HC Deb 05 August 1943 vol 391 cc2461-3
Sir H. Williams

(by Private Notice) asked the Minister of Labour whether he will give an assurance that he will not take any steps to register women between the ages of 45–50 prior to further discussion in the House?

Mr. McCorquodale

No, Sir. In view of the serious shortage of man-power, my right hon. Friend takes the view that it would be contrary to the national interest to postpone the registration of the age classes in question. As, however, the registration of the first of the age-classes concerned will not take place until September, no calling-up action following such registration can in fact take place until after the House resumes its sittings under present arrangements.

Commander Sir Archibald Southby

Will the hon. Gentleman bear in mind the very widespread perturbation which exists in the country at the idea of this registration and the terrible effect it is going to have on the homes of many people, and will he particularly bear in mind the fact that these women are those who are suffering most from the difficulties of the present time and who most of them have husbands, sons and brothers serving in the Forces?

Mr. McCorquodale

I do not think there is anything very terrible in registration. We have registered over 23,000,000 people in this country since the outbreak of war without any difficulty, and I can give an assurance that there will be no calling for an interview until after the week the House resumes, so that if a Debate is desired, one can be held at that time.

Captain P. Macdonald

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that there is very widespread feeling throughout the country that full use is not being made of the women already called up, and also that Government Departments are full of them, and will he see that full use is made of these women?

Mr. McCorquodale

I am not prepared to accept the accuracy of that statement.

Mr. De Ia Bère

Is it not a fact that Whitehall is chock-a-block with staff?

Miss Rathbone

Is the Minister aware that many women between the ages of 45 and 50 are willing to register for national service provided proper provision is made for cases of real hardship; and that this stunt of agitation against the proposal is not supported by the worthier sections of women's opinion?

Sir William Davison

Can the hon. Gentleman say what is the estimate of the Ministry as to the number of women between 45 and 50 who are likely to be employed on war work apart from what they are already doing?

Mr. McCorquodale

That is exactly what we want to find out. At the present time we know that in the four age classes to be registered some 25 per cent. are already in full-time employment. We want to find out whether that employment is, in actual fact, necessary and vital employment and whether any of the other 75 per cent. can join that 25 per cent. either for full or, more probably, for part time.

Mr. Molson

In view of the assurance which has now been given by the Minister that these women will not be called up for service or interview before the House next meets, may we have an assurance from the Leader of the House that an opportunity will be given to the House to debate this matter?

The Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs (Mr. Eden)

I was proposing to deal with that when I announced the Business to be taken during the week we return. I think it would be probably desirable—and I consulted my right hon. Friend the Minister of Labour—that shortly after the House next meets there should be a general Debate on the manpower question covering both this question and allied questions.

Mr. Arthur Greenwood

Will the general Debate cover the whole manpower issue, including the proposal to recruit boys of 16 for the mines?

Mr. Eden

That is what I meant to say just now.

Mr. Gallacher

I want to ask a question—

Mr. Speaker

Mr. Greenwood—

Mr. Bellenger

On a point of Order. Shall we be precluded, Mr. Speaker, from questioning the Leader of the House on Business as to the proposed Debate which it is suggested should be held after the Recess on the man-power problem?

Mr. Speaker

That depends what the questions are. I think we had better get on with Business, and then we will see.

Mr. Gallacher

On a point of Order. Is it in Order for the Leader of the House to get up on a Question like this and make such a statement, in view of the fact that there have not been complaints hitherto about women of 60 and 70 who are having to work? Why should hon. Members opposite get up now and make this a stunt?