think I am right in saying that he was in the Manchester area two or three weeks ago with the President of the Board of Education.

I wait for results. They are very small so far, and I ask the Minister of Health what action he is to take at this the eleventh hour to deal with local authorities which still refuse to make this provision. The Minister of Health tells us that he is sending the hon. and learned Member for North Croydon (Mr. Willink) round to speak to them. If the authorities will not respond to the Minister and the President of the Board of Education together, does he think that they will respond to the hon. and learned Member for North Croydon? He should take much stronger action. While I am personally very well disposed to the President of the Board of Education, I find it a little difficult to understand how he, who has devoted so many years of his life to international affairs, can adapt himself to and understand the problems of nursery schools and infant feeding. I suggest that the Board of Education might have benefited by the advice of a group of women who have devoted many years of their lives to this question. The Minister of Health is probably aware of the reason for this delay. My diagnosis is simple, but I think it is a correct one. The delay is due to the reluctance of reactionary councillors to introduce a reform which they think is calculated to spoil women.

That is the answer. I know it is the answer, because 12 years ago I tried to bring pressure on a local authority to provide a day nursery, and they provided an old Victorian building which repelled decent women whenever they went near it. After about five years we got the plans. Twelve years have passed now, and during that time men have approached me in the easy jocular manner that a man adopts when he wants to tell you a home truth and sugar the pill, "You will never get this thing. Men like me do not approve of these day nurseries. Women should be in the home, cooking and scrubbing and looking after children. If we put up day nurseries, who knows what our wives might be up to?" This view has been raised on many occasions by quite responsible councillors. You can offer them a 100 per cent. grant and offer to pay all the expenses of day nurseries for 50 years, but you will still find that curious reluctance, that prejudice, which is so deep-rooted that the Minister of Health, the President of the Board of Education and the hon. and learned Member for North Croydon can go round together again and again and they will find no action taken. The Minister must ignore these prejudices. He must take action and supersede the local authorities which are not fulfilling their functions.

My final word is on the use of women in entirely another sphere. I feel strongly that women with spare time and women perhaps who are already engaged in a full-time job should be allowed to give their time to help the men of the country defend the country, and to replace men in the Home Guard who could be released for more competent duties. We had an announcement this morning which I think must have cheered us all, and that is that the records of all officers over 45 in the Army up to the rank of lieutenant-colonel are to be reviewed to see whether they have proved that they have energy, initiative and quite first-class health. I cannot understand why colonels and brigadiers are not included, because surely they direct policy. But it is fact that this announcement gives us new hope, that we feel that perhaps there is a new drive, and that men who have not that aggressive energy necessary to conduct a totalitarian war will be weeded out of the Army. There are thousands of women in full-time jobs who have some spare time who are willing to release men for more competent duties, women with steady eyes, cool nerves and perfect health. Are the Government on the one hand to weed out the Regular Army and on the other hand to conscript men with defective eyesight, unsteady hands and weak nerves for the Horne Guard, while ignoring hundreds and thousands of women who are willing to play their part in defending the country?

If the possibility of an invasion exists, the country should be on its toes. It is not on its toes, it is awaiting direction from the Government. What is the purpose of stopping dog races and prohibiting other amusements unless we direct the energies of the people? Is it any use to tell a man he cannot go to the dog races but leave him to spend the afternoon sitting smoking over the fire at home? Is it any good prohibiting any of those things if we do not say, "We will use these hours for some more important effort"? We have had two and a half years of war, in which we have watched the methods of our enemies, and I feel that we cannot afford to say, if there should be an invasion of this country, that we were not prepared for the nature of that warfare. I believe that every woman with spare time should be used. The Government consists entirely of men, swayed by men's emotions and ignoring the promptings of reason, and it leaves thousands of women idle in their spare time instead of urging them, together with the men, to help to defend their country.

Sir Adam Maitland (Faversham)

I should like to congratulate the hon. Lady the Member for West Fulham (Dr. Summerskill) upon her very interesting contribution to this Debate. Like other hon. Ladies who have preceded her, she started, I notice, with a eulogy of the Department concerned, but as the speech proceeded it resolved itself into a severe indictment of one and all. I trust that I shall not be tempted to follow her in that course, and lest I should be tempted to embark on some of the very interesting and provocative topics that she raised, I will at once, metaphorically at any rate, take myself away from her. I will therefore address myself directly to the subject of to-day's Debate, and if what I say may appear to be wider in scope than the subject of woman-power, I hope that it will be found to have some relationship to it.

The last war taught us many lessons, some of which we are re-learning to-day. Probably the four major lessons with regard to man-power which the last war left with us may be summarised in this way: The first lesson was that whenever war broke out there would inevitably be an inadequate supply of skilled labour. Certainly that is what we have experienced in this war. Arising from that came the second lesson, the necessity of introducing into industry as quickly as possible the largest number of unskilled workers in order to dilute the skilled labour. The third lesson was the absolute importance of employing women on the largest possible scale. The fourth lesson was, that if we were to secure the maximum possible results in economic production, we must use our plant and machinery to its fullest capacity by night as well as by day. At the period of the last war mechanisation of the Fighting Forces was practically in its infancy. If these lessons were important then, they are more important now.

On odd occasions speakers in this House praise the Government of the day. I say quite sincerely that I think the Government of the day are to be congratulated upon their wisdom in having persuaded the House to pass legislation giving them power to conscript men and women for the war effort. For that they are to be credited. Parliament, having entrusted the appropriate Minister with these wide and extensive powers, is justified, I think, in examining how those powers have been used, and that brings us to the question of administration. Speaking by and large, the present Minister of Labour and his predecessor have exercised those powers with great wisdom and great discretion. Even when some of us have criticised him we have found that in many instances he has preferred persuasion to coercion, and that is a thoroughly British characteristic, and where the Government have preferred such a procedure it may be they have been right in most cases. But there are cases of difficulties which the appropriate Ministers having Parliamentary authority have encountered, and I should like to ask my right hon. Friend the Minister of Labour, who, I understand, is to reply, to take the House into his confidence and tell us of his difficulties regarding the mobility of labour. I would like him to tell the House the reasons for not being able to provide an adequate corps of mobile labour.

This question of mobility seriously affects the man-power of the country; for example, men are leaving jobs. Building works are being changed or completed. It touches the question in the manufacture of aircraft, of the changing of design and the changing of type. The same thing applies in respect of the manufacture of tanks and weapons of war generally. A similar question arises owing to shortage of materials. All these things are merely examples showing how essential it is that there should be a reservoir of mobile labour personnel. I understand that there are difficulties with regard to the collection of such a labour force. I appreciate, too, some of the practical difficulties which arise, but it would be good if the Minister could tell the House frankly what those difficulties are. This House very often serves a useful purpose in having matters ventilated. That public service might be served on this occasion if the Minister would tell the House why it is impossible for him to collect that percentage of a working mobile body which is essential to maximum efficiency. The absence of such a force has far-reaching effects. Among other things, its absence partially creates the problem of "idle time." But that is only one factor. You cannot dismiss the whole subject of idle time as arising from inefficient management or slackness of the workers; that is not enough. I submit that one cause of idle time is due to the defect of our not having a mobile reservoir of labour: there is a consequent wastage of our man-power as well as a menace to the maximum production that we can otherwise reasonably expect.

Comments have been made during this Debate about the capacity of those who are in charge of the personnel. If on the outbreak of a war there is a shortage of skilled labour, it is obvious that, with the great expansion of what is expected from industry, there is a corresponding shortage of the right type of experienced personnel management. One hon. Member who visited one of the aircraft factories referred to a personnel manager who said that in civil life he had been providing the thunder and lightning at Drury Lane. I wish he and others could provide more thunder and lightning at some of our factories and galvanise the people concerned into greater activity. I believe that there are still numbers of people in this country who do not realise the seriousness of our position. Large numbers of people, among managements and workers alike, are thinking, not necessarily selfishly but without appreciation of the facts, in terms of their own business interests instead of thinking in terms of the national interests. I suggest that more people carrying on these undertakings might be absorbed into the machinery of our productive effort. There is a potential source of supply of large numbers of personnel and skilled management. The concern could retain a certain proportion of factory space to conduct their own business and use another proportion for national work. I know this kind of thing is already being done, but not, I think, to anything like the extent it might be.

On the question of the best use of woman-power, I suggest two psychological points that are important. The Minister has full power to call up women, as and when they are needed. I suggest that he should not call them up until they are absolutely required by the service or factory to which they are to go. The Ministry of Labour provides a certain number of persons, but when the persons get to the factories they are not immediately absorbed into productive work. That is a very gave defect which damps the enthusiasm of the people who are called up. I doubt if it is sufficiently widely known that, when young girls go to register, it is indicated to them that they may not be required for months. They should be given some approximate date when they will be taken. They should not be left high and dry, as has happened in the registration of men. Another point is the use which can be made of part-time workers. I was very glad to hear my hon. Friend whose first speech from that Box I would like to commend, indicate that the importance of the point has been fully recognised. There is something more than that. Not only do we get extra production by the part-time employment of women, but there is a psychological value in many women today wanting to do war work. Do not assume that we have done enough by making appeals to them. If the appeals fail, do not let us turn round and say that it is because there are stupid employers. That is not always the case. I believe that employers, like every other section of the community, are very human beings; they need guidance in regard to the national effort, and I would beseech my hon. and right hon. Friends not to rest upon the appeal. Guide them, point out to them the necessities of the case, consult them, and I am perfectly certain that by negotiation, or by direction where necessary, better results could be obtained than are obtained to-day. It is not enough to say that employers will not do it, it is not enough to be satisfied with having made the appeal. One hon. Member said that we were looking for leadership. I believe that the heart and spirit of this country to-day, in spite of the difficulties in which we find ourselves, were never so eager and anxious to give service. Let us see that that service is well directed.

Miss Lloyd George (Anglesey)

In spite of what the hon. Member for Faversham (Sir A. Maitland) said earlier in his speech, I intend to begin my few remarks on a note of congratulation, although I certainly cannot promise that I shall not also strike a note of criticism. I should like to congratulate the Parliamentary Secretary not only on the very lucid exposition which he gave us to-day but also on his having taken up office. I am sure that in common with other Members I wish him well on that Bench. I would also like to associate myself with what the other hon. Members serving on the Women's Consultative Committee have said about the way in which the staff of the Ministry of Labour have tackled an enormous administrative problem and the efficiency with which they have carried it out.

No statistics, no comparisons, and no progress reports—and we have had many of them from various Ministries—could have convinced us more surely than have the events of the past few weeks that our production effort is nothing like adequate to our needs. One cannot help wondering sometimes how many fatal accidents we shall have to have in this country before we straighten out the corners and widen the roads, but I really hope—as we all must hope—that we have now reached that stage, and that we are contemplating the laying-out of broader plans for production. In this House to-day we are discussing one of the vital elements in an expanded programme of production, the economic use of woman-power. We are told that German industry at this moment is recruiting vast numbers of people from the captured countries. We have no such reserves from which to draw, but if we are to fulfil our obligations to Russia, as we must, and if we are to fulfil our present and future needs, we must not only conscript, register and direct women, but organise, with far greater efficiency and imagination, the woman-power of this country, so that it is not wasted but is utilised to its full capacity.

For a minute or two I should like to look into the question of how we are organising this great reserve, for, after all, it is the greatest untapped reserve of labour which we have at hand at the moment. First of all, there are the married women who cannot do full-time service because of their domestic responsibilities or because they have the care of young children. The right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Labour said, a good many months ago, that the country needed a million married women. What has happened since then? Nobody can possibly say that we are beyond the experimental stage. The Minister, explaining the slowness of the progress to the House the other day, said that the education of employers was very difficult. The right hon. Gentleman speaks from a lifetime of experience, but I am quite sure that that experience must have convinced him that that is hardly the sort of lightning expedition on which we can rely in the present crisis, and that we need, as the hon. Member for Faversham said, a great deal more than appeals to employers.

Everybody knows that the difficulties are very great, but they are not insurmountable. I do not know what the figures are for the whole country—it might be very interesting if they could be given to us to-day—but I believe that something like 170 fairly large engineering firms in London have successfully adopted a part-time system. I am not giving that figure because I think it is an impressive one—it is not—but it does serve to show that this system can be successfully adopted and carried out. I would like to ask whether it is possible, by means of better co-operation between women's organisations, the Ministry of Labour and employers, to drive on with those schemes, because as far as I can see, if you leave the matter as it is at the moment, von will not get very far simply by making appeals and hoping that somehow or other firms here and there will respond.

The second obstacle in the way of the employment of married women is the lack of nursery provision for the proper care of their children while they are at work. I think there is a good deal of uneasiness about the policy of the Ministry of Health with regard to this matter. We have heard a good deal said about minders, and we are not quite sure what that means. If the mothers make voluntary arrangements with relatives and friends, that is one thing, but it is very undesirable that the Government should give their official blessing to a system of minders without proper supervision. I think it is far more in keeping with the needs of to-day and with the needs of the children that we should have organised nurseries.

The Minister of Health or the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Health will no doubt tell us to-day that the need for nurseries is in fact being met, We are to have the final figures given to us by the Parliamentary Secretary, at least as far as she can give them at present, and we have been told that up to date she is providing nurseries at a rate of about 100 a month. I think the Parliamentary Secretary said that 150 were likely in March. What need is that meeting? What relation have those figures to the demand of the right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Labour for 1,000,000 married women? That is the only relationship on which you can judge whether those figures are adequate or not The hon. Lady the Member for Dartford (Mrs. Adamson) quoted German figures. I think she said that there are something like 15,000 nurseries in Germany for the accommodation of half a million children. That gives some idea of the magnitude of the problem and of the way in which we are tackling it—or, I would rather say, dealing with it—in this country. I know that some local authorities have been very much to blame that they have been hardly conscious that such a problem exists; but the Ministry have been greatly at fault. They are proceeding on what I would call a peace-time basis. They have not speeded up their machine. I was told the other day of a place where a war-time nursery was first applied for in June, 1941, and work had not begun on it in February, 1942. I do not know whether the Parliamentary Secretary could tell us about that, but there was a waiting list in that area of 250 children. There were 60 mothers waiting for one particular nursery in that area. There are instances, as everyone knows, of absenteeism and late arrival among mothers in the factories, owing to the lack of nurses and the fact that they cannot safely and properly accommodate their children. It is indefensible that we should be going along on the old peace-time procedure.

The right hon. Gentleman will possibly say that he has appointed advisers in order to speed up the matter. That is all right as far as it goes, but it does not go far enough. These advisers have no executive power. They can only advise and refer the matter to London; and then, no doubt, London will refer it back again to the authority, and leave it to the authority to proceed. It arises out of this highly centralised system, which cannot work quickly and take decisions. This question of nursery schools is a matter for three Ministers: the Minister of Health, the Board of Education, and the Ministry of Labour. The result is that the right hand does not know what the left hand is not doing. The matter falls completely between two stools. We should have a central authority, with the three Ministries represented upon it to plan., co-ordinate, and drive this policy right through, and to see that things are actually done, and that we do not have any more of this divided responsibility which causes a great deal of the coma.

Another thing is the training, or rather lack of training, of women in factories. My hon. Friend referred to it. He spoke of the lack of skilled men, and the fear that in a short time that will create a serious bottleneck in industry. I think there is a definite reluctance among employers to train women. This is still due very largely to prejudice. Hon. Members may have seen a very interesting article in the "Spectator" a week or two ago, by a correspondent who was actually working in a factory. He commented upon this, as he said, "prejudice, indifference and contempt" with which very often the women are regarded. Of course, the prejudice is not only on the part of the employers. The writer said that in this factory the foreman, who was compelled, very much against his will, to use woman labour, said to him, "You cannot build bombers with girl labour." The simple answer is that you have to build bombers with girl labour, if you are to expand the production to-day.

Mr. J. J. Davidson (Glasgow, Maryhill)

What sort of compulsion was used to induce the employer and the foreman to use girl labour?

Miss Lloyd George

I imagine that that was the only labour available, and that they had no choice. I hope that in this matter of training it will not be only a question of appealing to the employers, but of seeing, by some means or other, that they undertake schemes.

I will now refer to a matter which has not been raised in the Debate, but which hon. Members in all parts of the House must regard as serious. That is the question of agriculture. A week or two ago the right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Agriculture gave to the country what was probably the gravest warning ever given by a Minister of Agriculture in our history. He said that the next harvest was going to be not only very critical to this country, but probably the most critical in the history of the world. No one can deny that food is more essential to the morale of the people in this country than all the propaganda that the Minister of Information can produce, and more vital than all the inspired speeches and perorations that can be made. The farmers have been asked this year to put more and more acres under the plough. That harvest has to be brought in somehow or other. There is going to be a desperate shortage of labour to bring it in. Last year that shortage was already evident. Since then, 10,000 workers have been taken away from agriculture. Here is the opportunity for women to render very great service to the country. But here is a matter for organisation, and, here again, I regret to say, is a matter of prejudice. There are very strong prejudices.

I am told that at the moment, in spite of all the great need for labour, the supply outstrips the demand, because you cannot persuade farmers to take on woman labour. It is a very unfortunate prejudice, and I think there is very little ground for it. This industry employed in 1931 over 51,000 women. When you listen to some farmers talking, you would imagine that it is a totally new experiment, and that women were never employed in agriculture before. But agriculture has employed women in all countries in the world since the beginning of time, although I am not quite sure that I can cite the results of a woman's first experiment in fruit growing as being very fortunate—it is responsible for many troubles. It is said that this work is too heavy for women. An interesting inquiry was recently undertaken by Professor Smith, of the Department of Agriculture and Economics at Aberystwyth University. He said that over a small range of tasks women are equal to men, and that for some they are even superior—for instance, at poultry keeping. If they can produce more eggs, that is very useful these days. Over a fairly extensive range of mixed farming the relative work of women is of a very high order. He concludes by saying that the number of tasks in which the capacity of women is less than 50 per cent. of that of men are very small indeed. That is a very remarkable survey, and I hope that farmers will read it very widely, although I am afraid they will not. Agriculture is a very highly skilled trade. You cannot learn it in a month, or in a three months' course. It is all a matter of organisation. It should he made clear that no skilled man in agriculture must be employed on anything but skilled work, and you must bring in your less skilled worker or woman labour in order to dilute.

What really is important at this moment is that farmers should not wait until the eleventh hour, when the busy season is upon them, and expect the Government, somehow or other, to produce workers. They should realise now, whatever their prejudices, that they will have to be dependent to a very large extent upon woman labour. Therefore, they should get into touch at once with war agricultural committees and tell them what their needs are likely to be, so that when the time comes they may be adequately provided for. I hope very much that the Minister of Agriculture will encourage a minimum wage for women workers as he has for men. There are very great variations between counties; for instance, Berkshire, 40s.; Lincolnshire, 48s.; and Denbighshire, 35s. I hope that he will be able to do that. This really is a vital matter and, as I have said, it is one of organisation. The future of our country may very well depend upon the harvest this next year, and it is vital that we should organise the labour to gather that harvest.

I have only one other thing to say. One of the most important things we have to do in this country at this moment is to see that every asset, talent, brain and pair of hands are utilised to their full capacity. My chief complaint to-day against the use of women in industry is that we do not seem to realise the full potentiality of women's ability. From what point of view do the employers and the labour supply office and the Government consider the woman worker to-day? Is it in the spirit of the Army Council Instruction which was issued this morning and which is the most heartening and invigorating pronouncement I have seen for many a long time? Is it in that spirit of searching for mental alertness, for adaptability of temperament and character, for determination and drive? Is it from the point of view of whether the girl in the factory has it in her to do a better job, a more highly skilled job? Or do they simply look upon and consider it from the very limited point of view—from the dead-end point of view—of whether the girl can do the job she is now doing quite well, and that that is all you want? That is a very unimaginative point of view.

I would like to know how much they recognise the potential value of women in industry. Is it due to material considerations which have absolutely nothing to do with the war effort? How much is it due to the disinclination to pay a woman a man's wage, and, again, how much is that due to the consideration of post-war conditions? The Lord Privy Seal, in the remarkable speech he made the other day, appealed to all sections of the community not to allow considerations of what might happen after the war either to them personally or to their industries to weigh for one moment in the scale against the overriding consideration of winning the war. I hope that that consideration will be taken more into account and that the Government will approach this matter of woman-power with more imagination, realising that in woman-power they have skill, talent, and enterprise, which, if it is properly organised and developed, will contribute very largely to our war effort.

Mr. Kenneth Lindsay (Kilmarnock)

As I understand that my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Health is to speak next, I intervene in this Debate for two or three minutes in order to try and draw together one or two of the points which have been made with regard to part-time work and nursery provision. I would like, first of all, to congratulate my hon. Friend the joint Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Labour upon his genial, brief and very pointed introduction to this Debate and also to stress what the hon. Lady the Member for Anglesey (Miss Lloyd George) has just said. The hon. Lady has said precisely what I wanted to say so much better than I could say it that I shall be relieved of half my speech. She said that if this subject was being conducted in the same spirit as the pronouncement which we heard from the Army Council this morning, then we should feel very much happier about this particular aspect of the war effort. May I assure my right hon. Friend the Minister of Health that, since we had a very short Debate the other day, I have received so much information and support from different parts of the country to bear out the general case that I come back again to the fight to-day absolutely convinced? We have had speeches on nurseries by the hon. Member for Anglesey, the hon. Member for Dartford (Mrs. Adamson), the hon. Member for Swindon (Mr. Wakefield) and the hon. Member for West Fulham (Dr. Summerskill). They represent very different parts of England, with very different problems, as far as factories are concerned, in each of the different districts. In the "Times" this morning I saw this statement in reference to a nursery in Battersea: At present there are 33 more or less regular occupants of the nursery; it was explained that for the lack of a Government grant no more can be taken, though if funds permitted there would be room for twice as many. I happen to know a little about this particular part of London and this particular nursery. There have been 30 or 40 communications between that excellent voluntary body and the Ministry of Health and the local borough council. Here are women literally waiting—five more turned up this morning—to go into a war factory, which cannot take them for want of money. I know the peculiar difficulties. There must be something radically wrong, and it would be much better to pin it down to a concrete case. Everybody can see this in the "Times" this morning. I could give many other cases all proving the same sort of thing. The hon. Member for Swindon asked a number of questions. I want these answered; they have not been answered yet. In Salford, I understand, 10 nurseries are to be put up at a cost of £2,000 each, to deal with 50 children each. But once a nursery is set up, you will probably employ 10–12 people, probably, in each nursery. So there is the construction, which will cost a total of £20,000, and there will be the employment of 120 people to release only 325 workers. Has this aspect been considered? There is much evidence that there is not close working, shall I say, at the ground level between factory managements and people who provide the nurseries. Here is something I have had from my own constituency to-day. It is from a W.V.S. bulletin, and it says: Inquiries have been made of one or two mothers who are interested in war-time nurseries. The Department of Health say that there may be a nursery in three months' time.

The Minister of Health (Mr. Ernest Brown)

In Scotland?

Mr. Lindsay

Yes, in Scotland. I could quote a great many others. I believe that fundamentally this is a question of organisation. It is also a question of urgency if you really mean business, and there are many interesting schemes around London where part-time work is being done in co-operation with nurseries if the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Health goes to Manchester, she will find that there are now 7,142 children in ordinary nursery classes. It should not be necessary—I have no personal feelings in this matter—for the hon. Lady to intervene in the Debate to-day, because the hon. Gentleman the Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Education, who is on her left, knows all about these things. This is a problem which could be sorted out between the Ministry of Labour and the Board of Education perfectly well. The Ministry of Health is an extra wheel for the coach, and everybody knows it. A serious error was made by a previous President of the Board of Education nine months ago, and it has taken all this time to repair it. Now we have four Regional supervisors, good luck to them, but they are part of the fifth wheel.

Sir Percy Harris (Bethnal Green, South-West)

Sixth wheel, you mean.

Mr. Lindsay

Yes, sixth if you like. The problem is comparatively simple, and in Manchester the education authority is solving it by extending hours upwards to seven o'clock and downwards to seven o'clock, with, in some cases, three meals a day, which any education authority could provide with the greatest of ease. I hope the Parliamentary Secretary will be able to answer these points.

Miss Horsbrugh

My hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Education is rather alarmed at that statement.

Mr. Lindsay

An hon. Member said to-day that with a 100 per cent. grant these nurseries are not increasing. There must be something wrong. With a 75 per cent. grant feeding arrangements through local education authorities have increased beyond the dreams of anyone during the last three months. I am sure the Parliamentary Secretary would agree with me that the figures for school feeding have gone up remarkably in the last few months. Why? Simply because the right people are doing the job, and because there is much public feeling behind this movement. There is not one hon. Member of this House who does not want to see more school meals provided at the present time. On the other hand, there is a great feeling in favour of nurseries among many authorities, but even with 100 per cent. grant you are not getting the right provision. I think that when the hon. Lady replies we ought to be told what the cost of labour will be. Will there be a net gain of labour through the provision of these expensive war nurseries? Does the hon. Lady know that in Hackney a nursery costs £3,500 a year for the maintenance of 50 children? Is she aware that the maintenance charge for a nursery at Hammersmith is £2,000 a year and that the cost of its erection was nearly £4,000? I am of course not opposed to the erection of further nurseries if there is to be a net gain in employment, but at the present moment and pace I say there is no proof that with this triple arrangement between the Board of Education, the Ministry of Labour and the Ministry of Health we are ever likely to get a big improvement and of the right kind.

If this problem was handled by one responsible person, the same one who, after all, has made provision for several thousand nursery classes already, we should not need to have these Debates time after time. It is time the country knew precisely whether we are getting improvement and whether that improvement will reflect itself in increased part-time work, not only in factories but in Civil Defence, because there is a large number of women also who can be placed in Civil Defence and who can leave their children in nursery classes and schools. If we can get an answer to some of these questions, we shall be very grateful.

The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Health (Miss Horsbrugh)

I will do my very best to give answers, as briefly as possible, to the various questions which have been put concerning the care of children whose mothers are working or who are likely to go to work. The hon. Gentleman the Member for Kilmarnock (Mr. Lindsay) stated that all that was needed were ordinary nursery classes and that the Board of Education was quite able, in practically every case, to provide three meals a day. He said that the Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Education would be able to deal with all this very much better, but may I ask him this? Has he considered that in many of these nurseries there are infants only a few months old or even only a few weeks old? It is impossible for these very young children to be looked after other than by people who are properly trained to look after infants. I think it would be wrong to say to mothers who are going to work that their children could be looked after if we did not give them properly trained staff and accommodation. We want not only ordinary nursery classes; we have to deal with children of any age up to five.

I agree that a great deal has been done by nursery classes, and I will give the figures in a moment. The hon. Member for Kilmarnock said we should scale the times up and down. In some cases it has been possible to find extra people for the extra hours involved; in other cases good neighbours have been found. I think it is a bad thing that so many speeches here and elsewhere should have been made detrimental to the kind neighbour in towns, who has done what the kind neighbour in the country has done—taken other people's children and looked after them well. I think we owe them a debt of gratitude. There have been many cases of a kind neighbour looking after children before the school opened and after it closed. When in a district in the Midlands recently, my hon. Friend and I found that at one nursery the staff started at half-past five in the morning, because the mothers left in buses to go to the factory at six o'clock, and consequently, brought their children to the nursery at half-past five. That is not a case for nursery classes. In many cases the children are kept at the nurseries at night. Perhaps with the change of shifts, a mother may be on the night shift every third week, so that the little children who attend at the nurseries have to stay during the night, and then it is a 24-hours business.

Sir Percy Harris (Bethnal Green, South-West)

Is there large-scale employment of mothers with small babies on nightshift work? Does the hon. Lady think that is desirable?

Miss Horsbrugh

I do not say it is desirable. It has been made clear by the Minister of Labour that no woman with young children is directed to go into employment, but we know quite well that many such women have volunteered, and if we are to say that we are prepared to care for the children of war workers, we must be prepared to care for the children when those women bring them to us. I have been into nurseries where there have been infants of seven weeks. My personal opinion—it may be wrong—is that the woman concerned was working in a factory, she got married and had a baby, and now, with her friends still working in the factory and knowing the work that is going on, she is anxious to return to it. Therefore, she leaves the baby at the nursery.

The points made by my hon. Friend the Member for Anglesey (Miss Lloyd George)—which the hon. Member for Kilmarnock said he would not repeat—dealt with what one might call the machinery of organisation. I have sometimes felt that in Debates on war nurseries hon. Members have spent rather much time in talking about the machinery and not so much time in talking about the nurseries and how they work. The hon. Lady said that the machinery is not producing nurseries quickly enough, and in connection with that, the hon. Member for Dartford (Mrs. Adamson) said, first, that some local authorities are unwilling, and secondly, that the Ministry of Health are holding up the nurseries. The hon. Member for Anglesey said that she wanted, not so much that the people in the Regions should have always to ask London for instructions, but that there should be a stronger central arrangement with the various Ministries working more closely together. The question, as I see it, is whether any other organisation could produce nurseries more quickly. I ask hon. Members to realise what has to happen. As I have said, no woman with young children is directed into industry, and therefore, we have no exact data, and have to rely upon the Ministry of Labour to tell us where, in the various Regions, there will be a large number of women employed; the departments have to make what is, quite honestly, a guess as to how many of them will be married women and how many of them will be married women with children under five years. Secondly, having established that in a certain area there will be an increase in the number of women employed, we have to decide how many nurseries we consider should be set up. The local authority then has to be told, and the sites have to be found.

With regard to sites, I do not feel that any greater central control would help us over the difficulty. What we have to aim at is to have the nurseries as near as possible to the homes, because if a mother has to start out for her work at six o'clock in the morning, it is no good having the nursery in a place which will mean that, first of all, she has to travel in the opposite direction to leave her children at the nursery. But hon. Members will realise that in some of the districts concerned, houses, with gardens, that will take perhaps 50 children are not easy to find. Again and again we have to fall back on building, and we have to find a site on which to erect a pre-fabricated hut, or huts, with sufficient space adjoining for the children to go out. It is not an easy matter, and I do not believe that any central control would at this moment be able to find the sites more quickly. At the present time, 1,064 nurseries are in various stages of preparation. No doubt the first question that occurs to hon. Members, on hearing the figure, is why the nurseries are not open and why there is delay. I would remind the House that the plan for these war-time nurseries did not begin even at this time last year. As my right hon. Friend said on a previous occasion, if any Member or any Minister had suggested at this time last year that we should be having congregations of 50 small children in the places where we are having them to-day, we should have been told that it was quite impossible, that there had to be dispersal, and that the mothers and children should be taken away. It was not until the late summer that we could face the suggestion of congregating small children in some of these places. It is only during the last six or eight months that this has been thought possible.

Could a central authority provide the nurseries more quickly? It is a case of building and a case of the supply of equipment, for I do not think we have ever been seriously held up in opening nurseries because of lack of staff. I doubt whether a central authority could provide the nurseries more quickly. It could deal only with the priorities for labour and material that we have at present. Hon. Members all know that during the last two months there has been a hold-up in building owing to the weather. Nurseries which were almost finished could not be completed. I do not think any suggestion has ever been put forward that the building itself could be done quicker or the equipment obtained quicker. There are pre-fabricated huts of various sorts, but still the foundations and drains have to be laid, and schemes for lighting and heating carried out. That means labour. We have a priority, but there are other priorities, too. Only recently hon. Members, in discussing the subject of food supplies, urged the Government to press forward with canteens. These are important. The point is that even though we have a first priority, others also have first priorities. Therefore, for these reasons, I do not think a central authority could get the building done more quickly. I believe that the Ministry of Works and Buildings and the Ministry of Supply have done everything they could to help. I think that, in all probability, there is sufficient labour on the sites, considering the amount of labour required by other priority schemes.

I ask hon. Members also to look at this building problem in connection with other building problems, such as shelters, canteens, hostels, and factories. Naturally, my right hon. Friend and I would be very glad if it were said that all the other things would come second and nurseries come first. From my own point of view, we should be very glad if that was the case, but in present circumstances I do not honestly believe that with the pressure which exists to-day these building schemes can be undertaken any more quickly. It may be said that there is a lag of time before approval is obtained, and the hon. Lady stated that communications had to be sent to London and back again. In fact, after the Ministry of Labour has settled the number of women for a particular region, the Senior Regional Officer of the Ministry can then and there deal with the local authority, and the local authority's technical officer can use first priority for labour. At that time the list goes in for the supply of equipment, but the House should remember that every extra call for equipment is an extra job for the Production Departments.

I now come to a point which was raised by the hon. Member for Swindon (Mr. Wakefield). He referred to the man-hours required in putting up these nurseries and providing the necessary equipment. I am afraid we cannot give him the exact figure. He asked whether we were really adding women to the war effort by putting up these nurseries and providing the necessary equipment, and whether in fact we did not have to take into account the number of people who were required to look after the children in the nurseries and the man-hours in building them. He asked whether we were really saving woman-power by putting a woman with two or three children in a factory. It has been the declared policy that we should have nurseries. As has been said more than once, it is the declared policy to go ahead of the demand so that there shall be no check to my right hon. Friend's efforts to get enough labour for the factories. It is difficult to say exactly how much is saved, but do not let us forget that some of these women must help in our nurseries and in domestic work.

We have heard a great deal a bout part-time work. I think it should be said over and over again that women can do valuable part-time work in domestic work in hospitals and nurseries. Unless we can have this, our hospitals and nurseries will not be able to continue. The hon. Lady the Member for Wallsend (Miss Ward)—and I congratulate her on her speech—said it helped a lot if people were praised for doing their job. Civil Defence workers have been praised, and I should like to praise those who have been doing domestic work in hospitals and those who have been looking after children. There is plenty of toil in cleaning, washing and doing laundry work in hospitals, and it is good that we should praise those who have been doing this part-time work. As I say, we will not be able to go on with this work unless people come forward. The hon. Lady the Member for Dartford (Mrs. Adamson) thought that local authorities in some cases were holding matters up. I do not think that is the case.

Mrs. Adamson

I was not referring to the more progressive local authorities which have submitted schemes.

Miss Horsbrugh

There was one local authority to which the hon. Lady referred, and to which reference was also made by the hon. Member for Kilmarnock. The scheme came from Hammersmith, but it cost exactly double the normal. The House must not forget that there is a 100 per cent. grant.

Mr. E. Walkden

Is the hon. Lady aware that a big scheme from the County of Surrey was held up by the Ministry of Labour on the grounds that it was not considered necessary because there were no factories within the immediate vicinity?

Miss Horsbrugh

It may be that a scheme may have been held up by the Ministry of Labour. I will make inquiries from my right hon. Friend. I think the majority of Members will agree that the labour and materials must be sent to places where there is the greatest need for women war workers, and that those areas where there are factories ought to have precedence.

Mr. Lindsay

My hon. Friend says "war workers." Are not women who release men for war work war workers?

Miss Horsbrugh

We take into the nurseries all children under five years of age whose mothers are working. In districts in the North or in the Midlands, where there are factories desperately in need of women, nurseries are of first-rate importance to the war effort, and I think hon. Members will agree that there should be a priority for those cases. It is here where the expenditure of labour and material goes. I think the House will agree that we should come to them before the other areas—it is a question of priority—and that the Minister of Labour should declare where the workers are most needed and that we should begin in those areas.

The hon. Member for Dartford told us about the number of nurseries in Germany, and the hon. Member for Swindon asked what provision was made in Germany and in Russia. The hon. Lady thought the German nurseries were well organised. In fact, she suggested we might take a leaf out of their book. Later on, however, she said she was entirely opposed to nurseries in factories. But the German scheme is to provide nurseries at the factories.

Mrs. Adamson

I referred to the German and Russian schemes, and I am well aware of the position, because I have been on the Continent. The majority are in the factories, but I hope I did not convey the impression that I wanted that system in this country. What I wanted was the very opposite.

Miss Horsbru;gh

Germany has done it because it is much easier to provide nurseries at the factories. On the other hand, Russia has declared that it is vital war work to look after other people's children. When the Russian trade union delegation came over here one of them was asked a question on this very subject. It is interesting to note the answer Madame Malkova gave. The report says: She told the workers that Russian women did not worry whether or not nurseries were available. The women got together in groups and fixed a rota whereby one woman had the job of looking after the children in her group. I mention that, because I want hon. Members to realise that we should look at this problem from the broadest point of view. There are cases where women prefer voluntarily to leave their children with friends whom they know. In the North of England that system is more popular than any other.

Mr. E. Walkden

They have done it for two generations.

Miss Horsbrugh

They have done it for two generations, but some say it should not be done. I am sure the Noble Lady the Member for the Sutton Division of Plymouth (Viscountess Astor) would be annoyed about my saving it. But let us be clear on this. The mothers must do as they wish. I do not think anyone will say we ought to direct children under five into nurseries, and the large majority of people in the North will continue to do as they do now.

Apart from the registered people who come forward and say they want to do this vital war work, the health visitors are inspecting and looking after them. I have been given the exact numbers in places I have visited and I have been told about conditions in the houses and everything else. The second scheme is the registered guardians scheme of the Ministry of Labour, where, if people have not friends available, they can go to the maternity and child welfare authorities and hear of someone who wishes to look after a child. All these people must be visited by health visitors before they are registered. I am told that in one district out of 1,400 who are registered 600 have already made arrangements in that way. But the more popular thing is for people to make their own arrangements. In addition, there are nurseries of various sorts and nursery classes. I have the figures as far up to date as we could get them. At the end of January, in a number of selected areas where there is a special demand for women workers, there were approximately 46,723 places. The number of children for those places was 24,168, but by the end of March I am told by the Board of Education that they hope to have places for about 57,517. In some of those cases the children are coming forward slowly. We are told the plan for new nurseries is too slow; that is mainly a building problem. Although many people may think the women throughout the country are anxious to put their children into nurseries, I do not believe as yet that it is a fact.

We have had so much talk about this that I should like to come down to facts. When I go to a district I do not merely go and see the children who are in the nurseries—in very few cases have I met a nursery which has more than 60 per cent. of the places filled—I try to find out from the people. I had an interesting discussion recently with some mothers working at factories who wanted their children properly cared for. One said that she did not want to take her small child and have it put with another 40 or 50 small children during the period when whooping cough, colds and probably measles are prevalent. We know that medical men are anxious about having these large numbers of small children brought together, particularly at this time of year. We know of cases where illness has spread, I will not say in an alarming way, because we are prepared to deal with it, but it spreads extraordinarily quickly where you have very small children. [Interruption.] I am not a medical expert, and neither is the hon. Lady, but any medical man, who knows more than we do, will say that the time when children are most liable to infection is under the age of five, and the small child perhaps between one and two goes down more easily under that infection. If a child gets whooping cough at that age, the mother is more alarmed than if it gets it at a later age. There is that feeling among the people to-day.

Another reason is that, although we try to get the nurseries nearer the home, it is further to go than to a kindly neighbour, especially in this bad weather. I think that as we go on further into the summer, and as people get more accustomed to the idea, they will take advantage more of the nurseries, but the fact is that in the meantime they do not. I got the figures as far as I could get them at present. In one list of districts, out of 2,884 places there is an average attendance of 1,597. At Stockport a nursery was opened with 60 places. The average daily attendance in February was eight and two other nurseries are in preparation. We put that down as the number required at the beginning. They are not being filled at present, but again I think that gradually people will come to use the nurseries more. In Cardiff there are two nurseries, each with 20 places. The average daily attendance at one is seven and at the other 11. At Swansea there are two nurseries with 40 places. The average daily attendance at each is six. At Wrexham a nursery was opened on 1st December and the average daily attendance has been four.

Mrs. Rathbone (Bodmin)

I am very interested to hear the figures of places where nursery schools are not being properly used, but surely this is the result of lack of leadership by the Department. If you are in favour of war nurseries, surely you can make the public war nursery-minded. There are enormous benefits to be had in the way of education and discipline, which the mothers could not give in war-time. If a proper lead was given, the mothers would use the nurseries.

Miss Horsbrugh

I believe the chief reasons why they are not used are the bad weather and the fear of infection. Our scheme is to be ahead with nurseries in the expectation that people will steadily use the nurseries more as required. In the meantime we have to face the facts, but we are not stopping progress. We are going on building more nurseries. At present the majority of mothers prefer to leave their children under five with friends and not go to the nurseries, but I am convinced that as the scheme goes on it will become more popular. The hon. Member for Swindon asked about the expense and the numbers of people looking after the children. Naturally the expense is heavy, and yon are not always getting the return from woman-power that you would get if there were no nurseries to staff. [Interruption.] The scale of staffing is one person to four children for day and night, or to five children for day only. There is a trained nurse, and if it is a big nursery, there will be a deputy with her and one trained teacher.

Let us come to the people who are not trained. There are probationers, girls aged 16, who are learning to be nurses or to be the mothers of to-morrow, and they will know a good deal more about looking after children as the result of their training. You might look upon them as doing less than a full day's work because they are getting instruction, but I believe that from the economic point of view it is useful to have these girls so that they can eventually become trained nurses.

Miss Eleanor Rathbone (Combined English Universities)

Does not the fact which my hon. Friend has just given rather show up the reason for the slowness of the whole machine? Is that not an extravagant scale of staffing, especially in towns where there are hospitals, doctors and nurses? Is it really necessary to have a trained nurse and a trained teacher?

Miss Horsbrugh

We have never yet been held up for staff.

Sir Herbert Williams (Croydon, South)

Is it not the case that you have more nurses and attendants than women you have liberated for the factories?

Miss Horsbrugh

Where we have a nursery to which very few go at first the full staff is not put on. If there is an attendance of only 10 or 12, naturally the full staff is not put on. You must have a trained nurse and a trained teacher. The hon. Gentleman would see the necessity of that if he went to one of the nurseries when the children are at their meals. These children have to be fed, and the feeding of children under two is not merely a matter of putting food in front of them. They have to be trained, and it is the training that takes the time. Nobody will seriously advocate that there ought not to be a trained nurse and a trained teacher. The others on the staff are untrained, and they are learning so that they will be able to take trained places later. Where the nurseries are run for 12 or 24 hours there must be a spread-out of the staff. Apart from that the matron has a good deal of administrative work to do.

The hon. Member for Dartford opposed nurseries attached to factories, and the hon. Member for Swindon asked what the view of the Ministry was on that. It depends on the factory. Take, for example, Rowntrees, of York; no one would say that there ought not to be a nursery if it could be properly arranged. An instruction went out to make it clear whether there should be a nursery at a factory or not. We cannot give a general answer, for it depends on the factory and its situation. If a factory is far away from the homes and the people are travelling to it in buses there could not possibly be a nursery there. If a factory is of a specially dangerous nature, we certainly could not have a nursery there. There are cases, however, of factories near the homes in districts where it would be difficult to find a house for 50 children or the site for a nursery. Under proper supervision there is no reason why a nursery should not be at such a factory. It must be clearly understood, however, that it must be a proper place for the children, they must be able to get out, there must he the staff, and all the rest of it. A grant can be given in the same way as it can be for voluntary associations.

I would like to reply to the hon. Gentleman who spoke about the case at Battersea. The local authority provision is one nursery in existence and two coming on. The difficulty, he said, was with regard to a particular voluntary association. The arrangements for giving help to voluntary associations are laid down. They get 1s. a day for each child. In this case they asked for financial help on another scale. That has been the difficulty, but any voluntary association which runs a nursery which is inspected and up to the standard required can get assistance.

Mr. Lindsay

They have not the money. They have not rich people who can support them, and they need a slightly different financial arrangement, but they cannot get it.

Miss Horsbrugh

There are two more nurseries going up at this moment, free, gratis and for nothing to the association. Any voluntary association can get that grant of 1s. a day per child, and a factory can get it too, and the factory can deduct the expenses in computing their trader's profits in the assessment of Income Tax and Excess Profits Tax. The great mistake that has been made is to say that there should he only one scheme for the care of children. We want, and we are going on with, all the schemes. We want the mothers, if they have decided voluntarily to go to work, to know that it is left to them to choose. I want to make it clear as regards nurseries, which form one of the schemes, that the policy is to have nurseries in advance of the demand so that the places are there if people choose to take advantage of them. At the present moment there are 1,064 nurseries in the various stages, and of these 322 are open. I have given some of the figures of attendances of some that are open. I do not believe, looking at it very carefully, that it is other machinery at the centre or the region that is wanted. What we want is lack of frost, so that we can get on with the building. I sometimes think that in the discussion of this nursery problem we talk too much of the harness and ton little of the horse. The Ministry of Labour, the Board of Education and the Ministry of Health are working together pt the regions, and the work of each is carefully co-ordinated. All the schemes are ready for the children, but in many cases there are more schemes than there are children coming forward.

Mrs. Hardie (Glasgow, Springburn)

I should not have intervened in this Debate but for the fact that I wish to raise some points in connection with the needless moving of women in Scotland to jobs elsewhere. I agree with the Parliamentary Secretary that the hulk of the women in this country are quite prepared to take up whatever work they are required to do. I have not had any complaints from women who have been moved from unnecessary work in shops and offices to necessary war work. Though many of them must have felt very sore about it, no one has yet complained to me. But what they do feel aggrieved about, particularly in Scotland, is that young women are being needlessly removed from the neighbourhood of their own homes, although work is available for them there, and sent to work in other parts of the country. I was pleased to note that the Parliamentary Secretary said that he does not like the word "mobile." I am getting to dislike it very much. It has become a kind of joke among young women in Scotland. They say to one another, "You are mobile, so it's Over the Border' for you." I suggest that the Minister of Labour should tell his officials to get rid of the obsession that if a girl happens to be unmarried, she must go somewhere else to get a job, although jobs may be available in her own area.

I have a number of cases here. I do not want to take up time by reading them now, because the Minister of Labour will get them all, but here is a typical case to indicate the silly procedure that goes on. It concerns a woman bordering on 30. I do not know what job she has been in. She may have been a young lady at home, because her letter comes from the better-off part of my constituency. I know that she must be a well-educated woman, and I wish that I could write as well. She says that she trained for engineering and passed the test, and the Post Office were anxious to give her a job but told her that she must get the green card before they could start her at work. When she applied for a green card she was told that she could take up that work but that it must not be in Glasgow but somewhere else; she was mobile. She then went to the North-West district of Scotland to see whether there was any work to be had there, and was told that she could get jobs in Oban, Stirling and a few other places. She indicated that she would be willing to work there, but when she went back to the Employment Exchange she was told, "Oh no, you can't pick your job. You are mobile. You can go to England and get into a munition factory."

She is a woman who seems to know her way about, because she said then, "I will take up forestry." She meant to stay in Scotland. They said, "All right, you can take up forestry." But while she is waiting to be placed in a job at forestry work, she, discovers that the Ministry of Labour have evidently changed their mind and that this Post Office engineering work is to be one of the reserved occupations that women can take up and she writes to me to ask whether there is any chance of getting into it. I have told her to go back to the Employment Exchange and ask them whether if the Minister has made such a change—which she was sharp enough to see, although I had not noticed it—they would allow her to take up the work, even if she had to wander all over the place to look for it. That is the kind of thing that seems to me to be silly and not to help the war effort at all. The officials seem to have the idea that if a woman can go away from home, she must go away from home. I suggest that women will work a lot better if they are working in their home areas where they can either stay at home or stay with friends.

Next there is the question of special hardship. The Parliamentary Secretary said that no question of hardship was to stand in the way of fulfilling the war effort, but I have had one or two very hard cases sent to me. I sent one case to the Ministry of Labour. I thought it would soften a heart of stone, but all I have got in return is this bundle of papers. I do not know whether the Minister read them, but at any rate they were signed by him. It was the mother who wrote to me. I find that usually it is the parents who are more concerned about their girls going away than the girls themselves. This woman's husband served during the last war and died at the age of 39. I do not know whether the war killed him. At his death the woman was left to bring up the family. She had no pension. After some years she married again, and now there seems to be a sort of mixed family, sons and step-sons and so on. Out of this family there are five young men serving in the Forces. Two of them went through Dunkirk, and another was on embarkation leave, at the time she wrote to me, and preparing to go abroad. She has another son of 18½, who is registered and waiting to be called up. Out of that household there are six young men who are prepared to fight for their country.

The woman also has a daughter, and before conscription came in the girl, who was then a shop assistant, applied for a job as a tram conductor. She was qualified in every other way, but in Glasgow one has to undergo a medical examination before undertaking any work for the Corporation, and it was found there was something wrong with her teeth—a very common complaint in Glasgow. I do not know why it was necessary for her to get new teeth before becoming a tram conductor, because she would not have to bite anybody. Before she could get the teeth conscription had come in, and when she eventually went to take up the job she was told, "Oh no, you are mobile." When I looked into the matter, the reply I got from the Minister was that girls cannot pick their own jobs.

In another case it is a question of health which arises, because here the doctor says that the girl is not fit. Already she is engaged in making Army clothing, and I should have thought that was war work, and that her services would have been welcomed, because we hear about men in the Home Guard not having overcoats on account of the difficulty of supplying them. I suppose we shall eventually get them in time for the hot weather. That girl was pulled out of that job. She was told that she was mobile and that she must go away from Glasgow. She had the choice of going to Stevenston or Wales—Wales. It is like the old game of American Post, in which you change round from one place to another. I suggest that this idea of mobility has become too much of an obsession with the Ministry, and that their insistence upon it is absolutely ridiculous. These women who are being told that they must go to other districts know that there are many munition works in and around Glasgow which are short of employees and would be glad to have them, but they are not allowed to take the jobs because, say the Ministry, there might be some women living in Glasgow who could not be sent away from home, and the jobs must be left for them. Therefore the girls are simply sent away. I do not think that is the best method of providing jobs for women.

I have here a letter from a lady in the Highlands. She is a very strong Scottish nationalist, and she says that the way the Ministry are treating Scottish girls is a good thing, from her point of view, because it might make them all into Scottish nationalists. Her complaint is that girls are being pulled away from the Highlands and sent down to English factories, while places in the North of Scotland are filled with English women. I sent this letter to the Ministry, and I did not expect to have a reply, but the Ministry said that no women were sent from England to work in Scotland. The point is that the English women evacuated themselves. I expect they are married women. Hon. Members will be surprised at the number of women who went from the Midlands when the blitz came. Men evacuated their wives to safe areas. The married women are not looking after their husbands, although I suppose their husbands come and see them. They are all right. These women are in part-time jobs, while Scottish girls from the Highlands are being dragged away to work in English munitions factories. More consideration should be given to such cases.

There is another point about the treatment of the girls when they are moved to the English factories. The Parliamentary Secretary told me how well they were being looked after, because somebody saw them into the trains, seats were reserved and all the rest of it. I have here an illustration of what happened to a lot of girls who left Glasgow. I am not giving the mothers' stories but the Ministry of Labour's explanation, and here again you see this idea of pushing these girls off because they are regarded as mobile. Those girls travelled all night in the train from Glasgow to the Midlands, not in first-class sleepers, as Members of Parliament do—and even then travelling to Glasgow is pretty bad. They started off in crowded third-class carriages and travelled the whole night through. Their trains were late, as trains very often are, and when the girls arrived there was a fog on. The girls had to wait for two hours in the station before any bus arrived. We quite understand that the bus may have been delayed. Instead of the girls being taken to their billets, they were taken to the factories. When they got there many of them were told there were no jobs for them. By this time I expect the girls were at the weeping stage. They were kept hanging about the factories. They certainly got a meal there, and then they started to find their billets. Billets had not been provided for the girls who were not wanted. It took them well on towards evening before they were placed, and even then the landladies did not particularly want them and gave them a very poor reception. They gave them a cup of tea and a bit of bread and margarine. Probably those landladies had nothing else in the house. The point is that, for the girls, that was just the last straw, and some of them ran home.

I would like to ask the Ministry of Labour: Who made this mistake? How was the mistake made, that when there was work for 40 or 60 girls somebody sent 100? Did somebody mistake "4" for "10," or was somebody so keen at sending the girls away that they sent a big crowd? Girls are not like parcels that can be left at a railway station. I am putting this case forward because I want to see a remedy. Things are not as rosy as the Parliamentary Secretary would make us believe—but, of course, he has just merely started. If war work is available in the district where the girls live, why do you not let them have it? We hear a lot about married women and the kind of billeting in which other women look after the children; the thing is just silly. Leave the women with young children at home to look after those children. I have been very much concerned about the health of girls in the factories. The rate for tuberculosis and for many other ailments is up. If the girls are living in homes where they are not properly looked after, that is the result. It is all very well to give girls a canteen—that is all to the good—but if they are living with landladies who do not study diet very much or do not try to make it up to the girls as a mother would, there is bound to be a bad effect upon health. If a girl is very unhappy and homesick, it affects her work as well as her health. When somebody came to tell me about Scottish girls in a Birmingham factory staying away from work, I answered, "If a Scottish girl lost her work for three days, and her wages, she must have been dashed uncomfortable."

I suggest that night travelling should be stopped and that girls should travel during the day, and that when they arrive they should go to their billets. If they get a night's sleep, they can start their work more or less fit. More care should be taken about the billets. It may be true that many of the girls come from working-class homes, where there is only a room and a kitchen or two rooms and a kitchen, but conditions there are very different from those in a landlady's house. Some of the Scottish kitchens are among the most comfortable places to sit in and are not like the English idea of a kitchen at all. There are no complaints whatever about accommodation in hostels. The Ministry might pay a little attention also to Scottish sentiment. We have a population of something like 5,000,000 people, and some of them resent our young women of from 20 to 30 years of age being dragged down to English factories.

We feel that work should be there for them, and that as far as possible they should be left in their own district. I have read one article by a man who was very concerned that some of the girls might marry here in England, and be lost to Scotland for ever. I am not so worried about that, because it does not matter whom a Scotswoman marries, she always remains a Scot. In the Highlands especially, all the able-bodied men are away fighting for England in Asia, Africa and heaven knows where, and one thing which they will resent is that the girls and the women they are supposed to be fighting for should also be hounded out of their glens, their valleys and their cities and sent to work in England when work could be provided for them in their own home country.

Miss Eleanor Rathbone (Combined English Universities)

The hon. Lady the Member for Springburn (Mrs. Hardie) is evidently a much more tender-hearted person than I am. I have been receiving a number of letters very much in the same tone as those she has mentioned. One of them, I remember, came from the opposite end of these Islands; it was from a farmer in Cornwall, who was very much distressed because his young daughter had been directed to work in the bleak and harsh climate of Scotland. Was it not hard, he asked, that she should be sent all the way to Scotland? A number of girls have written to me from Scotland on exactly the same lines as those who have written to the hon. Lady the Member for Springburn. Perhaps they think me a brute when I reply somewhat in this vein. They said they had heard that I was a great fighter for women's rights; very well, was I not going to fight for the right of a woman to remain in her own country?

What I replied to them was in effect this, that I had fought for many years for the rights of women to be regarded as equal citizens with men, but I have always insisted that equal citizenship should bring with it equal responsibilities as citizens, and that I felt that the best use women could make of the citizenship which we had won for them so hardly was to show that they could take it as well as the men when the cause of the country required it. I told them that I had no doubt that the Ministry made stupid mistakes, but individuals could not decide for themselves in war-time; if they were asked to go to England, it was no doubt because there was available labour in Scotland, married women who could not leave their homes and so forth, and that only the Ministry could really survey the whole position and decide where they could best be used. Therefore, my advice was, "Go where you are told to go, and remember that if you were a boy, you might be sent to Tobruk or Singapore where conditions would be a great deal worse even than in England. If you find when you get there that you have been misdirected, that there is no work for you or that conditions are bad, then write to your Member of Parliament, to your trade union secretary, or to me if you like, and we will try and see that something is done about it."

I think that that unpopular sort of advice is the right line to take, because this question of the mobile worker is, as many speakers have pointed out, one of the great cruxes of the problem of labour. Most of the discussion in this Debate has turned on the obstacles to taking women as workers which attach to the woman herself, why she does not want to go, the difficulties about part-time work, and the difficulties about where to put her children. I therefore want to try and direct attention to those difficulties which arise, not in the woman herself, but either in the nature or place of the employment or among the workers with whom she has to associate. I think these difficulties are sometimes rather neglected. A good deal has been said about the necessity for more part-time work. There I agree; obviously that is one of the largest reservoirs of untapped, or only insufficiently tapped, woman-power which remain to us. The only contribution I want to make on this subject is this: Is it not a fact that the reluctance of employers to use part-time women is very largely because of the newness of the idea, and because the reluctance of a woman to offer herself as a part-time worker arises from all sorts of domestic difficulties about children and so forth which the employer does not understand?

What is really needed is more direction to employers from the top, and more instructions as to how part-time women workers can be used. I am told that the Minister of Aircraft Production has just engaged a very highly qualified woman to spend all her time in a particular region, seeing the labour managements in different factories, and showing them how they can use part-time women workers, explaining to them how other factories in other parts of England have tried to use them; and I think the Minister is perhaps attaching too much importance to smoothing away the difficulties which may be conceived as impeding the women from offering themselves and is not doing enough to persuade the managements that they must use part-time women workers and explaining to them how it can be done. Therefore I suggest the employment of women—it has to be a woman to understand the woman's side of it—to go round interviewing employers on those subjects.

Everyone has talked as though the only available part-time workers were these married women with children. At the bottom of my heart I am a little sceptical as to whether you are ever likely to get as much output from that source as you would like, and I believe another complex in the employer's mind which must be broken down is his prejudice against employing the elderly woman whose children are not young, or the elderly woman who may not be married. I am constantly receiving letters from women who tell me they are over 40, over 50 or over 60, and who declare that they feel as strong as ever they did in their lives. They are quite sure they are mobile and that they could do a full-time job of work, but they cannot, first, get the Employment Exchange clerk to look at them, and if they do manage to get past the Employment Exchange clerk, the employer waves them aside at once. I am sure there is a great deal of room for the elderly women, and though many of them may not be as strong as they think and perhaps could not do a full-time job, they do make a quite considerable reserve of part-time labour if only you could persuade employers to recognise their potentialities.

Now I want to turn to quite another untapped source of labour which I do not think the Ministry is using sufficiently. The Parliamentary Secretary told us to- day that the next step we were going to take was to register girls of 18 and 19, but that they were only to be registered for the time being so as to keep the records. Well, of course, to get the record is the first step, but I beg you to go on quickly and take the next step, and that is to call them up for interview. I shall be greatly surprised if you do not find that these 18- and 19-year-olds produce a bigger yield, arithmetically, than the 20- and 30-year-olds who are already being interviewed and called up. It is common sense. A girl of 18 or 19 is very much less likely to have acquired either a husband or a baby than the girl between 20 and 30, and if she is in a job, her work is less likely to be important. I know that what has stuck in the mind of the Ministry has been a fear that parents—and if an elderly spinster may dare to say so, parents are terribly fussy people where their daughters are concerned, especially fathers—would resent it if their daughters were ordered into a factory, or still more, into the Auxiliary Services. I daresay it is perhaps as well, at any rate at present, not to begin conscripting women into the Auxiliary Services. But why in the world could you not direct the girls of 18 or 19 to useful labour in their own neighbourhood, if they are not doing it already?

I should be sorry to take them away from full-time employment of a valuable kind, or from full-time education; but I think that these girls in their later 'teens, and also girls of 16 to 18, are exploiting the privilege granted to them of not being conscripted. Is it not a little topsy-turvy? One used to imagine that discipline was good for the young, but that older people could choose for themselves. Now the girl can say, "Daddy, you have to go where the War Office tells you to go; Mummy, you have to go where the Ministry of Labour tells you to go; but I shall go where I please." I suggest that girls are being demoralised by that privilege. Just because they are free to take any job in a café or a luxury trade, or no job at all, they throw up their jobs, and say that they do not care, because they can get another job tomorrow; and so they can. It is a waste of valuable labour. I should like to see even the girls of 16 to 18, not taken away from education or useful work, but, if they are not engaged in either of those things, put into some kind of work which will give them valuable training. After all, those are the years at which you expect people to be quick on their feet and nimble with their fingers, and, as they have been at school recently, to have brains not so rusty as those of older women. Why should they not be trained to do useful work? It would happen to them if they lived in Russia, and it would happen to them if they lived in Germany. I am sure that girls would be willing to rise to the chance of learning something and helping in the war effort.

Are we sure that a good deal of the failure to use women in the mass does not arise from prejudice in the minds of the employers, the trade unions, and the individual workers? The hon. Member for Anglesey (Miss Lloyd George) referred to a very interesting article, which impressed me very deeply, from a young man employed in an aircraft factory, who spoke of the general attitude of a foreman in his factory. He pointed out that an immense amount of money was being wasted because semi-skilled labour was not being used. The foreman said that young women could not build bombers. It is true that a barrage is put up, and not only by men. I have seen more than one woman jeered at by other women for presuming to have technical knowledge. I do not say that there is a widespread tendency for the trade unions or the individual workers to impede the employment of women; but I ask, How far is it true? I have only one piece of substantial evidence. That applies to a trade about which I asked a Question at Question time to-day, the sheet metal workers. I have it on good authority that there are at least 20,000 male sheet metal workers; and if they trained even one women apiece, it would set them free for more necessary kinds of work. I know that negotiations with the National Union of Sheet Metal Workers began about June, 1940, and that it was then set out in writing—I have a copy of the agreement here—that they did not provide for the admission of women dilutees. As late as two or three months ago the negotiations were still going on, and trade unions were still holding out, and would not admit, even in principle, women dilutees. I should like to know whether there may not be other unions obstructing the war effort. I know that the great majority of unions have behaved patriotically in this matter; but if there are exceptions, they ought to be shown up for what they are.

The other point is whether even when the women are available, the best use is being made of them. I was rather struck with a document which reached me from a body of which I know very little but which calls itself by the rather magnificent title of the "London Women's Parliament." I gather that it is really a movement which has come from below and is largely sponsored by women actually working in munition factories. They have sent me a bundle of rather impressive evidence. They took evidence from a number of London factories, and they give extracts from their reports. Here are one or two specimens: One complaint was of the wasteful use being made of the women trained in Government factories. One said that the management were averse to employing women who had done their training owing to the fact that they asked for higher rates of pay than untrained women. Another said that untrained girls were put to work on machines while girls from Government training centres were kept on work at the filing bench. The general impression obtained from these reports as a whole is that factory training is rarely carried out and that women who have been through Government training centres are very often used for other than the work for which they have been trained. I have received a lot of letters from other parts of the country as to wastage of women when trained at Government factories. There is a budget of complaints from the same source about the waste of time. I know that workers often think that a waste of time can be avoided when as a matter of fact it cannot be avoided. I know all about that, but some of the evidence is rather impressive.

Earl Winterton (Horsham and Worthing)

I have heard what the hon. Lady has said confirmed by a welfare worker in one of the training centres subsequently closed by the Ministry. She said she had distinct evidence that exactly what my hon. Friend describes was going on with regard to the girls who had been trained.

Miss Rathbone

I will only give one of these extracts bearing on the failure to use women for skilled work for which they have been or could be trained. It states that it is the opinion that 400 men in the factory could be released immediately by putting women on such jobs as detail and assembly fitting and by breaking-down jobs, and that it would be possible, with proper planning, to have some degree of dilution in the tool room. I shall be glad to send the right hon. Gentleman the whole of these documents, in order that he may see the evidence from these factories. It struck me as rather significant evidence, and it is a very good sign that these working women, who themselves are doing this work are making observations in their own factories and seeing whether the best kind of use is being made of women labour.

The great majority of women, I am sure, only want to serve the country in the best way that is open to them. They are very anxious to show their willingness to do their bit. Do not let my right hon. Friend assume that, if women are said to fail in a particular job, it is always because they have done it badly. Sometimes objection arises from exactly the opposite cause. I refer to a slight example which ought to be specially interesting to him. I am a Liverpool woman, and in the last war great attention was paid in the Press to the experiment of employing women in the unloading of ships at the docks and on ordinary dock labour. I subsequently asked a leading shipowner and a good employer what he thought about women employed as dock labourers. I said that I supposed they could not do it and that they had failed. He replied, "On the contrary. We have had to withdraw them completely, because they succeeded so well." At first the men were not frightened because they thought that the women would not be able to do the work, but these women showed that they had a certain genius for carrying heavy weights. The men became jealous and were determined that there would not be any danger of female dock labour after the war. So that was the end of the women's jobs.

Do let us have frankness in this matter. I rather think that we are all very frightened of saying anything to offend an individual trade union, and I am a little afraid that there is something of that spirit even in the Ministry. As regards the question of compensation for women in Civil Defence, this has been frequently dilated upon in the House, and I will not say any more except that this will have a small numerical effect but a considerable psychological effect. There is a feeling of injustice throughout the country that women should be paid lower rates. Another point, which concerns the Chancellor of the Exchequer, is the bad effect of the system of counting the incomes of a husband and wife as one for Income Tax purposes. Often a working woman, even with a pretty good wage, has very little left because of the high taxation she has to pay.

Then there is the importance of consulting women about any new policy regarding reconstruction after the war. We are all looking forward to a better world, and I think it is sometimes forgotten that the problem of women in the future is a different problem from any other. Women have been welcomed at work to which they are unaccustomed, and it will lead to a difficult unemployment problem after the war. It is the old story of welcoming women as heroines in war-time and then throwing them out afterwards. There is also the question of whether the State sufficiently recognises, or has sufficiently recognised, that there are two kinds of national service for women—the production and distribution of material wealth and the production and rearing of children who are to be the citizens and workers of the future. Have mothers and parenthood been sufficiently recognised in their contribution towards the community? More attention should be paid to this question of the future generation as well as under what conditions children are to be brought into the world and reared. Otherwise, in a few years' time the part which the British race will be taking in the future will be a dwindling part because we shall be a dwindling race.

The Minister of Labour and National Service (Mr. Ernest Bevin)

First of all, I should like to say how much I welcome the appointment of my colleague to the Department. I felt, when the Prime Minister told me he was coming, that in future, whatever the Ministry might lack in dignity, it would make up in weight.

In the Debate to-day, I have been struck by the absence of real complaints, and that is distinctly encouraging to me after nearly two years of office in this Department. When the Prime Minister asked me to take on the job, it was not a very inviting one, and the absence of real complaints is particularly encouraging to me, having regard to the fact that we have had to disturb the lives of millions of people, take them away from their homes, and billet many of them in what were, I acknowledge, not too congenial billets. But if those billets are not too congenial now, the conscience of the House ought to come into play, considering the neglect of housing in the 20 years before the war. I cannot build new houses in a war; I have to use what is available. The hon. Member for the Combined English Universities (Miss Rathbone) said she hoped that after the war we would not forget about the women who came in to help us during the war. I hope the House will not forget the terrible difficulties we have had to overcome during the war because of national neglect prior to the war, for all these amenities, though in peace time they are great amenities, represent the greatest contribution to defence if we get into trouble. Having regard to the fact that we have had to deal with all these difficulties, to shift between 4,000,000 and 5,000,000 people from their homes and transfer them to different parts of the country, disturbing everybody's life, I very much welcome the tribute which the hon. Member for Wallsend (Miss Ward) paid to the staff of the Ministry of Labour and National Service for the work they have done. It must be remembered that the Ministry's staff, through no fault of their own, had been converted, prior to the war, largely into a relief-paying institution. They have been switched over from that task to one of the most constructive efforts in the war, and they have come out of it magnificently. With all the criticisms of the Civil Service by an uninformed Press, let me say, as one who has handled big staffs outside as well as inside Government Departments, that I wish for no better staff to work with me than I have found at the Ministry of Labour.

In the work which the Ministry have done, there have been vast possibilities of friction. In every step that I have been compelled to take, in relation both to men and women, there have been potentialities of friction and dispute. Though at times the House have been rather critical because I did not go fast enough, I felt that timing was the most essential thing in the handling of this problem. If things were not timed properly, if, say, we moved a month or two months too soon and produced disputes and troubles, the loss of production would have been immense, if not irrecoverable.

One of the points of criticisms which has been raised by the hon. Member for Anglesey (Miss Lloyd George), the hon. Member for Wallsend, and the hon. Member for Swindon (Mr. Wakefield), who made a very helpful speech, is the question of training women in factories. I confess I have been as disappointed as the hon. Members. But I have to work through the system as it is. I have to face a long, hard position which has grown up in this oldest of the modern industrial countries of the world. The difficulty, if I may deal with it from the trade union side, is that every rule which exists has had to be fought for. Very little has ever been conceded graciously until the last few years, and, therefore, it has got into their blood that their safeguards must not be lost, and that if they are lost, it means another fight to recover them at a later stage. I think it is unfortunate psychology, but do not forget that it was intensified between the two wars with the generation I had to contend with as a union leader when the war was over. Who were the main movers in the great industrial disturbance at that time? They were not the men—I emphasise this—and the women who stayed in the work shops during the war. They were the soldiers who came back from the war and found hitter disappointment awaiting them when they returned to the work shops. These were the difficult young men to handle during the time of that terrible industrial disturbance. They had memories—they are the fathers now—and as a result they have had to be handled with intense care.

One great weakness in British industry is the failure of employers to put personnel managers on equality with works managers in an undertaking. That is the big weakness. I have tried to get it through the Production Departments and by advocacy; I do not know whether it can be done by order, but it is absolutely essential. If they would only look at it from their own economic point of view, they would do it. It is just sheer stupid conservatism which prevents them failing to grasp the advantages which arise out of these new circumstances. When a girl goes into that shop, she should be put under the personnel manager's department independently of the ordinary foreman. There ought to be personnel progress people watching that girl being trained and promoted. Then they would get an economic asset. I am very happy to say that over a very wide field of industry employers have now learned this lesson and are developing it with greater rapidity, but employers in this House will agree that it is a terrible hurdle to get them to move in this direction. The great tragedy of youth in industry is the lack of progress and the failure to watch them and move them from department to department in order to get the best out of them. I would urge British industry not only for now, but, if I may say so, for the post-war resettlement, and, if they are to hold their own in the new world and develop the Britain we want to see, that they should pay attention to these modern requirements in handling the human being.

I have been asked with regard to mobile women. I do not take the view of the hon. Member for the Combined English Universities. I can never become so hard-hearted as I think she is. In fact, I do not believe it is necessary. I do not think it is even the way to handle women, and I have had a little experience. Neither can I take quite as soft-hearted a view as the hon. Member for Springburn (Mrs. Hardie). I have to take a practical alternative to both. I noticed that the House cheered when it was said, "Why do you not leave the women in Scotland near their work?" I have always believed that Wales was a little jealous of Scotland. They were so fond of Wales that they stayed in Wales while the Scotsmen captured England, and I think it was a mistaken policy. In Wales they have their hills, while in England the Scotsmen now have the banks. The same Members who cheered that to-day would probably cheer someone criticising the Minister of Labour because he was so soft-hearted that, if munition workers were wanted in England, he did not take girls from Scotland and send them to England. I cannot treat this problem as Scottish, Welsh or English. I have to treat it as British. It is a British war, and I have to look at the population of the country as a whole. It is not my fault if works are not in Scotland. I have to take physical conditions as they are and try to man these great factories.

Mr. Davidson

Our point is that the works are in Scotland. For instance, quite recently, while we had great difficulty in obtaining labour in the Scottish Ordnance factory and the Ministry were sending women with large families to the factories, at the same time we transferred 5,000 girls from Glasgow to an area down here.

Mr. Bevin

That is just my point. I say if there are married women near the factory whom I cannot make mobile, I must take the mobile women and get the married women into the factories. There is not a surplus of women in the country. When the Prime Minister put the figures before the House in the Debate on manpower remember that there were 11,000,000 women not gainfully employed or engaged in domestic work. Towards the end of the last war there were about 10,900,000. So the available reserve of woman-power was down to the figure of the fourth year of the last war six months ago, and therefore I have to try to move people to the essential from the nonessential occupations, and to transfer the mobile from one district to another, if I am to meet the situation adequately.

I am carefully watching every week the demands that are made upon me for women. I am not happy with some of the demands. I say to employers from this House that they have a great responsibility, and when they are asked to send in their demands through their executives we are entitled to ask them to exercise care and not merely to fill up a form and send it back to the Department for us to have to scrutinise it, fight about it, and argue to keep it down. The reason I submit that to the House is that I think it the basis of many of the complaints I have to face. When you have such a narrow margin, not unemployed, but merely of people to transfer from unessential to essential work, the employers and the production Departments have no right to cause undue hardship to get people transferred unless there is an absolute necessity to transfer them. There- fore, I have been pressing on everybody for a scrutiny, not merely of the numbers, but of what they are doing. When I have visited factories I have suggested in many cases the introduction of mechanical appliances, labour-saving machinery and that kind of thing to avoid extravagant demands upon the man-power of the country.

The great drive that is necessary now to carry this effort through to a successful conclusion is the application of science to the use of labour in order to reduce the demands made upon man-power. We are handicapped, as I have said in the House before, by that awful period of unemployment when employers could simply send to the Employment Exchange, where they found the men, picked them up, used them, and then dropped them like an old coat. While they improved and rationalised their industries they neglected to a very large extent the scientific study of the human side of industry. They must get out of that or they will hold up the war production. I do not care whether you have a Minister of Production or any other form of State organisation, unless there is stricter attention to economy in the use of labour you will not see your way through. Soon after I was appointed I made a calculation, as far as I could, of the available man and woman-power that I would have to draw upon assuming we did not get to the real crux of the war until the end of 1942. In that I assumed certain numbers to fill up gaps caused by casualties and tried to hold, as it were, particularly among the women, certain reserves that we could keep so that we could call them up at the moment when we wanted them.

The lack of economy in the use of labour in this country generally has brought me at least four or five months ahead of that calculation without the casualties. That is worrying me very much at the present moment. If this war goes on and has to be carried through to its logical conclusion and we are without our proper reserves of man-power as the casualties occur we shall get stagnation in production at the critical moment. Therefore, I take this opportunity to urge upon the nation economy in the use of man-power at this time as a most vital contribution to the war. Indeed, the greater the economy that is exercised in the use of man-power the greater the tensity it is likely to produce in the workshops, because if there are large numbers of men roaming about in a shop and not properly employed the tendency is to demoralise the whole shop. I urge this point very strongly.

Sir Frank Sanderson (Ealing)

Is my right hon. Friend able to inform the House what number of women he expects to require in the not far distant future?

Mr. Bevin

I do not think it would be in the public interest that I should give the figures. The position has been carefully worked out, and it is because the figures have been so carefully worked out that I am raising this point, which I hope will be read with great care by the industrialists and trade unionists of the country. I only began with about 19,500,000 to fill the whole arena in the United Kingdom, as against something like 80,000,000 of our enemies. It is a very difficult task indeed. A good deal has been said about nurseries. I do wish that when dealing with the nursery problem people would talk about them as Government nurseries and not local authority nurseries or Ministry of Health or Ministry of Labour nurseries. I want to try to create the psychology which will make women look upon these as national nurseries, introduced in order to get on with the war effort. In some districts there is great difficulty in persuading women to take advantage of them because, in their minds, they are not so closely associated with the war effort as they ought to be. If that change could be brought about it would be a very great improvement.

A point has been made about women going from Government training centres into factories and not being properly used. I think that is rather past history. I have made entirely new arrangements with the employers. I took the view that the wages fixed for the outside factories were too low to enable me to ask women who were often giving up good jobs, to go into those factories after leaving training centres, because the wages at the beginning in the training centres were rather higher than in the factories. Under the new arrangement the wage standards have gone up in the factories, and I have been able to make an adjustment to avoid the conflict which previously existed. An agreement has also been reached by which the time spent in the training centres counts for progress exactly as it would count if it had been spent in the factory, and so the girl goes into the factory at the higher level in consequence of having been trained in a training centre. Then a point was made about the appointment of women to all branches on the administrative side of the Ministry. Really, hon. Members should look into the facts a little bit. I do not know any Department of State at any time in the history of this country to which more women have been appointed on the administrative side than the Ministry of Labour—

Dr. Morgan (Rochdale)

Not even the Colonial Office.

Mr. Bevin

I speak of the Department I know—and during this war. There has not been a committee, right down through the whole administration, into which I have not brought women in a representative capacity—on man-power boards and everything else. It is unfortunate if the public are led to believe that women have not had their proper place on the administrative side.

Miss Rathbone

May I remind the right hon. Gentleman—

Mr. Bevin

I am afraid I cannot give way. I am very grateful to all the women who have served, up and down the country, and given an enormous amount of time. I do not believe that this problem of handling the transfer of women could have been done had it not been for the assistance I have received from women. Lastly, in regard to transference and transport; if I can improve it, I will, but I would point out that I decided on the night train from Scotland because it was rather more punctual in arriving than the day trains normally are. I got a through train from Glasgow to the Midlands with rather clearer running than I could have got in the day-time.

Mrs. Hardie

Could not the Minister see that girls have billets to go to when they arrive?

Mr. Bevin

I cannot give way to the hon. Member, really. She is referring to only one case, and that case has been flogged well; it has really. It was almost the first lot of girls who came down, and there was a mistake. If a mistake has been made, you acknowledge it, and I acknowledged it in this House when the Question was put to me. I asked the Members affected to go down and have a look at the system. I cannot do more, in a great organisation of this character. There has not been any recurrence of the mistake since that time.

I should not like the Debate to conclude without an expression of the Government's admiration and heartfelt thanks to the women who have responded so nobly to the nation's need and who, in its darkest hour, showed so much courage and fine example to the world. If everyone had given the same energy and shown the same adaptability and unselfishness as the women of Britain, we might well have been nearer to victory than at this moment. I am sure that the House will join me in thankfulness that, as a nation, we are favoured with such a devoted womanhood.

Question, "That this House doth agree with the Committee in the said Resolution," put, and agreed to.

The remaining Orders were read, and postponed.

  1. ADJOURNMENT. 11 words
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