HC Deb 29 June 1943 vol 390 cc1437-40
3. Captain Peter Macdonald

asked the Secretary of State for War what will be the position in respect of pensions and allowances for members of the Voluntary Aid Detachment now under military law?

Mr. A. Henderson

V.A.Ds. will remain eligible as hitherto for the benefits of the pension code for members of the Forces. The same conditions will apply to them as to other women members of the Forces. In accordance with a specific recommendation of the report of the Committee on Voluntary Aid Detachments, V.A.Ds. will in general receive the same allowances as A.T.S. "other ranks."

Mr. Astor

Are any changes in the uniforms of the V.A.D. contemplated?

Mr. Henderson

No, Sir.

4. Captain Macdonald

asked the Secretary of State for War whether he has considered the apprehension aroused among members of the Voluntary Aid Detachment at the proposal in the recent White Paper that the office of commandant should be abolished, as this will mean that members of the Voluntary Aid Detachment will have no superior officers of their own to whom to appeal for help or advice; and. whether he will make a statement on the matter?

17. General Sir George Jeffreys

asked the Secretary of State for War whether, in giving effect to the recommendations of the Committee on Voluntary Aid Detachments, he will reconsider the recommendation that the services of Voluntary Aid Detachment commandants in military hospitals shall he dispensed with; and whether he is aware that, if this recommendation is carried into effect,. members of Voluntary Aid Detachments in military hospitals will be the only women's Service with no officers of their own to look after their administration and general welfare?

Mr. Henderson

I fully sympathise with my hon. and gallant Friends' concern for the care and welfare of the members of the Voluntary Aid Detachments. This question was carefully considered by the Committee before they made the recommendation referred to. The V.A.D. members usually work with the matrons and sisters of the Queen Alexandra's Imperial Military Nursing Service, who, under the supervision of the commanding officer of the unit concerned, will carry out the duties which used to be performed by the V.A.D. commandants. My right hon. Friend regards this recommendation as no less acceptable than the rest of the Report.

Captain Macdonald

Is the hon. and learned Gentleman aware that the V.A.D. have always had their own commandants to appeal to and to administer their affairs, and would he reconsider the question of providing some means whereby they can continue to have their own commandant in the future?

Miss Rathbone

Seeing that these recommendations were agreed to by the Committee, on which the V.A.D. were represented, is it not a pity that there should be all this socially-inspired prejudice against them?

Mr. Henderson

The House will appreciate that this scheme has not yet come into operation. Also, it is an accepted principle in the Services that the care of personnel is vested in the officers under whom the personnel work. I am quite sure that when the scheme comes into operation the matrons and the sisters of the Queen Alexandra Imperial Nursing Service will live up to the standard which has always been set in the British Army, and will fulfil their responsibilities to the V.A.D. If, however, in the course of experience, it transpires that practical problems such as my hon. and gallant Friend has referred to arise, I am sure my right hon. Friend will give sympathetic consideration to such problems.

Earl Winterton

Will my hon. and learned Friend make it clear—which, if I may so, he has not yet done—that this was the result of agreement, or compromise, between representatives of the very people about whom Questions are now being asked? Will he also make it clear that no authoritative complaint against the proposal has come from the heads of the Service in question?

Mr. Henderson

Yes, Sir. As regards the latter part of the Supplementary, I will answer in the affirmative. No complaint has been received. As regards the representative character of those who signed the Report, it was signed by Lady Limerick, of the British Red Cross, and Lady Louis Mountbatten, of the Order of St. John. It is quite true that they did express concern at one point as to the position of the V.A.D. in the event of the position of commandant being abolished. It is, however, stated in paragraph 25 of the Report that the assent of these representatives of the voluntary societies has been given in response to explanations furnished by the Director-General of Army Medical Services, concerning the more detailed application and implications of the above arrangements, and they and other members of the Committee are now satisfied that the welfare of the V.A.D. will be duly safeguarded.

Sir G. Jeffreys

Is the hon. and learned Member aware that the medical officers and the Queen Alexandra Service nurses have not the time to look after the welfare of a considerable body of members of the V.A.D. in addition to their other duties, and that the V.A.D. will he the only women's body who will not have their own officers to look after them?

Mr. Henderson

I cannot accept the suggestion that the Queen Alexandra Service will not lave the time to look after the welfare of the V.A.D.; but, as I have said, if, in the light of experience, it transpires that problems arise, I am quite sure my right hon. Friend will face up to them.

Captain Crowder

What is going to be done in the meantime with these commandants?