HC Deb 23 September 1943 vol 392 cc459-541

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That this House do now Adjourn."—[Mr. James Stuart.]

Mr. Arthur Greenwood (Wakefield)

On the question of Business to-day, does the Leader of the House think that he might perhaps agree to an extension of to-day's Debate time—I am not asking for an extension on the next Sitting Day—if there proves to be, as there well may be, a very large number of Members of the House who wish to speak in this Debate?

Mr. Tinker (Leigh)

Could I also reinforce that plea? You see the feeling of how we want to do our work. Give us our opportunity.

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

I think we had better see how we get on. If necessary, I would rather have an extension on the next Sitting Day than to-day.

Mr. Buchanan (Glasgow, Gorbals)

This Debate is on man-power and covers quite a number of subjects. May I ask, Mr. Speaker, whether you could indicate in any way how it is proposed that the Debate should be conducted? I understand there is a feeling in some quarters that the question on the call-up to 50 should be concentrated on to-day. If you could give us some idea, it might help us to form an opinion.

Mr. Speaker

I have always felt that it was disadvantageous when hon. Members jumped from one subject to another. I hope that hon. Members will be brief. I should hope to call those who wish to speak on women's problems to-day and, on the next Sitting Day, those who wish to discuss the mining problem.

Mr. Holdsworth (Bradford, South)

If we stick to this one subject, will there be some way of expressing the wish of the House by means of a Division?

Mr. Speaker

No Amendment can be moved on an Adjournment Motion.

Mr. Molson (The High Peak)

May we take it that to-day and on the next Sitting Day it will be possible to raise other matters in connection with man-power besides these two specific subjects?

Mr. Speaker

Of course, I can only give general guidance to the House. Once hon. Members are on their feet, I have no control over what subjects they wish to raise.

The Minister of Labour (Mr. Ernest Bevin)

I welcome this opportunity for a discussion on the problem of man-power, and I would ask hon. Members to realise, after listening to the previous Debate and to the statement of the Prime Minister, that we have approached this problem with a clear view in our mind that the war is not yet over. In fact, in dealing with the problem of the provision of manpower in this country, the real battle for final victory has not yet begun. The heavy, and anticipated, casualty list which happily we have been saved from in this war as compared with the previous war does not signify that provision has not got to be made for it when the eloquence for the further front is translated into action. In working out the strategy and the fulfilment of that strategy, of what I hope is the last phase, every provision must be made, every provision has to be made—but though I say "last," it is likely to be prolonged—for the struggle which will face us in 1944 will be titanic. I would emphasise that we should not be doing our duty if we either gave way to sentiment at this stage of the war or failed to take every precaution, whatever the class of citizens which may be affected. It is in that spirit and, I hope, with impartiality that the Cabinet faced what I might term this rather difficult but important turn of the screw. I may say, that in 1940, when danger loomed so large and we did not feel quite so safe, I do not think it would have provoked a Debate.

I therefore want very briefly, and as quickly as I can, because it is not my intention at this stage of the Debate to take very much of the time of the House, to present the picture as it is and what we have to do in order that hon. Members may have the facts upon which to base their judgment, and not I hope their political prejudices. Mobilisation has reached a stage in this country which is not exceeded by any country in the war. We have not—[Interruption.] Please do not interrupt; I have a difficult job. Germany has had the power and the ruthlessness to call on many millions of foreign workers who have been driven into their war machine. We did not have that power, and if we had had it I hope we would not have used it. Since I took office I have had to work on a very limited basis, with a circumscribed population. Many Members of this House have served in Govern-merits before my time. I have been unable to find any experts who ever put forward the idea or substantiated the conception that Great Britain, out of her population, could provide in a war a continental Army, an Air Force of the size we have got, and a Navy of the extent we have got, and maintain mechanical equipment in a mechanised war to the extent we have had to do. I do not believe that anyone who ever studied this problem before the war broke out, facing it in all its aspects, believed such a thing possible. But we have had to do it, and we have done it. That I believe is a triumph of British organisational genius.

How has it been done? I have registered every man in the country between the ages of 18 and 51. To date I have registered all women from 18 to 47. That has involved the registration of 10,000,000 men and 10,000,000 women. In addition, to carry out the decisions of the Cabinet, I have had special registrations of men and women with special skill or experience—engineers, electricians, shipbuilders, miners, nurses and now cotton workers—in order to fill the gaps and provide the man-power for the country. I have assumed that in doing this I have been carrying out the will of this House, because the determination of this House and of the nation has been to win this war. I hope to stop at nothing until we have won the war, whatever the consequences may be. I began with a population, between the ages of 14 and 64, of 33,000,000 people. What has happened to those 33,000,000? Of them, 22,750,000 are in the Services, Civil Defence, or paid employment, either in the munitions industries or carrying on the civil life of the community where we have agreed that they should remain. That includes 700,000 part-time women. There are in the country nearly 16,000,000 males between 14 and 64, and over 15,000,000 are in the service of the country or in paid employment. There are 17,000,000 women between 14 and 64, and 7,750,000 of them are in the Services or in paid employment at the present moment. The remainder of those women are left to carry on the domestic life of the country. There are over 1,000,000 doing unpaid voluntary work, which we should otherwise have to find paid persons to do. Therefore, I add to the 7,750,000 over 1,000,000 who are in fact rendering service to the country of a national character of one kind or another. There are the W.V.S. and all kinds of services, nursing, Y.M.C.A. canteens, billeting, and any amount of services.

Mr. MacLaren (Burslem)

Full time?

Mr. Bevin

They are mostly giving full time. This registration will discover whether they are or not. Over 9,000,000 children under the age of 14 have to be looked after in this country, and that I regard as a form of national service. Of the single women between 18 and 40, 90 per cent. are working. That leaves only ten per cent. for sickness and various ailments in the country. There are over 80 per cent. of married women of that age group without children engaged in the war effort. That is my answer to the hon. Member who put a. question to me to-day suggesting that I should go hunting everybody. I do my best, but, really, when you have worked the mobilisation of married women, even if they have not got children, up to 81 per cent., I think you have reached a very high figure. More than 1,000,000 men and women over 65 are in paid employment in the country. I would like to mention this figure. We depend on shipping. It may interest the House to know that in the Merseyside and Manchester, the great mouths of England at present, the average age of the docker is nearly 51, and he is giving a remarkable turn round of ships under present circumstances. I saw the other day a man of 83 wheeling 3-cwt. bags of sugar. I do not think that I have been very harsh on other people when that sort of thing is happening. I hope that it will be borne in mind. Over 2,500,000 women have been recruited to the Forces and industry from the non-industrial classes.

All this has involved much curtailment of industry and services, and, I am afraid, much inconvenience to the civilian population. No one is more conscious than I am of the restrictions which my right hon. Friend the Minister of Food and my right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade have had to impose, and I am longing for the day when our raw material position is better, when we can ease up a bit and make civilian life a little easier, The moment that that can be done, consistently with the provision of weapons of war for our men in the field, it will be done.

Despite a slight fall in the population of working age, which I have quoted, in the year from July, 1942, to June, 1943, more than 1,000,000 were added to the Forces and the munitions industry, and two-fifths of them were obtained from the non-industrial classes, the remainder coming from the contraction of less vital industries. Another striking fact emerges. I mentioned in opening that no one could have imagined that we could carry an Army of the size we have got—the figures of which, of course, I cannot give in public—and such an Air Force and Navy; but in this war we are employing on munitions 2,250,000 more people than we were at the end of the last war. That gives some indication of the titanic effort we have had to make. It is quite true that to do it I have been compelled, with the support of my colleagues in the Cabinet, to extend greater and greater controls. I extended the Control of Employment Order, so that women of 18 to 40 must get their jobs through the employment exchanges. I had to undertake—and I assure the House that it was rather an unhappy thing to do—the direction to part-time work. In this field I enter very closely into the domestic life of the people. I assure the House that while I am willing to do anything which is necessary to win the war, I will not be a party to anything unless it is proved necessary. That is the basis upon which this mobilisation has been carried out.

I had to introduce the Notice of Termination of Employment Order, to prevent wastage between jobs which did not come under the Essential Work Order. I must say, and the country and the House must realise, that so far as man-power is concerned, with this effort we are now making for 1943–44 and within the limits of our population, mobilisation must be regarded as virtually reaching the limit and complete. Apart from a small number to be made available from measures already announced and new entrants from the younger age classes, there can be little addition to our man-power. I have to face, in the course of this problem, a good many difficulties. One is the question of leaving industry. Leaving industry arises from many causes. There are ill-health, marriage, pregnancy, and all kinds of difficulties for which you have to release people from industry week by week. That involves a wastage of about 10 per cent, per annum. But this has to be made good, if you are to keep your war machine going. Therefore there is a constant adjustment between those whom you release and those whom you must take into the machine of Production. There is a good deal of loss through changing jobs, which arises from many causes. It does involve a turnover to the extent of nearly 20 per cent., and it arises from very many causes. I am happy to say that the turnover of labour, like mobilisation, is lower in this country than it is even in Germany, with all their Gestapos, or in America or anywhere in the world. That speaks well for the steadiness and continuity of our people in this great effort.

I know that there is absenteeism, but I have noticed it in other places besides the workshop. After four years of war and five black-out winters, with all that means, it takes a great will indeed never to take a day off. I do not think I could do it, but I do not think, when hon. Members indulge in criticism, they bear that in mind very much. In order to try and cope with all this, I have insisted upon personnel management which, I believe, if persisted in now and maintained after the end of the war, and given a proper executive place in industry, will be one of the saviours of British industry now and in the future. Therefore, by utilising this new development of personnel management, investigation and welfare and a hundred and one things we have reduced absenteeism and turnover, I believe, as low as we can.

I went into figures of absenteeism from sample firms the other day and found that over 50 per cent. of it was unavoidable when translated into a proper form of return. You cannot merely say that it is absenteeism because a person stays away; you have to know why he stays away and what was involved. I have also encouraged the works' doctor and the nurse to send people home sometimes when they suffer from colds rather than take the risk of colds spreading to everybody else in the works, and that at times makes these figures go up.

May I deal with the problem that lies ahead? The Minister of Defence, the Prime Minister, having examined all the strategy of the war and the tasks that lie ahead, came to the Cabinet and, in the terms of that strategy, made a demand for labour. I have read in the Press that all this arises because I am a little enthusiastic or something. I did not know that that was a sin among Cabinet Ministers, but I read it in "The Times" the other day and was rather struck by it. [An HON. MEMBER: "It is an exception."] That is what caused the surprise. This is a decision of the Cabinet and not of the Minister of Labour. It is a decision arising out of the Defence Committee's examination of what is needed to meet to carry out the strategy of the war. Therefore, any opposition you offer will not be offered to me as Minister of Labour, if that is what has attracted you. You will be offering it to the Prime Minister, and the Cabinet which determines the position. I can assure the House that any Minister would be a fool if he looked for trouble like this. I am the person who has to interfere with the lives of the people and the less I have to do it, the better is my job, but I am not going to shirk my responsibility when the Cabinet comes to a decision.

As a result of a careful examination of what would be required the figure finally resolved upon was that I had to find for the last nine months of 1943 another 700,000 people, out of the residue that was left. How have I to do it? I have heard Chancellors of the Exchequer stand at this Box and suggest that sometimes the finding of money is rather more difficult than finding persons. After examining the whole of the situation, it was decided to take these steps, which I announced to the House. We decided to reduce to a minimum the intake into the Women's Services, much to the disappointment of many girls who have been studying and hoping to get in. I am very grateful to them for responding to the switch-over. I have had very little difficulty; their public spirit has been magnificent. The second point was to register women up to 50. We also decided upon the retention in the aircraft industry of certain R.A.F. mechanics who have been lent by the R.A.F. In addition we decided upon the rearrangement of the labour force already in the munition industry. In other words, the War Office has been reviewing its requirements, examin- ing stocks, cutting down and then switching over the available labour to the industries which have been given the highest priority. What are those industries? First, it was aircraft. The decision of the Cabinet is that the bomber forces and the other forces must not only be maintained but expanded. We have not only to make good the losses which take place and which you see reported week by week and night by night, but we have to increase these forces. I would ask hon. Members to appreciate the fact that the more you increase your bomber forces and the more targets you go to hit, the less loss you get. It prevents the concentration of the enemy on one single force. Therefore, the priority is given in 1943–44 to aircraft.

It is said that we have the people now, and they cannot be employed. We have to train people. The expanding programme never takes place at the moment you put a person into the works. It has to be worked up. With the thousands going out and the new components being created, one of the difficulties in carrying out the switch-over is the fact that there is a tendency to lose people unless you can place the work where the people are. You lose the immobile people if you transfer work from one town to another. That is obvious. We are trying, therefore, as far as we humanly can, to spread these new works and new developments and not to waste the labour of people if we can help it. If women up to the age of 50 are residing in aircraft districts, it is a great help if they can go in at once. Hon. Members in this House, I believe, will support me when I say that, from practical experience, where women go in at these middle ages, there is less absenteeism, and greater efficiency.

When I took office I had to ask employers on one accasion why they refused to take on women of 40. The great difficulty then was that there were so many women in the country of this age that they could not get a job, and I had to force employers to take them. I am very glad that I did. Employers have realised since that the steadying influence of the middle-aged woman in the workshop has been a great success and of great benefit to everybody concerned. If they do not get into the aircraft industries, these women can be a great asset in the distributive trades, in offices and in all kinds of work where mobile women can be re- leased in order to go to the aircraft districts. When we registered the 47 age-group a fortnight ago we did not have a single complaint. I do not think that this ought to be "put over" on the women at all. There are local hospitals, shops, canteens and restaurants and all sorts of things, which, if arrangements can be made, they will come forward to help.

There has been an agitation over the registration of the women between the ages of 45 and 50. I am not impressed by the medical arguments at all, as I will show the House by the numbers who are already working. I registered nurses and midwives up to the age of 60 and no one made a protest. Why did not they do so? [Interruption.] I will leave that to the House. I have registered cotton operatives up to 55. I must get women into the cotton trade if I am to keep this branch of industry going, and cotton production is absolutely essential to maintain the war machine. Why has nobody said a word about this? It is most strange to me, I must confess. I really would like to hear in the Debate what is the particular thing that has caused the frightful stir about this latest age-group. After what women have done for the country, I have to face the sincerity of this objection. I say this now in order that it may be answered. I recognise that there is a strain. Since the outbreak of war, the number between the ages of 40 and 60 that has gone into industry without question is over 800,000. There are 1,600,000 women between the ages of 40 and 60 in employment at the present time and over 500,000 between the ages of 46 and 50.

Viscountess Astor (Plymouth, Sutton)

These are voluntary?

Mr. Bevin

I do not see that there is any physical difference. I am challenging the suggestion that there is a difference between the women who have always been to work and any other class in the country. I have seen the articles in the Press. I do not mind anybody arguing that it is not necessary for the war effort, but I do not like this sort of business brought in—that there is a difference between two sets of women in the country. I recognise that you have to exercise very great care, and that care will be exercised. The interviewing will be done by women of similar ages; there will be the right of appeal to a women's panel; there will be the local appeal board, if that is desired. None of these women will be required to live away from home. I will not call them for interview if it is clear that they cannot undertake the work or if there is a reserve in the district of younger immobile women. There will be sympathetic treatment as regards their health and a recognition of the difficulties of women in this age-group.

Now may I turn to another vexed side of this question? When I have done this in connection with aircraft industry, that will not be sufficient. I shall have to direct boys of 16 to 17 to the aircraft industry. I have tried not to do this up to now so as not to limit a boy's chances of finding his place in industry. This age is the delicate, kindergarten age. It is a question of these young people finding their future place in industry, and up to now I have left it to free engagement as much as I could. But we are at such a stage now that if the aircraft industry is to be properly manned, then I must resort to this direction.

Mr. Holdsworth

Do I understand that every boy of 16 to 17 will be sent to the aircraft industry?

Mr. Bevin

No, according to the vacancies there are I shall have to resort to direction to fill them, even although I have to take some lads from other industries.

Earl Winterton (Horsham and Worthing)

Will the Minister make it clear that this has a universal application? Will he make it clear that it will not only apply to a certain number but will apply equally to boys at Public Schools?

Mr. Bevin

There is to be no discrimination. Whatever else I may be accused of, I do not intend to submit to the accusation that I am showing any preference to anybody. That certainly cannot be charged against me.

Mis Rathbone

Why not girls?

Mr. Bevin

They will go, in the same way.

Sir Adam Maitland (Faversham)

Do I understand that in addition to the women it is expected to get, the Minister must also direct boys?

Mr. Bevin

It is additional to anything I may get from the women. There will be no discrimination wherever they may be.

Mr. Cocks (Broxtowe)

If a boy is at school is he liable?

Mr. Bevin


Mr. R. J. Taylor (Morpeth)

Will boys and girls of 16 to 17 have to leave home?

Mr. Bevin

I shall try to avoid any leaving home for boys and girls of that age. That is a point I am studying now.

Mr. Craik Henderson (Leeds, North East)

Do I understand that where it is a question between women up to 51 and boys the Minister will take them equally or will lake the women first and then the boys? What order has the Minister in mind?

Mr. Bevin

It is not a question of order. I need both. There is no question of priority. Every woman I can get, subject to the guarantee I have given, I shall need and every lad I can get I shall need. But I emphasise this. If a boy is going on to a secondary school and I had to choose between his education and the temporary use of a woman aged 47 to 50 I think I should give priority to the boy, or to the girl as the case may be. After all, the lives of these young people are before them and if I did that I believe the women would prefer it.

Mr. Doland (Balham and Tooting)

Will that apply to girls as well?

Mr. Bevin

Yes, I have just said so.

Now I come to coalmining. It is my duty to try and maintain, on the Cabinet decision, 720,000 men and youths in this industry. To do that I require 30,000 as soon as possible and at least another 20,000 next year. The wastage has to be made good. The average age, obviously, is going up, and as far as possible we want to get in the younger people. To meet this situation in the past we have brought men back from the Forces and from industries. We gave an option for mining when men of 18 to 25 were called up, and the reason for that was largely to try and balance the personnel at the younger end with the growing age in the mines. We therefore brought this option specially to the notice of these men. I addressed an extensive appeal to all fit men of military age urging them to volunteer. I have been asked why I did not direct straight away. But picking up 50,000 is not like calling up men for the Army at the rate of 5,000 or 6,000 a month. It is not quite so easy as a general calling-up. It was not only to get the young but it was also to get the willing people if we could and be able to post them a few at a time and not in large numbers, as is done in the Army. This raised the question of directing surface workers and here, if the House will bear with me, as I want to be careful about this, I propose to read the next passage in order that it may be perfectly clear.

On the question of directing surface or other workers below ground there seems to be some misunderstanding and the Government feel an explanation is necessary. The position is as follows: No man transferred from one job in industry to another is given the alternative of joining the Armed Forces. I am daily transferring substantial numbers of men from one job to another and none of these is given the option of going into the Forces. Therefore, if the Government admitted the claim in the case of surface workers who are required to transfer from one job in the coalmining industry to another job in that industry, we should, in fact, be creating for them a special privileged position as compared with that of other men. The option that has been referred to is of a different kind. It is limited to men of military age who are not in a reserved occupation or who are not deferred, and it arises only when they are in fact called up for the Forces. It was necessary to reduce the average age of men in coalmining where younger men are needed, and it was therefore decided to give these men an opportunity of taking underground work in coalmining as an alternative to the Forces. The policy of the Government is that we have to maintain the coal output necessary for carrying on the war, and we shall utilise those who have opted or those who have volunteered and if vacancies still exist we shall, in addition, proceed to direct men to the mines whether they have been in that industry before or not. There will be no distinction. Every man so directed will, of course, have an opportunity of appeal just as surface workers have that opportunity now. I will not add to that statement. It is the declaration of the Government and a clear statement of the position as it is now and as it will be proceeded with immediately.

Mr. Cocks

Does it mean that until universal conscription is applied you will cease the practice of sending surface youths to work underground against their will?

Mr. Bevin

I would ask my hon. Friend to read in Hansard what I have said and to study it. If I send a man from an aircraft works to drop-forging, he has no right to go into the Forces. He has to go to drop-forging. In the same way, a woman going from Scotland to the Midlands has no alternative. It was put to me that I ought to treat surface workers differently from the men underground. I was surprised to get that put to me from a mining district. I have been for a long time associated with the trade unions and up to now it has always been claimed in the strongest manner that everybody in and about a mine was part of the mining industry. If that is repudiated now, it may solve some union troubles.

Mr. Foster (Wigan)

There is a great deal of difference between working on the surface and working underground. That is where the whole trouble lies. Those who are directing youths do not seem to appreciate the conditions underground, and because of that lads are refusing to be directed.

Mr. Bevin

There have been only 100 objections. Over 4,000 have gone down without difficulty. As I stated in answer to a Question earlier to-day, 3,099 have gone down from other industries so the numbers who have gone down from the surface and outside are about equal. At any rate, that is the policy of the Government and one to which we must adhere.

I have already mentioned the registration in connection with the cotton industry. I must increase the labour force by many thousands in this vital industry. I am sorry to have to register women up to 55, but I have to get them back and I believe our good friends in Lancashire will give their services again to help us out of our present difficulties.

Mr. Molson

How many thousands will be sent to the cotton industry?

Mr. Bevin

I have not the exact figures, but it will be many thousands, I have to have 10,000 to 12,000 almost immediately. I may have to bring people back from some munition industries and use other immobile women to take their places.

There is one last service—transport. One of the great anxieties we have had is that of moving people to and from their work when we have been handicapped in many ways and have not been able to help them. We are gravely concerned about its effect on the health of the people. We want to reduce the time and to facilitate travelling as much as we can, but anything that we do in this respect must be limited to the essential services. We feel that it is a most vital and important thing to facilitate the bus services as much as we can. That must have priority. To do that I want several thousand bus conductors, and that will rank equally with aircraft because it is absolutely vital. Therefore I want to take this opportunity to thank most sincerely our bus men and bus girls for the marvellous service they have rendered. No one knows the irritation and the difficulty that the job involves, and these women on crowded vehicles have done a marvellous job. But I must ask for more, and that is one of the reasons for expansion, in order to obtain available women for the service.

Nursing and midwifery also have a special call. I am hoping in a few days to have the Report of the Hetherington Committee, which will enable me, I hope, to tackle much better domestic service in hospitals and institutions of that kind where there is a terrible shortage. I am glad to say that the registration of nurses and midwives brought in 400,000 persons. Now we started interviewing in June and by the end of August we have placed in training or employment nearly 3,000 nurses and they are going on now at the rate of about 300 a week, mainly women up to 60 years of age who have married and gone out of the profession and are now coming back and helping the nation at this critical moment. They like registration because they say it enables them to know that they are doing what the State really wants them to do. We have, of course, exercised great care in the handling of this problem.

Finally, we have not only to look ahead and prepare for wastage but to prepare for the great and final struggle to which I have referred. It is essential to see that everyone who can serve shall do so to the best of their ability. I do not believe there is a single citizen worthy of the name who would have it otherwise, and I am confident that if hon. Members will exercise their judgment on the task which the Cabinet has decided has to be faced, they will face it in this House as resolutely as we did in the Cabinet and will support us in carrying out this mobilisation of man-power which I hope is final and will bring victory nearer to all of us.

Mr. Craik Henderson (Leeds, North-East)

I should like to congratulate the right hon. Gentleman on his speech, though I resent very much his suggestion that this has anything to do with class or anything of that kind. I have an enormous correspondence, and over 90 per cent. of it comes from working people. In this matter I am speaking on behalf of every class, and it seems to me a very farfetched suggestion that the people under 45 are all people of the working class and that those of 45 and onwards are all people of a different class. The objection that is taken is not on any class basis at all. This is merely a question whether it is to the advantage of the country, that these women up to 51 years of age should be directed into industry. I admire and have always admired the right hon. Gentleman's zeal. In this case it is his judgment and it may be the judgment of the Cabinet that I question. On the evidence that he has put before us, I should be inclined to say that he has proved too much. He has proved—I am convinced that this is the case—that no country on earth in this or any other war has taken a larger proportion of the population for the Services and for munitions than we have in this war. He has proved the number of people of all ages who are voluntarily working, and he has proved the very small residue that is left. I admit readily that no one would have believed that this country could produce an Army, Air Force and Navy of the size that we have produced and also obtain the men and women we have for the munitions industry. May I quote from a speech that I made in this House three years ago? I am sure that nothing would give Members greater pleasure than to see us with the largest Army in the world, but we cannot have it. We must cut our coat according to our cloth. No doubt Hitler would like to have had a Navy comparable with the British Navy but wisely he decided to concentrate on a huge army. With our man-power we have to consider how we are going to use our smaller numbers. We cannot hope to match man against man in the German army."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 4th December, 1940; col. 592, Vol. 367.] That is one of the questions which this House has a duty to consider. Are we attempting with our very much smaller population to do something that it is beyond our capacity to do? We have built up an enormous air service, we have a magnificent Navy, and we have enormous production. The Prime Minister has told us that the production of aeroplanes here and in the United States exceeded that of Germany by four times. Are we in such a state of desperation that we have to take the course that the Minister recommends? It is our duty to consider whether it is going to benefit the country and whether, taking a long-term view, it will be an advantage to call up these women. The right hon. Gentleman has said that the Minister of Defence after going into the figures had decided that a large number was required to carry out the operations that we had in view. I thought the operations we had in view had been agreed with our Allies. No one has a greater admiration than I have for the United States. I am proud of them as Allies, but at present they have not conscripted one woman. If the Minister is correct that the position is as he states, one would have thought that the United States, who are as anxious as we are to win the war, would at least have conscripted the lower age groups. Germany to-day is facing defeat. Her production is being ruined by intensive bombing. Her armies are reeling back on every side. She has been out-munitioned to an enormous extent, and yet up to the present she has not called up women of 45 in her desperate situation.

It is the little extra which breaks the camel's back. An enormous number of people have already been withdrawn from their homes, the professions, and industry, and we have to he careful that we do not go too far in our demands, In 1940 in the most desperate moment of our existence we asked men to work longer hours than were wise. It was a question of a short rush in a desperate situation, and we thought that might help. As a matter of fact, as we all know now, it was a failure. It did more harm than good, and I suggest that this will have exactly the same effect. If we endeavour to drive a willing horse too hard, the result will not be to the advantage of the country. I am going to ask the House to consider the problem purely from the point of view whether these proposals are to the advantage of the country or not. In spite of the attitude that the Minister adopted, I hope the House will approach this without prejudice of any kind. It is a question of the most enormous importance, and I hope we shall approach it in a calm, impartial spirit. It is a matter on which the House should express an opinion. I have had experience from the extreme North to the South, and there is no question that is disturbing the minds of the people more than this proposed call-up. It has caused an enormous feeling of hardship. You cannot expect a man who is working long hours under difficult conditions who for four and a half years has been putting his whole body and soul into producing munitions to feel happy if he knows that his wife, whose health perhaps is not too good, who has been through bombing and other difficulties, is being asked to spend four or five hours a day in munition work. He knows the shopping she has to do, the standing in queues, the writing to her family who are abroad. He knows that she is always worried about her sons fighting in the Middle East and elsewhere and sometimes mourning. That is not going to have a good effect on the morale of the people. I am convinced that the result will be rather to the disadvantage of the country than to its advantage.

Miss Rathbone (Combined English Universities)

Will the hon. Gentleman explain how the question of age comes into it? Suppose a woman is so hardly pressed with her domestic duties that she has not strength to do part-time work in a factory, is not that the case of many women who are below the present registration age but not the case of vast numbers who are above it? The question is, why should the age of 45 be the limiting line?

Mr. Henderson

The hon. Lady, I think, might have been able to work that out for herself. She might as well ask why we should not go up to. 102 and register centenarians. If her argument were carried to its logical conclusion we should have registration and call-up from the cradle to the grave. We are dealing with the question of fitness of people, and as the age goes up it is surely obvious that the health and ability to stand up to new work, as it will be in a great many cases, goes down.

Mr. A. Edwards (Middlesbrough, East)

Is not the hon. Member ignoring the fact that the Minister is providing for such cases as he has in mind?

Mr. Woodburn (Stirling and Clackmannan, Eastern)

The hon. Member has put a great many points about sons being in the Army and working in the factories. Is it not the case that there is not one woman who is fit and healthy above 45 who, if she knew her services would help shorten the war and bring her sons home a year earlier. would not do everything she could in a workshop?

Mr. Henderson

My hon. Friend has given me my point. She would go voluntarily. With regard to the question of my hon. Friend the Member for East Middlesbrough (Mr. A. Edwards), I agree that the Minister has given some assurance and I welcome it, but I know of cases in various neighbourhoods of women of 44 who have been treated in a very harsh manner. I have letters from dozens of doctors showing that the effect on women of this age of merely being called for registration and perhaps having to go before appeal committees will be very serious.

Dr. Edith Summerskill (Fulham, West)


Mr. Henderson

These doctors are more eminent than the hon. Lady. [Interruption.] The Minister was allowed to develop his speech, and I must ask the House to allow me to make the points I want to make. I have a good many letters from doctors and I have seen in a good many medical papers and others references to the effect on women of this age. I will quote only two letters I have had from doctors. The hon. Lady the Member for West Fulham (Dr. Summerskill) will, I have no doubt, disagree, but the House will judge.

Dr. Summerskill

Will the hon. Gentle, man give their qualifications?

Mr. Henderson

No, I certainly will not, but I can assure the hon. Lady that some of my correspondents are very eminent indeed. One of them said: Besides, these women—very many suffer from nervous exhaustion, rheumatism, cardiac disorders, anaemia and insomnia—are physically unable to undertake any additional duties. Already they are harassed by shopping (long waiting in queues) and housework single handed; and many can hardly manage that efficiently. If additional burdens are forced upon them it will certainly not be long until health breaks down. As a result morale will be lowered in the family circle and resentment spread, with impairment to the war effort. Another doctor says that apart from a very serious factor which he mentions, there will be an enormous increase in factory accidents due to the attacks of vertigo to which women are so prone at this age. I do not want to weary the House with extracts because there may be a certain number of Members with medical knowledge who will be able to confirm what these doctors have said.

Mrs. Cazalet Keir (Islington, East)

Is it not a fact, and have we not got it from the Minister, that no woman in this new age group, any more than any woman in any other age group, whose health will be prejudiced will be called up?

Mr. Henderson

That, of course, is beside the point. We know that certain women have already been called up in the lower age group who have not been able to stand the strain, but the point I am making is that in the class of women in this particularly critical period the number who will break down in health is larger than those in the lower age group. That is a point on which I cannot speak with authority, but it is what I am told by a large number of doctors who say that they have no interest to serve in giving this opinion any more than I have. None of my relatives are in this age group and I am speaking purely as a Member of the House without personal interest.

The Minister seemed to take up the position that the only test is whether he will get some extra labour by the course he proposes. Surely we have to consider whether we have already exceeded or will exceed the proportion that should go to the Services and to munitions. I have already made the point that we have already given to the Services and munitions a larger proportion of the people than any other coun- try in any period of its history or that any of our opponents or Allies in this war have done. With regard to the point which has been made by hon. Members in interruptions as to why one objects to the registration of women between 45 and 51, there is a simple answer. The law of diminishing returns applies as much to increase of age as the increase of taxation. When we are calling up the 19 age group we have people who have not become key men in industry and whose health is good. The standard of health among the 19's is entirely different from that among women of 45 to 51. In this age group there is a larger proportion of people with heavy responsibilities than in almost any other group. They are people in business who carry heavy responsibilities, they are married people whose families are away fighting, and in health they are in an entirely different category from the young people of 19 to 25.

The Minister also apparently took up the position that the only test to be applied was whether we would gain by taking these women. That test has not been applied throughout the whole range and I think the Government and the House has been right in the attitude they have taken up in regard to the other classes. Clergymen and ministers of religion are not called up for the Services or for industry, and I think that decision was probably right. Those who have to give comfort to those who are mourning should not themselves be called up, but if I were a clergyman of 23 or 24 I should hate to be left at home when women of 50 with worries and anxieties and in poor health are being sent to industry. Then there are the conscientious objectors. A conscientious objector objects to going to an aeroplane factory because it helps the war effort, and he is allowed to carry on as before. [HON. MEMBERS: "No.") He is; I have been a member of a conscientious objectors' tribunal and I know. If he satisfies the tribunal that he has a conscientious objection he is allowed to keep out of essential industry or anything which might help the war effort. The Minister has referred to the question of youths, and I hope that the day will not come when we have to call up boys of 16 and 17 and close down the secondary schools and universities. If, however, it is only a question of getting man-power here is a field far more fertile than the women of 46 to 51. These boys are more adaptable and their health is better, and if they went into factories on part-time they would produce more and better work than women who have reached a certain stage of life without having had any training in industry. There is an enormous field to be explored, and I hope that subsequent speakers will explore it.

The Minister failed to deal with the crux of the whole matter, the better utilisation of existing labour. That is a point we made in the Motion which has been signed by 200 Members. What we say is that we are of opinion that the necessity for such registration would be obviated by the better utilisation of the personnel of the Civil Service and the women's Services. We have not heard a word from the Minister about this matter. I would particularly ask the Minister of Labour what has happened to the report of the Cabinet Committee which considered the question of staffs in the Civil Service apart from the Service Ministries. We are told that that Report showed that there was a redundancy in these Departments of 45,000 people. So far from any of them having gone, I am told there is an increase of 10,000. Is that the case? I would also ask the Minister of Labour. whether that same Committee advised that the Ministry of Labour staff should be reduced by 3,500 and that not one has yet gone.

I have had some interesting letters about the Civil Service. One is from a man in one of the Supply Services. He asks me not to disclose his name, but he is in a responsible position, with a considerable salary. He writes: From my observations I estimate that the Department, under competent administration, could be effectively run by a quarter of the staff. He has sent me a day-to-day record of the amount of work he has done over the last five months, and I will give the House a summary. In April he spent 13 days with nothing to do; in May 13 days with nothing to do, and on two days he worked mornings only and on two other days had two hours' work. In June there were 15 days with nothing to do. In July, I am glad to say, there was a change. There was one full day's work in July, hut there were i6 days with nothing to do, one day with three hours' work, one day with two hours' work and one day with 10 minutes' work. [An Hon. MEMBER: "Why does he not resign?"] He has complained, but it is not permissible for him to resign. He has been very much "told off" for complaining. In August he had six days with nothing to do. That is a record from day to day of what is happening in his Department. I cannot name the Ministry, but it is one of the Supply Ministries, and I shall be glad to discuss the case with the hon. Member opposite who wants to know more.

Mr. Mathers (Linlithgow)

May I ask what the Minister concerned says about this?

Mr. Henderson

I only received that letter yesterday morning.

Mr. Woodburn

On a point of Order. Is it right for a Member of this House to take some allegation made in a letter which he has received on a certain morning and convey the impression that the whole Civil Service is spending its time doing nothing?

Mr. Deputy-Speaker {Mr. Charles Williams)

An hon. Member who makes a statement of that kind is himself responsible for the statement. That is the position.

Mr. Henderson

If I had had the opportunity, as I have had in other cases, I should have interviewed this man. He has offered to meet me at the House and to corroborate every statement, He gives his name and references as to who he is, and I am satisfied he is stating a perfectly genuine case. But I do not want to draw conclusions from isolated cases. I have the highest opinion of the Civil Service, and I know that many Departments are working very hard, but from the evidence I have I am convinced that many other Departments could be cut down by 50 per cent. without any loss of efficiency at all. I have many other letters, but it would be taking up too much time to deal with them, and I will only refer briefly to some matters that have come within my own experience. One girl who had held a responsible post was put into the Civil Service. I do not want to mention the Department, but she was there for a year, and during that time, she told me, she certainly had not averaged more than two or three letters a day—a few minutes each day. She complained to her chief, and his reply was, "Do you expect me to make work for you?" I have had many letters to the same effect from women in the Services. I have a personal friend who is in the Civil Service temporarily. He is a very efficient business man. He found there was redundancy among his staff and struggled to get some of them sent to other Departments. He said that he spent weeks and months in dealing with inquiries and interviews. He was seen by heads of the Department, who said, "Why on earth are you bothering about this? There is a war on, and don't you realise that there may be work coming to your Department, when these girls will be required?" That was the attitude he met with. I have been told by a great number of people of the difficulty there is in getting anybody in one Department moved somewhere else.

Many hon. Members will be dealing with the question of the Civil Service, and I will pass on to the Women's Services. I have had many letters from women in the A.T.S. One writes: I have been in the A.T.S. for a year and have not done anything yet. You can understand my horror on hearing that my poor mother of 49, who is not in very good health and is working her fingers to the bone, is to be called up and sent to an aircraft factory when they won't let me go. I would willingly go but they will not let me go. I am sorry that I have mislaid a Greenock paper which was sent to me which told how women in the A.T.S. were being taken in their official time to the Town Council Meeting every week to sit for three or four hours so that they should learn how democracy works.

Mr. Evelyn Walkden (Doncaster)

As a punishment?

Mr. Henderson

It did not say so. The account went on to say that all the girls in this particular area were to be taken in turn to view this edifying spectacle and to be trained in democracy. Men and women who were struggling in queues to do their shopping must take a rather poor view of this. One morning not long ago I was in a Yorkshire town and saw crowds of women in queues, with a big basket in one hand and a crying child in the other. At that psychological moment a parade passed down the street consisting of a band and a platoon of young women who were going round the country giving demonstrations of how well they could "form threes" or whatever it is they do. If hon. Members could have heard the comments of the women in the shopping queues, they would have been satisfied that our working women take a pretty poor view of the use which is being made of the woman-power in the A.T.S. It was an absolute aggravation to those poor women, who already were tired and worried, to see these girls of 20 and 21 parading about from town to town to give an exhibition of drill. Surely there is something wrong with such a wastage of woman-power.

I have tried to cover some of the ground, tried to show that this is a problem of great importance to the country, tried to show that in my opinion, and in the opinion of at least 200 other Members, this taking away of women from their homes and from other industries which are in fact essential to the war effort must, instead of helping the war effort, have the opposite effect. When we are engaged in a world war the Government are justified in taking unpopular decisions, provided such a course is called for by considerations for the safety of the country and if every possible step has been taken to obviate the necessity and it can be shown that the ultimate effect will not be disadvantageous. The United States have not conscripted any women, and when our greatest enemy, in his direst straits, when he sees defeat staring him in the face, when he sees his production in finitesimal as compared with that of his opponents, has not even yet called up women of this age, I think we may feel that it is at least probable that he feels that such a course would not be to the advantage of his country. Believe me he has not refrained for humanitarian reasons, but weighing up the pros and cons he thought it would not be to the advantage of Germany. As the Prime Minister has pointed out, we have more aeroplanes, tanks and munitions of war than our enemies. This country has given freely of its man-power and its woman-power. These women are working to the limit of their capacity, and if we ask a little more than it is possible for them to give then, instead of getting greater production and greater efficiency, we shall get less.

I believe that the Government have taken their decision through excess of zeal and have not realised all the implications of what they are doing. I believe that, if persisted in, this course will do permanent harm to the health of these women, destroy the home life of many men, affect the morale of the country and fail to increase our production in the slightest degree. We have already given more than any other country, and there is always a danger that in war time powerful Governments may think of the individual as a cypher. I believe that more can be got out of 'middle-aged people voluntarily than by conscription. I believe the Government have blundered, and we shall not criticise them if they change their minds but shall admire them. Before these women are conscripted into industry the Government should be required to convince the House of the necessity for the step and to show. that everything has been done to utilize the man-power and woman-power which they already have at their disposal.

Mrs. Adamson (Dartford)

Man-power is vital to the war effort, and I have been amused and amazed at the agitation from certain quarters of this House in protest against the registration and possible direction of women between the ages of 45 and 50. One would imagine that the women in this country have never had to work. The women of the working class have always had to work. Since I came to this House I had heard no protest against aged women having to carry on in factories for very little money. I have known families in Lancashire in which the husband was unemployed and the Lancashire lassie has had to maintain the home and keep the husband. They have had to pool their resources at week-ends to keep the homes clean and the children tidy. There was no protest in this House against a system of society that degraded the women of this country to that extent.

Some Members of this House fail to face realities. Many of them have their womenfolk in a certain setting, which is a home where the womenfolk lead a sheltered life. They find that now, owing to the needs of the war effort, that setting is going to be rudely disturbed. I have a big postbag, because I represent a big constituency—one of the largest in the country—and, having been in the political world for the best part of the last 30 years, I have spoken practically all over Great Britain. I receive letters from practically every corner of Great Britain. I know that, speaking generally, the women of this country are not opposed to the registration and direction of women between the ages of 45 and 50. The agitation springs from men who fear that if their womenfolk are called upon for part-time work, they themselves may experience some discomfort in their homes. This criticism applies to a certain class of people in this country.

What are the facts? A large number of women in this group are at the present time doing their bit. I should be interested if the Ministry of Labour could tell us what percentage of women in this age group are already in paid employment. We have to face the fact that thousands of women are doing voluntary work, such as in the W.V.S. or in running British Restaurants or in looking after children, and that they are not classified as gainfully employed; and therefore it is a reflection on the women of this country to suggest that those between 45 and 50 are incapable of pulling their weight in the war effort. I resent the implication that women of 45–50 are old, doddering crocks that are incapable of doing anything for the country in its hour of need. There are large numbers of housewives of that age and over who are compelled to take evacuees or billetees. They are doing voluntary service. I was interested in an advertisement which appeared last week in the Sunday Press, directing all the cotton operatives up to 55 to report, if they had been engaged in the cotton trade for a specified period. One Lancashire woman said to me that if the Lancashire lassie was to be directed by the Ministry of Labour up to 55 years of age, it had to apply to women in other parts of Britain. What applies to Lancashire must apply to the rest of the country. We are not going to have any discrimination in regard to this matter. I have heard an appeal also to midwives and nurses, and I know of women over 60 who are doing their bit and doing it grandly in order to help the nation.

I am in the happy position of being able to say what is the view of working-class women on this question. I attended a meeting last week of the Standing Joint Committee of Working Women's Organisations, representing more than 2,000,000 working-class women in the trade union, Labour and Co-operative movements, and they carried a resolution in support of the proposals of the Minister of Labour. They discussed the matter from every angle. They referred also to the fact that thousands of women in this age group are already in employment doing voluntary work. If the nation says it has to organise and direct women in order to secure a better effort, they are quite prepared to do it, but they say they would much rather not have the young folk under 18 brought in. A large number of these women have, like myself, reared a family to manhood and womanhood. They have their worries because their sons are at sea or playing their part in the R.A.F. or elsewhere in the Armed Forces of the Crown. They know all about shopping difficulties and about the facts of life, particularly at the present time. As long as the Ministry give us ample safeguards, this direction should receive the support of every right thinking Member of this House.

Mr. Craik Henderson

Would the hon. Lady tell me how many women were present at the meeting and what the vote was? She mentioned that there was a vote.

Mrs. Adamson

I said quite distinctly that it was a meeting of the Standing Joint Committee of Working Women's Organisations, which has an affiliated membership of more than 2,000,000.

Mr. Henderson

But the 2,000,000 were not present, were they?

Mrs. Adamson

It would be an unpatriotic action to bring 2,000,000 women to any meeting at this stage.

Mr. Henderson

How many were present at the meeting, approximately?

Mrs. Adamson

There were representatives from affiliated organisations.

Mr. Henderson

How many were present?

Mrs. Adamson

If the hon. Member had a meeting of a few people upstairs, and passed a resolution, he would claim that the meeting represented certain sections in this House. Anyway, we did not have to go, in order to seek support, even to the prisons of this country in order to get signatures. I want proper consideration to be given to domestic responsibility. I want to safeguard the liberty of conscience and to safeguard also the health of the women. Even though we support the proposals, I do feel that I ought to be perfectly candid in the matter and to tell the Ministry that there is a deep-seated uneasiness among men and women in this country that it may be too easy for certain sections in the younger age groups to evade direction into the Services or into industry. I feel sure that the Ministry ought to have a review of personnel inside factories. In a certain part of Outer London there is a firm belief that certain people, when it was feared that conscription would become the law of the land, got their "in-laws" inside a particular Government works, whether they were capable of performing the work or not, and that to-day those people are reserved. I am not one who make statements to this House without some evidence. If I had had the letter of which the hon. Member told us to-day it would have been sent to the Ministry of Labour.

Mr. Craik Henderson

Even though it had been asked that the name should not be disclosed?

Mrs. Adamson

I have sent communications to the Ministry of Labour relating to people who have desired their names not to he disclosed. The letters have come to me in good faith, but I wanted to get the facts from the Ministry's point of view. It is only fair to give such letters to the Government Department concerned so that they can give an assurance as to the position, and particularly that the manpower and woman-power are being used to the best advantage. We all have heard of people suddenly becoming directors, technicians or surveyors. There has been a great deal of this thing going on. It has been a perfect ramp in some quarters. I do not know about the accuracy of the facts, but I have always passed complaints of that kind on to the Ministry for them to deal with efficiently. It would relieve the public mind if we could have an assurance that the available man-power and woman-power of the country are being utilised to the fullest advantage.

Another matter is the position inside the Civil Service. I am doing a voluntary job in a Government Department, and I know that we are very short-staffed. Statements have been made in this House and elsewhere on this matter, and I say that the Government ought to look into them, and again give us the assurance that the available man-power and woman-power are being used to the best advantage. I cannot say what the position is, except that I know from my very limited experience in a Government Department that we are very short-handed and short-staffed. If we could have a review, we should feel gratification.

Do not let us have any more nonsense talked about women between 45 and 50. The Minister of Labour has a very difficult task to perform. I have known him for a number of years and have admired his work in the trade union and Labour movements. I would like to congratulate him on the fine manner in which he has carried out his duties as Minister of Labour. This task of applying compulsion to any human being in this country must be thoroughly distasteful to him, and his staff have had a difficult time. It requires tact and common sense for younger women to interview middle-aged women and for single women to interview married women who have been up against the realities of life for a long time. I hope that the Government will go forward with this matter, and that they will let us have a review of the personnel in the factories and the Services so that the man-power and woman-power can be utilised to the best advantage. I am certain that if we go forward in that spirit, determined to do our bit and pull our weight, every one of us will be happier, especially if we can shorten the war and bring victory nearer.

Commander Sir Archibald Southby (Epsom)

The difficulty, of course, of a Debate of this character is that the discussion of the whole very wide question of the allocation of man- and woman-power tends to obscure certain definite points upon which it would perhaps be desirable for the House to express its views one way or the other. There are, of course, those who do not share the definite views I hold. The question, for instance, of whether boys of 18 should or should not be sent to the coalface is one on which the House is entitled to express a clear-cut view. I think those best able to judge that question are those who have spent most of their life underground, and I would certainly accept the view of a man in the mining industry as better than my own regarding the difficulties of the employment of very young people on the coal-face.

However, the particular point to which I wish to address myself is whether women of the 46 to 51 age group should or should not be called up—should be conscripted. [Interruption.] They have already been registered. It is a question of whether they should be conscripted. I understand that some of them—

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

This is a proposal to register them.

Sir A. Southby

No, the Minister has said he has registered them. We have a circumscribed population compared with other countries, and it would be true to say that our war effort has got out of balance. It is essential that we should have a very large Navy, and it is also essential that we should have a very large Air Force, but I would remind people who talk about second fronts somewhat glibly and without knowledge, that you cannot have an enormous, overwhelming Air Force, which is the most expensive form of service of all so far as man and woman-power is concerned, and at the same time have an Army on the Continental scale. The situation is quite different from that which obtained during the last war. Then the Air Force was in its infancy. There was nothing approximating to the demand for personnel for the Air Force which exists today. In addition, it is a very expensive weapon, requiring an immense industrial organisation behind it to produce the machines and equipment with which it has to go into action. We cannot in this war try to produce an enormous Army, and the sooner we realise that the better. There is an old saying that you cannot get more out of a pint pot than a pint. The difficulty that the Minister has to contend with is to try to meet all these requirements with a population which is really too small to provide him with what he wants.

The real question is whether the best use is being made of the available manpower. I listened with interest to the Minister when he said that 2,250,000 more people are being used to manufacture munitions than were being employed at the end of the last war. That proves my contention that so far as the demands on man and woman-power are concerned this war is not in the same street as the last one. Now I congratulate the Minister on the way he has done a very difficult job. I have always admired him for the way he has carried out his duties. I believe that he carries them out with great humanity and consideration, and I believe him to be entirely just and fair. I make no attack on him. I only suggest that as regards the call-up of this particular age group, the Government are making a mistake and that instead of helping the war effort it will in fact hinder it. The Minister said he would stop at nothing to win this war. That, I think, would apply to everyone, at all events in this House. What I think he should do is to stop before he makes a mistake which may injure the war effort of this country, and I contend that the conscription of women of 46 to 51 years of age will not help the war effort but will in fact injure it. Do not let hon. Members run away with the idea that the proposal has not excited considerable opposition outside this House. That opposition is not a stunt. Most Members of Parliament, have, I imagine, a very large postbag; mine certainly is. I do not complain of that. It is perfectly evident from that and from reading the papers that there is nothing whatever in the nature of a stunt about this matter. I deplore anyone introducing into it any question of class. The war effort in cottage or castle is being conducted with just the same vigour. It does not do us any good here at home or in the eyes of the world to say that there is any question of class in this matter, because there is not. I am perfectly sure that members of trade unions in this House, most of them men with great responsibilities, are as bitter as anybody else that these women—I will go into what they are doing at the present time in a moment—are to be called up when at the same time strike after strike is taking place in various industries of men who are being well paid and who certainly should not be striking in war-time. Of course the women are bitter and I believe hon. Members opposite are just as apprehensive and bitter about it as anyone else.

Mr. Gallacher (Fife, West)

Would the hon. and gallant Member say that the shipwrights, highly skilled men, were getting good wages at £4 7s. 6d. a week, in view of the fact that they made a claim for a different rate, a piece rate, nine months ago and there has been no settlement?

Sir A. Southby

The hon. Member knows that shipwrights have a very warm corner in my heart, but I am not now concerned with particular trade disputes. Suitable machinery has been set up to settle such disputes, and in war-time surely that machinery should be used. Hon. Members opposite talk about Russia, and I pay my tribute to Russia, but I wonder what would happen to a shipwright in Russia who refused to work. There is no doubt what would happen. When you are trying to get the whole of the man and woman-power in this country solidly behind the war effort, it does not help you to look round and see what is going on in some industries just now. The hon. Lady who has just spoken introduced a certain amount of class prejudice. Why? There is not a home, great or small, in this country which has not had the tenor of its life disturbed by this war. It is right that that should be so. There is not a home, great or small, in this country into which anxiety and sorrow have not come because of this war, and before the war is over there will be more anxiety and deeper sorrow in every home, be it cottage or castle.

No one has ever suggested that women between 45 and 50 are incapable of doing work. Our case is that they are already doing it. The hon. Lady really supported our case. She said what they were doing—the Women's Voluntary Service, keeping the home going, etc. Our case is that they are already doing a superb job and that if you add this other burden on top then not only will you break them down but you will undo the good work which is keeping the homes of this country together. [Interruption.] There are bad sardines in some boxes, but, broadly speaking, the people of this country are first-class. I deplore the idea of saying that this is not being done, or that. There may be a few people in every walk of life who are not pulling their weight but, taking things all round, this country is very sound and doing pretty well. These women are not idle women who are to be pressed into service. I seemed to detect in the hon. Lady's speech and in that of the Minister the suggestion that there was a sort of reserve of idle women whom it was necessary to bring into service. If there be any such, then by all means bring them in, whatever their ages may be.

I agree that there are some "column dodgers" among the younger ones, but I do not think there are many, and I do not think there are any between 46 and 51. They are doing pretty good work, not perhaps in the industrial column, but in another column, day by day. They are not idle women but busy women, and to force them into new service would be to add to the load of women who are already almost overwhelmed with the burden they have to carry. They do the work of the canteens. It would be fair to say that there is not in this country a British Restaurant that would stay open if it was not for the Women's Voluntary Service, and the backbone of that service in all sections of society are the women of 45 to 50.

Mr. Evelyn Walkden

The hon. and gallant Member is making what appears to be an incorrect statement, which I feel I must challenge. Will he inspect the position in his own Division? Of the five British Restaurants in the area where I reside there is not one member of the Women's Voluntary Service doing a voluntary job. They are all being paid.

Sir A. Southby

It is not my business to interfere with the local council of which the hon. Member is a member in the area in which he resides. If he is prepared to pay for work which would be done voluntarily, that is for him to decide.

Mr. Walkden

They would not do it.

Viscountess Astor

The Women's Voluntary Service cannot work in any British Restaurant. They would not be allowed to. They are paid.

Sir A. Southby

The noble Lady is not quite correct in this matter. Some employees of British Restaurants are paid and others are not paid; they give their services voluntarily in British Restaurants throughout the country.

Mr. Walkden

It is not true.

Sir A. Southby

In addition to the voluntary work these women do, they, have the most difficult task of all. Theirs is the day-to-day drudgery which never stops. They have the housework, the cooking, and the shopping, they stand in queues. As we come to the House we see the queues of women who have to wait to buy what they need for their homes. In addition, many of them have volunteered to give their spare time to Government work. These are the people who have not only a husband serving in the Forces, or serving in industry, for whom they are trying to keep a home going, but they also have the gnawing anxiety of having sons and daughters in the Services.

I have one letter here from which I would like to read an extract. This woman falls into the 45–50 category. She works on an average some 12 hours a day or more as a member of the W.V.S. She is on two hospital committees and in some way or other has managed to keep going a home to which her children in the Forces can come back. This is a woman who is threatened with call-up. [Interruption.] Perhaps the hon. Member will put me right when he speaks. Compare the lot of a woman called up to do part-time work with that of a younger woman doing full-time work. The young woman may be doing 44 to 48 hours a week and more, but she has some evenings off and Saturday off perhaps, or Sunday, or, at any rate, she should. I do not believe you get the best out of people who are working seven days a week. It was one of the mistakes we made at the beginning of the war.

Mr. Ellis Smith (Stoke)

It helped to save the country.

Sir A. Southby

Of course it did in an emergency. People can do "watch and stop on" for a time, but they cannot do it indefinitely, or they will break down. This girl has Saturdays or Sundays off. Compare that with a woman of 50 doing household work, washing, cooking, shopping, standing in queues. She carries on with great difficulty, and now she is to be taken for part-time work. I do not think there is one of them who would not willingly change with the younger woman doing full-time work with all the advantages which that entails. The Minister said that there were already 1,000,000 women doing unpaid voluntary work. The majority are probably within this particular age group which it is now proposed to conscript into industry. He cited—I did not quite see the relevance of it—the case of a docker of 83 still doing a job of work. What a magnificent old soldier! But that does not justify the Minister doing something in conscripting this class of women which I contend is stupid. I contend that this age group is not having a square deal. The Minister said that there were no complaints on registration. He should know: he has the whole of the files open to him; but I have heard complaints. It may be that they were not so great as they would otherwise have been, because the women thought, rightly or wrongly, that the Government were going to review the matter and not pursue this very stupid policy.

Then the Minister referred to midwives and nurses of 60 and also to cotton operatives. It is true that nurses, cotton operatives and others have come back—all credit to them—in order to carry on at their old jobs. But there is all the difference between that and what is proposed here. Those people are doing the jobs to which they have been accustomed. There is no shock to them. What is being proposed now is to call up women who have never been inside a factory, to work in factories at an age when it is not good for them to change the routine of their lives. I contend that you are not comparing like with like when you point to the fact that other women have gone on with their professions to a later age or have come back from retirement to follow them. It is said that these people volunteer if they feel able to volunteer. Of course they do. But what is proposed is to conscript people whether they feel able or not. And remember this is a difficult and dangerous age for women. I deplore the class prejudice which the Minister brought into his speech. Difficulties of this kind are not confined to one class or another; it is the universal curse which women have to bear. The Minister told us what he had to find. I say that he could and should find more man and woman-power by making better use of what he has already called up. Let him comb out the Women's Services where necessary.

Mr. E. Walkden

Including the W.V.S.—some of the hon. and gallant Member's friends.

Sir A. Southby

Let him comb out the Government Departments. I agree that this is a very difficult matter for Members of Parliament. We get a large number of letters about the redundancy of man- power in Government offices. It is very difficult to find out the truth, because one Ministry may be short of staff and another may have too many.

Earl Winterton

I think it is time that those who make very wounding charges that the Civil Service is underworked should explain what they mean. My experience is that most civil servants, temporary and permanent, at the present time, are working far harder than they ought to do.

Sir A. Southby

I was not making a charge of that kind. [Interruption.] I did not interrupt anybody else, and I have given way several times. What I was saying was that we should get these charges against the Civil Service examined. I get letters myself from girls employed in Government Departments, who say they have nothing to do. It is very hard to find out the truth; but there must be some underlying truth in that; so much smoke must have some fire to cause it. We are told that in some offices they are falling over one another because it is so hard to find a job for them to do. We all know perfectly well that there is a tendency in an office, as you rise to higher stature, to build around you a bigger and bigger staff. The figures given by the Chancellor of the Exchequer a few months ago are very interesting. The Ministry of Food had then about 37,641 employees, the Ministry of War Transport had 17,469, the Ministry of Aircraft Production had 16,026, the War Damage Commission had 10,000. If these numbers are employed, are they really justified? It is said that in the Colwyn Bay offices of the Ministry of Food there are approximately 5,000 civil servants now working, and that about 1,500 of the Ministry of Food's large staff at this charming Welsh resort are under the age of 31. Could they not be replaced by older people, and given some more active jobs? Is anything going to be done to even out the burden among younger women, instead of putting it on the older women? Some of my constituents who are in Government offices say that they do not have enough to do. Then I read in the Press that the Ministry of Agriculture have been sending a lot of young women around to farmers, asking a lot of tomfool questions, which could be answered by post, if indeed they are necessary at all. You must have a lot of surplus woman-power if you can send all these young women around to farmers asking unnecessary questions of farmers who are engaged in trying to get the harvest in. These complaints may be exaggerated, but they should be investigated.

There are complaints about the way the interviews are carried out. I should like to pay my tribute to the Minister and to the Parliamentary Secretary for the courteous and fair way they deal with every case that is brought to them. I have not brought a single case of hardship to the Parliamentary Secretary about which he has not helped me 100 per cent., and where something has been found to be wrong it has been put right. But there have been complaints about officials of the Ministry. Only this morning I was talking to a young woman who had had a doctor's certificate to say that she was unable to do any hard work for six months, much to her regret. In spite of that, six times during that six months she had to motor four miles to answer the same questions from the same woman officer, a woman of approximately her own age, although many of her friends who were younger than she was, and who were registered, had no call-up during that time. The officials knew that the doctor's certificate ran for six months, yet six times she had to go and answer the same questions. Such waste of petrol, transport and time is almost inconceivable. If that sort of thing is going on, there must be misuse of staff in the Ministry. There are cases—though I do not think there are many—where the interviewers are tactless and stupid. To interview a woman of 45, without taking the trouble to ascertain the facts, and then to bite at her and say, "Don't you know there is a war on?" when the woman has lost her only son in the Air Force, is stupid and inhuman.

Viscountess Astor

It is a mistake.

Sir A. Southby

You should not have that sort of mistake.

Viscountess Astor

How can you avoid it?

Sir A. Southby

You should have older women as interviewers.

Viscountess Astor

Hear, hear.

Sir A. Southby

I am sorry that the Minister did not say anything about closer examination to see whether there is a waste of man and woman-power in Government offices, and whether something could not be done at this stage in the war to save the man and woman-power available by concentrating the Government offices which are dispersed all over the country. The time which is wasted because you have to write to Colwyn Bay or Llandudno or Bath must be enormous. I venture to suggest that it is worthy of consideration whether the time has not come to bring these Government offices back and to effect a saving in time, expense and man and woman-power by coordinating them in their proper place, in the capital, or at any rate closer to London than they now are. Sending letters backwards and forwards, with the extra labour employed in handling them, uses up man and woman-power, of which the Minister says he is extremely short.

I suggest that to call up women between the ages of 46 and 50 is a mistake. These women make a magnificent contribution to the war effort. They carry a very heavy burden and yet where they can, they volunteer to do some other work. They are worked to the limit. They are not of an age at which they should be disturbed and worried; they have enough worries as it is. You should not apply conscription to them. They are keeping the homes ready for the men when they come back: the homes which the men are always thinking about, and longing to come back to when their job is done. If you take. them out of those homes, you run the risk of disturbing the balance of this country. Where they can volunteer they do so, and I pay my tribute to the wonderful way in which they have done that. They have borne the heat and burden more than any other section in the country. Not for them is the romantic work of the Women's Services or the interesting jobs in the Government Departments. They have to go on with the plodding drudgery in their own homes, competing with all the difficulties which exist at the present time. Do not add to their burden. I have no desire to go into the medical side; doctors disagree, some take one view and some another. But I think it will be generally agreed by people of impartial common sense that at that age women pass through a difficult time.

Where is the Minister to find the woman-power which he says he must have? Perhaps by a better balanced war effort, and certainly by an investigation of what is being done with the existing man-and woman-power of the country. I suggest that the time has come in this war when we can see our way to appoint a Select Committee, with real power, to go into the Government offices, the Women's Services and the factories and see what the position is. Let it have sufficient power to act. Do not let us have a Committee which will send in a report which will be sat upon. Let us have a Committee which will say, "You have too many here; better use must be made of them or you must transfer some of them to different jobs." That Committee would be of enormous help to the right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Labour. I believe that it would find him more than the number for whom he is now looking and certainly solve the vexed problem of whether he is to take the women of this particular group and conscript them.

I apologise to the House for the length of time I have spoken and also for having spoken with some vehemence, but I feel very strongly on this subject. I assure hon. Members opposite that to me this is no stunt. I am not actuated by any sort of prejudice one way or the other. I am as much concerned with the effect on the cottage home as I am with the effect on the rich man's home right throughout the country. I believe that this proposal is a mistake and I beg the Government to reconsider it.

The difficulty of these Debates is that it is so hard to record a definite opinion one way or the other. It would have been much better if the Debate could have taken place on a specific Motion. I think that that is also so with regard to the question of the mines. You ought to have a clear-cut expression one way or the other of what this House thinks. It is the duty of Members of this House to express their opinions. This is not the Reichstag. It is the free House of Commons and the sooner we realise that every one of us is expressing his opinions in good faith, the better we shall get on. I believe that on whatever side of the House Members sit—and I have sat here for some years—they are actuated by good and not by base motives. What they are trying to do is really to represent those who sent them here, and I believe that in this particular case the House is trying to get for the Minister the man- and woman-power he wants. We are getting nearer to victory and now is the time for overwhelming effort by everyone, but it is certainly not the time to make a mistake. I believe that by conscripting women of these ages you will inevitably undo much of the good work which has already been done by them in the community.

Miss Lloyd George (Anglesey)

I find myself in a great deal of agreement with the last few sentences spoken by the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Epsom (Sir A. Southby), when he said it was the duty of Members of this House to express their convictions and their feelings without fear and without favour. That, I agree, is the greatest contribution that Members of this House can make to the war effort. The Minister of Labour has given us some very striking figures as to the extent to which the man- and woman-power of this country has been mobilised. The Prime Minister in his speech warned the House and the country that we are facing the most costly period of the war. The Minister of Labour will no doubt be faced with new demands in the coming months as the offensive extends and develops, and he will not find it an easy task to be able to find the numbers he will be called upon to do. I agree with hon. Members who have spoken earlier in the Debate that there must be extensive mopping-up operations and that we must find men and women who are not at the moment pulling their full weight and see that they are brought in to the front line.

The hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Epsom spoke about the need for a comb-out of the Civil Service. I was under the impression that a Committee in fact had made an inquiry into the matter of the Civil Service. It was the Kennett Committee, I believe. I would like very much to know from the Minister whether the recommendations of that Committee have been carried out and what cuts have been made in the Civil Services. I am open to correction, but I believe also that that inquiry extended only to the Civil Departments and did not cover Service Departments. There is a very widespread feeling in the House and in the country that the Service Departments are grossly overstaffed, and I would like to ask, following up the hon. and gallant Gentleman's suggestion that there should be an inquiry, that there should be at any rate an inquiry into the Service Departments. I agree too, that while it may be necessary to call up further classes—and I hope to come back to that controversial matter later on—it is absolutely vital at this moment to make certain that we are making the best economic use of the men and women now available.

A good deal has been said about the fact that the aircraft industry now is a priority, and the Minister of Labour has told us that more mobile women are needed for the aircraft factories. We all rejoice in that statement in so far as it means the greater production of aeroplanes and an increase in the striking power of this country, but there is a very great deal of uneasiness, and there is a good deal of evidence that all is not well with the organisation of the Ministry of Aircraft Production and that it is not in fact making the most economic use of the man- and woman-power that it has now. It is very interesting that only a week after the Minister made his statement before the Recess, in which he said he wanted these additional numbers that the Select Committee on National Expenditure brought out a Report on the aircraft industry. The Committee had one or two very startling things to say. Here is one of them. They pointed out that although the aircraft industry was making large demands on labour, the Committee found little evidence of actual shortage. That was at a time last summer when production in the aircraft industry was increasing very considerably. The Committee went on to say that at one factory where the programme had been altered they found a redundancy of some hundreds of people which it took several months to clear. We all know that a certain amount of dislocation is inevitable in face of the constant change in design that must be made if we are to maintain our air supremacy, but we can hardly afford at this moment, when the strain on our man-power resources is so great, to have cases of that kind where it takes several months, according to the evidence of the Select Committee, to clear some hundreds of workers.

I agree that this difficulty, the change of design, probably has applied more to the Ministry of Aircraft Production than to any other Ministry, but it is not the only Ministry that is affected. It is not the only Ministry where change of design has any effect, and it is not the only place where constantly the whole of the production has to switch over from one branch of the industry to another. This has applied also all through the war to the Ministry of Supply. A very short time ago they were in the same position as the Ministry of Aircraft Production is to-day, but I believe that the Ministry of Supply has scientifically tackled the question of the transfer of workers in consultation with various organisations and has been able, to a very great extent, to solve that problem.

It is important at this moment for the House to know whether the Ministry of Aircraft Production has a central scheme for dealing with cases of this kind which are bound to occur from time to time. Is there any central policy on this matter? Are the regional organisations working in with the Ministry itself to see that the waste of man-power is reduced to a minimum? There is another passage in the Report which is very disturbing and which should be brought to the attention of the House, and that is, the very high rate of wastage in the aircraft industry. They said, for instance, that in the seven weeks ended 14th May the average weekly rate of loss per 1,000 operatives employed in the main aero-engine factories was 6.4. The corresponding rate for full-time women is as high as 7.2 per thousand. The Committee draw the conclusion from this, that at that rate the aircraft industry, in the course of a year, would lose and have to replace a number of workpeople equal to one-third of the people employed. That seems to be a very serious wastage. They say: A certain amount of that is due to the fact that we get perhaps workers sent to us from the Ministry of Labour who are not always suitable and who perhaps are not able to stand the pace or who do not fit in with the industry. That is true, but they say that the wastage is probably due to the lack of personal management in aircraft factories. What stands in the way of establishing these personal managements? The Chief Inspector of Factories, who is a thoroughly unbiased and unprejudiced observer, gives it as his view that the main trouble rests in the Board room. Here is something in personal management which plays a vitally important part in the smooth and efficient working of industry. The right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Labour said that personal management was going to be one of the saviours of British industry after the war. He set the value as high as that. It is a vital factor in the proper use of man- and woman-power, and, in the prevention of wastage, employers are either suspicious, they do not like it, it is new or they do not take it seriously, which is just as bad. It means that you may have personal managers in the factory, but you do not give them facilities and opportunities to function satisfactorily, and you might just as well not have them as have them under these conditions.

Mr. Craven-Ellis (Southampton)

Does the hon. Lady appreciate that under the Essential Work Order the management of the industry really does not possess the power of management?

Miss Lloyd George

I do not think that that really arises. They get every facility to conduct their affairs, if they want to, and if they are open to using new and efficient methods. If they shut their minds to new efforts, which they do in a great many cases, I do not think they are likely to carry on very effectively. I believe that the Minister of Aircraft Production realises the importance of this, but somehow or other the personal management does not seem to get established in the factories. I believe again, that the lack is that there is no central direction from the Ministry of Aircraft Production itself on this matter.

Mr. Orr-Ewing (Weston-super-Mare)

Is it not the case that factories under direct Government control do not show a very much better picture in this respect than those under the control of private enterprise, and though everybody fully recognises the extraordinary importance that personal management can play, may I ask the hon. Lady whether, on consideration, she does not think she has perhaps rather overstressed that point?

Miss Lloyd George

I find myself in complete disagreement with the hon. Gentleman. I think Royal Ordnance factories in this matter have a remarkably good record, and so has the Ministry of Supply. Industries under the control of the Ministry have established personnel management to a large degree.

Mr. Orr-Ewing

Surely they have not cured wastage.

Miss Lloyd George

There is the question of excessively long hours being worked in factories. All the evidence of the last war and of this and the drive after Dunkirk has proved that production has suffered as the result of long hours. There has been very little reduction in the last year or 18 months, although the experience in Royal Ordnance factories in this respect has, again, been remarkable. After shortening their hours and reducing or omitting Sunday labour, they found that absenteeism by women was reduced by a most astonishing degree.

I would like to say something about the training of technicians for industry, particularly for the aircraft industry. There is a shortage now which will become more acute. It is quite obvious that when we undertake an offensive on a very large scale we shall have to face very serious mechanical casualties. Tanks and armoured vehicles of all kinds will have to be re-commissioned, and the thousand and one things which form the accessories of a modern mechanical Army will need the care of more technicians. The Minister said to-day that certain Royal Air Force technicians had been taken back into factories, but it may well be found that the process may have to be reversed. I would urge, as I have urged before, that women should be given greater opportunities of upgrading and of training so that they will be able to take the place of the men who will be withdrawn from industry. I also want to make the point that in many rural areas to-day there are large numbers of women who are quite willing and able to take up part-time work but who cannot be placed. There is nothing in the neighbourhood; the factories are not there, or they may be filled to capacity, and there is nowhere for them to go. There are many who are idle, not because they want to be, but because there is no work to which they can be directed. Therefore, I would be grateful if the Minister, in consultation with his colleagues, would see whether it is not possible to establish smaller factories either to make parts, camouflage netting or the many other things which are required and on which they could work.

Now may I come back to the very controversial matter of the registration of women of 45–50, which has occupied so much of the time of the House to-day? I believe that these women are as anxious as their younger sisters to take their part in the national life. There may be exceptions—there are exceptions in every age group and class—but it is very interesting to note that the criticism of this proposal has come in the main from the men.

Mr. Buchanan

No, I have been in my Division, and I know.

Miss Lloyd George

Well, the hon. Gentleman can give his own evidence, but my evidence is that criticism comes in the main from the men. The hon. Member for Dartford (Mrs. Adamson) gave striking evidence of this earlier in the Debate. When the registration of women of 45–50 took place there were no complaints of any sort or kind, said the Minister of Labour, and he is in a position to speak with information that comes to him from all parts of the country. It is also remarkable that when midwives were registered up to the age of 60 there was not a word of protest. We were not told then of how tired they were, of how they were having to shoulder heavy domestic responsibilities and of how they were suffering physical strains.

Sir Herbert Williams (Croydon, South)

But was it intended to divert midwives to jobs different from their own?

Miss Lloyd George

That is not the point. The criticism that has been made, to-day at any rate, is that you are overburdening a particular section of the community at an age when they feel the strain more than at any other age. There was not a single word of complaint when cotton operatives were called up to the age of 55. There were no letters in "The Times"; no voices were raised.

Mr. Hammersley (Willesden, East)

Is the hon. Lady under the impression that cotton operatives were compulsorily to be put into the cotton industry up to the age of 55? If so, I think the Minister of Labour will say that that is not so.

Mr. Bevin

The purpose of the registration is to direct operatives back to the industry to keep it going.

Miss Lloyd George

I do not disagree that the circumstances connected with this question will call for wise and sympathetic consideration. But if women are doing a full-time voluntary job, nobody will ask them to do anything else. That is one of the main objects of this registration. Personally, I do not believe that the Minister will get very much out of this age group. I am not at all certain that a great deal of fuss is not being made about nothing, because I think it will be found that the great majority of these women are doing good work. But that is no reason why those who are not should not be called up. The Minister has made it perfectly clear that there will be safeguards, that sympathetic consideration will be given to household duties and the burdens which war-time housekeeping has put upon all housewives. I do not believe there is a Member of this House who would wish to see an intolerable or unfair burden put upon any section of the Community. But if we intend to talk about health, do not let us forget the young women who are working far too long hours and who may be doing irreparable harm to their health during the early part of their lives. I do not think any Member of this House, under those circumstances, when excessive strain is being put upon one section of the community, would wish to see other women going scot free with out having to bear their share of the burden of the war effort. I believe that this proposal can be put into effect without putting an intolerable burden on the women. In conclusion, I would like to say that I have made these criticisms because I believe there are still serious defects in the organisation of the man- and woman-power of this country. In many directions there is a great wastage of labour, and these two things must be remedied if we are to take full advantage of the new opportunities which are opening out before us.

Mr. Buchanan (Glasgow, Gorbals)

We are discussing to-day, in the main, the calling-up of women up to the age of 51. I want to make it clear that there is a good deal of feeling on this matter. If one criticises or opposes the Minister of Labour, it seems to be thought that in some way or other you are doing it to protect a privileged class of the community. I do not stand in the way of my hon. Friend the Member for Dartford (Mrs. Adamson) in my defence of working-class interests. I claim no more honesty than she or the Minister of Labour, and I know that in this matter the Minister is honest, but that does not debar those who take the opposite view from putting forward that view. The way the Minister introduced this subject to-day showed that he has made considerable headway in the matter of Parliamentary procedure. There are those in the House who think some virtue is attached to calling up people and putting them under compulsion. It is thought that if you take a person from a voluntary job and put him or her into the compulsory machine, you are doing something which is virtuous and which in itself is right. The power of conscripting anyone, man or woman, young or old, should only be assumed by a Minister and consented to by the House of Commons when the need has actually been proved and not because it is in itself good. If we are to take it that more compulsion is right merely because a Minister says it is, the sooner we become a complete compulsory State the better for all. Before a Minister gets powers of this kind he should prove the need for them, because the calling-up of either men or women of 50 is a serious matter.

Some of my hon. Friends seem to think that, if this is not done, the rich can escape, hut the rich who want to escape above 51 will, because they are escaping now. Only last week I had the cast of a man 44 years old, within one day of his call-up. He had four sons in the Services and one who had died on service. Under this his wife could be called up too. Has he not given enough? I can give the names of rich men in the same locality who have not been called up and others who have been released from the Army. Anyone with four sons in the Forces and one who had died would feel angry and bitter at being called up. I have sent the case to the regional officer at Edinburgh, because I want it dealt with. If this man had been rich, he would have escaped. He would have been the director of a company. If he had even belonged to the comfortable artisan class, he would have escaped. He would have been a tradesman and exempt. Because he belongs to Gorbals and is poor, he is conscripted.

I do not think that this works fairly. When you are making a case for com- pelling women or men, you have to show that the powers you already have are properly and justly used. That case has not been made. These women from 45 to 51 are in many cases grandmothers, and in the great masses of cases mothers of serving men. They are possibly working already, but the Department says they are to work at something else. If they say they are not going to do it, are you going to jail them? Did you not have enough last week when you jailed a boy of 18? What numbers is the right hon. Gentleman going to get? In this age group there are a number who are already voluntary workers. You will not get those who keep lodgers. They are working as much as anyone else. Some have physical disabilities. You cannot remove married women in the rural areas. If there is anything in the argument about the rich, they can go and live in rural areas, but the poor will not be able to do so. In Glasgow you can get from the rich to the poor quarter in five minutes—it is so compact. The Minister of Labour said in answer to a Question that special consideration would be given to women who were kept at home in employment to look after rich people's children. The question was raised of exemption in the domestic field, and that was the effect of the answer. There has arisen a great love for shifting people about. The right hon. Gentleman says he will try to do it with sympathy and consideration. Most men who get Cabinet rank try to run their Departments fairly. On the Glasgow Town Council in the days before we had got near a majority, when we wanted something done in a kind of Socialist way we used to make a Tory the convener of the Committee, and he was so anxious to run his Department efficiently that he forgot his principles and was censured by his Conservative colleagues.

Surely all Cabinet Ministers want to be decent, not only the right hon. Gentleman, but his Under-Secretaries as well, but with the best will in the world there is a constant urge on the part of their officials to justify their existence. I have come to the conclusion that those who are running the exchange in my locality do not think they are doing their job unless they are shifting someone about, without applying common sense or reason, just because they have to be busy. If I am working as a pattern maker, obviously, if my bosses are about, I am busy making patterns. If I am in an exchange, I justify myself at the end of the year by showing how many papers I have filled up and how many transferences I have made. They do not consider that behind every transference there is a woman with a human soul. The hon. Lady who spoke last said it is peculiar that it is the men who are protesting against this and not the women. It may be true that the men are more vocal. I spend most of my life in Glasgow and I would not think that for six or seven years I have been absent for a week-end and I have yet to meet one woman who favours this proposal. Let us not forget that men have been powerfully organised in trade unions for a long period and women membership of trade unions has not reached anything like the same dimensions. There is a great danger of likening men and women too much. At certain things women are greater than men can ever be, though in others men may possibly be better, but in a matter like this I do not think the working folk, men or women, desire it. They do not think there is any help to the nation in it and they feel that, before an inroad of this character is made, we should examine the Government's present powers and see how they are being used.

Viscountess Davidson (Hemel Hempstead)

I seldom address the House, but before we rose for the Recess there was a Debate on woman-power, and I expressed a few remarks on the proposed calling-up of women of 45 to 50 because I was not altogether certain that it was wise. I am sorry that so much has been said to the effect that women are not as capable and as willing to do a hard job as men. I do not agree. I think women up to 50, or even older, are perfectly capable of doing any work if they have the time to do it in addition to their other responsibilities. I am speaking more of the working-class women than of any other class when I say that the majority of them are already as hard worked, if not harder worked, than any other class in the community. I consider that their job of keeping a home together is far the most difficult. Their day's work cannot be put down in black and white on paper. The young men and women who are in the Forces have a definite job to do; it is work within certain hours and they come under certain regulations and their day is laid down and ordered. I remember listening to a discussion between a man and a woman who both worked in the last war. The woman was saying how much she felt for the young men who were leaving home in this war, but the man, who was well over 50, said, "F never had an easier time in my life than when I was in the Services in the last war, because I had no responsibility. I only had to do what I was told. I had to be quick and orderly, tidy and clean, and I had to get on with my job, but apart from that I had no mental worries. I have had far more mental worries since the war concluded and I have had to keep a wife and children." We rather laughed at him, but what he said was sound.

The same applies to many of those who are in the factories to-day. They have a definite piece of work to do. They leave perhaps very early in the morning, but who is it that gives them their breakfast? The housewife, the mother—sometimes she is even young grandmother—or aunt or elder sister. The factory worker has long hours, but when they return at the end of the day what do they expect to find? Supper on the table, and it is the same woman who has had to get it ready. People do not often realise what that woman has been doing during the day. She has been buying the food and standing in queues. I know I am repeating what other Members have said, but it ought to be said again on an occasion like this and, perhaps conceitedly, I venture to think there is no harm in its being said by a woman and by a married woman and a mother of children. We all know that sometimes men come back from work and ask their wives, "What have you been doing all day?" What have they not been doing all day? In country districts these women have to go long distances by buses to do their shopping. The buses never run when you expect them to run, they never come when you expect them and they never leave when you expect them to leave, and you are left standing in the road with your heavy basket, and the buses go past one after another crowded. I know that it sounds laughable, but it is not laughable when you have to get back home and get supper ready. The woman in these age groups is the key woman in the home. That is the point I want to make. She is the person on whom everybody is dependent. She has given a great deal in this war. Her boys have gone, and she has lost boys; her husband has gone, and her girls have gone. The people to whom she could turn for assistance in the past have gone, and she alone remains to keep the home together.

There is no harm in registration. I have never objected to that, but the whole success of this and, indeed, of any call-up depends on the way in which these women are treated when they go to their interview. Many of them are very nervous, and I am much afraid that when they go to be interviewed they will also be interviewed by a younger woman who incidentally perhaps goes to her job at the employment exchange after having been given her breakfast by her mother at home, who expects supper ready when she returns at the end of a long and worrying day, and who does not realise perhaps what the mother is doing to keep the home together. I am thankful to hear the Minister say that he will arrange that these older women should be interviewed by older women. I hope that the interviewers will be mothers and wives and people who have had some experience of running a house. That is important, because until you have run a house in these days of war you do not appreciate what it means.

There is one other point which has not been touched upon that is a serious one. Women with children under 14 are exempted, but the serious problem before us is that of children of 14, 15 and 16 who will not be looked after if the mothers are called up. Serious things are happening to children of these ages to-day, and I am anxious about them. They are still children, they are not grown up. The absence of their father is serious enough, but if the mother is now forced to go away for long periods in the day I do not like to think what may happen to them. That is a point which I hope will be taken into consideration at the interviews. Children of that age may be at work or at school, but they still want looking after. I know that voluntary work will be taken into account. The housewife is in a better position to do voluntary work, for she can work it in with her housework and her shopping better than she can do part-time work in a factory. It is important that any voluntary work these women are doing should be borne in mind when the interview takes place.

As a result of those few words that addressed to the House before we adjourned I have been inundated with letters. I have had a few anxious letters from men serving in the Forces wondering what is to happen to their wives and homes, but the majority of the letters are from women. They all say the same thing. They are ready, indeed more than ready, to play any part in order to help this ghastly war to an end, but the one thing they do not want to do is to break up their homes. They are fighting to keep their homes together, and they are anxious that when they go to the interview it will be understood that it is impossible to run their homes and at the same time do three or four hours in a factory, with perhaps a long bus ride at the beginning and the end of their work. The maintenance of the morale of the home front depends very much on these women. That morale depends much on the way in which the home is kept going—the home to which those in the Services come back when on leave, the home from which the factory worker goes and to which he comes back. The breaking-up of this home might mean the breaking-up of the home front morale. For that reason and others I hope that the Minister of Labour will see that the interviewers realise the great importance of this aspect. Otherwise, the war effort may lose and not gain by this latest call-up.

Viscountess Astor (Plymouth, Sutton)

This has been an interesting Debate. Except by waiting until all the points have been made it is difficult to make a speech. I was much impressed by the speech of the Minister of Labour. He gave us some astounding figures. Another impressive figure which he did not give is that two out of every three British men and women between 14 and 65 are doing full-time work. It is amazing. We who are distressed about this new move of the Minister are not going to vote against it, but we are going to ask him, as the hon. Member for Anglesey (Miss Lloyd George) did, whether he is really going to have a thorough investigation and whether he will comb out all the other Services before he calls up the older women. The hon. Member for Gorbals (Mr. Buchanan) made a vicious attack on the Minister of Labour and about how the rich can get away with it by having nurses for their children. Not one word of what he said is true. I know more about the rich than the hon. Member for Gorbals. I am not at all certain that I do not know more about the working women than he does.

Mr. Buchanan

The Noble Lady is pulling the long bow now.

Viscountess Astor

I have represented working women longer than the hon. Member has.

Mr. Buchanan

The Noble Lady is older even if she does not like her age cast at her.

Viscountess Astor

I am not in the least worried about my age, and it is one of the things I want to talk about a little later. When I am talking about these women between 45 and 50, I am thinking of the ordinary working woman. I am not thinking of women who are as well preserved as I am. A working woman of 50 who has brought up a family, done all the housework and had the cares and fears of unemployment is 10 or 15 years older than a woman in my station of life. Although I have worked hard all my life, those cares have been removed from me. There is no comparison between the two sets of women. You cannot compare the working woman of 40 and 50 with the voluntary workers of those ages. Many of the women in a certain status of life at 65 are younger than women of 50 in other classes. The proposal of the Minister of Labour alarms me. It is a great pity to have to call these women up. Hon. Members have referred to the call-up of midwives and nurses, but these women are called back to work that they have done before. That is very different from calling up a working woman who has hardly ever been out of her house. I saw a woman the other day who had come to London with her family, and she said she had never been away from home before. There are not many like that, but there are hundreds and thousands who hardly ever go away from home. They do not write to protest about this because they do not have time to write letters. I have not had many letters, but I have gone among my constituents and tried to find out their views, and the women are really frightened; of that I am certain. The Minister has told us that he will take great care over this matter, but for a long time the Ministry of Labour have made crash- ing mistakes over the interviewing of women. I do not blame the Minister, but if he had had a really good woman at his side to direct him—I am not talking about his wife, but about the women in the Ministry of Labour—he would have avoided many mistakes. We did not get women into the Ministry of Labour until the Ministry had been pushed and pressed by the newspapers and others for a long time.

One of the tragic things is that the Ministry, instead of recalling what happened in the last war, and the appalling effects then of long hours in industry, went right ahead with their project as though men and women were machines. If a Tory Minister of Labour had done this, there would have been such yells from the other side, but it has been done by a Labour 11linister, and the action has really been extraordinarily blind and stupid. However, whether Tory or Labour, no man could have done the job better than our present Minister of Labour. That I will say, although it only shows how fallible men are. I ask the Minister to go very slowly, to be very careful and to get the right people. I am not saying that he should get married women or mothers for this job. All this sentimentality about children is nonsense. I never come to this House and say, "I am the mother of six children," because many mothers of six children are as hard as nails, and some maiden ladies are as mushy as they can be. There is no sentiment about this, but we ought to get the right' mentality, and that may be found in an unmarried woman or in a married woman. The great thing is to see that these people are not interviewed by very young women. It is an insulting thing to them. We have had women earning enormous wages interviewed by girls who never in their lives had made more than £1 per week.

Another thing is that out of 9,500,000 registrations under the Registration for Employment Order (Women) only 25,000 women have had to be compulsorily directed to work. That is a tremendous record. I honestly believe that nearly every woman in the country is doing a job of some sort. The other day we were talking about dockyard men of 88. About that time I was in Cornwall and met a girl who was running her father's farm, working from dawn until all hours at night. I persuaded her to come with me to have a game of golf, which was very good for both of us. On the way we passed two old ladies, one of 82 and the other about 80. This young woman said, "Those women are living down here. They have been very worried about not helping in the war, and they came to me and said, 'As you are working so hard on the farm, can we come up two days a week and do your washing and your mending?'" I say that this is not a class war. An hon. Member who spoke yesterday would like a class war after the war, but I think he will encounter a great deal of trouble. I do not believe that ever again will people get away with that old nonsense about rich and poor. They are on a bad wicket. I want to say that no section of our community have astonished the world so much as our women. We in this country have not heard very much talk about it, but when people come here from overseas what most impresses them is the part that is being played by the women of this country. Very few of them are shirking or want to shirk.

I beg the Minister to go very slow in dealing with women from 45 to 50. I am not going to say that the home is the basis of civilisation, because that is a bromide, although it is true, like so many other bromides, but when we are interviewing these women care ought to be taken to ascertain whether they have a job outside the home and also what their family consists of. One of the things that is really frightening every social worker is the problem of children between the ages of 14 and 16, and it would be madness to take away from home a woman who is looking after children of that age. Again I beg the Government to go slow. They are asking for women of all ages and saying how necessary they are on the home front, but let me tell them that it is just as important to consider the foreign front, and I hope that when they have finished calling up women of 50 or 55 to help to win the war, they will allow the younger women to go into the Diplomatic and Consular Services, to help to save us from another war.

Mr. William Brown (Rugby)

Two things have impressed me in listening to the Debate to-day. The first is that there is a general recognition in the House that, in dealing with the sphere of women's labour, the higher you call up the harder it is to call up still higher. The second thing is that nobody likes the proposal before us, not even those whose duty it is to press it upon the acceptance of the House. I do not ask whether this proposal is fair to rich or poor, because I do not believe that is the issue. The issue is this: it there is no way out but this, you must have these powers, but you ought not to have these powers if there is some other way out. I assert that there is no need to call up these women. I assert that the 75,000 which I understand is the rough estimate of the yield—

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

There is no estimate.

Mr. Brown

I have seen that figure quoted in the Press, and I have heard it from the Treasury Bench, and I assert that a much bigger number of men and women can be made available if we use without waste those we now have in the Services. I assert that there are three main fields of waste, and that not until those fields have been cleared up ought we to proceed with the proposal before us. The first field of waste is the unnecessary putting of people into uniform; the second is the waste of man-power within the Armed Forces; and the third field is inside the public services of the country. If I prove that case, the case of the Government Front Bench is disproved. If I prove my case, then the Minister ought not, at this stage at any rate, to persist in his request for these powers.

I begin by saying that there are scores of thousands of people in military uniform doing jobs that could just as easily be done by civilians over military age, and that where that happens there is a considerable loss of man-power. In the Pay Offices of. the Army there are thousands upon thousands of members of the A.T.S. They do the clerical work of computing soldiers' pay. It is important work, and I do not minimise it, but it is ordinary clerical work that a civilian clerk could quite well do. The first difference between a member of the A.T.S. and a civilian is that, because the member of the A.T.S. is in uniform, she has four periods of a week's leave per annum, as compared with the fortnight's leave per annum given to the ordinary civilian clerk. Therefore, for every woman we unnecessarily turn from a civilian into an A.T.S. we lose two weeks' labour per annum.

Mr. Leslie Boyce (Gloucester)

That is 4 per cent.

Mr. Brown

I wish somebody would calculate the percentages. The second thing is that the civilian clerk is expected to put in 48 hours' work a month in Civil Defence duties of various kinds, but that obligation is not placed upon the members of the A.T.S. Therefore, in the case of every woman you unnecessarily turn from a civilian into a member of the A.T.S., you lose 48 hours' work per month on Civil Defence duties. Work out the percentage there! The third difference is that because a member of the A.T.S. is in uniform she has to be paraded, drilled, marched, and all the rest of it, day by day. Men in the Army Pay Offices tell me that approximately one-third of the time of the members of the A.T.S. is occupied with military duties that have not the slightest relation to the work in hand. That is romantic folly in the middle of a great war, when we are at a loss for man-power, and it ought not to be allowed to go on for another day.

I come next to the waste of power within the Armed Services, to which I have twice called attention in the House, once when the Army Estimates were under discussion, and again on the Air Force Estimates. When I made a similar assertion to that which I am making now, that there is a vast waste in uniformed personnel within the Armed Forces, the War Minister was inclined, I thought, to be rather off-handedly sceptical about what I said.

However, I have noticed that very often, after he has treated us with what may be less than our proper respect, he has gone back to his Department and looked into what we have said. On this occasion, although he derided what I said, he went back to the Department and appointed what is called the Cozens-Hardy Committee, to inquire into this business of the use of uniformed personnel on work that might be done by civilians. I can tell the House that the Committee has recommended the conversion of hundreds of positions which up to now have been held by uniformed people, over to civilians, with the consequent release of hundreds of men. I am very grateful for that result. But the work of the Cozens-Hardy Committee has only begun to touch the surface of the matter. I believe that the Ministry of Labour can find within the Armed Forces in Britain not fewer than 100,000 men and women, engaged upon work for which other arrangements could be made, and which would release them for more valuable service.

I turn to the Civil Service. Let me say at once that I have been connected with it for many years. I regard it as the finest Civil Service in the world, and have often paid public and private tribute to its excellence. I am not going to withdraw one word of those tributes to-day. It is not the Civil Service that is to blame for the situation which now exists, but the astonishingly unco-operative attitude of His Majesty's Government towards the Civil Service unions, who are most anxious to co-operate on this problem of man-power. I agree with what the hon. Lady the Member for Dartford (Mrs. Adamson) said. Some Departments are not over-staffed, and some are even understaffed, but many Departments are overstaffed. When this war came, the executive of my association took the view that it was likely to be a very long war which would make heavy demands upon our man-power—much worse than in the last war—and that something ought to be done to get rid of as much unnecessary work in the Service as possible. I headed a deputation to Sir Horace Wilson, who was then Permanent Secretary to the Treasury. I told him that the Civil Service unions would co-operate with the Government in going through the work of all the Departments, and in cutting out unnecessary processes wherever we could, and simplifying others, where that could be done, in order to economise Civil Service manpower.

I invite the attention of the House to the historic character of that offer. In all the syllables of recorded time, in British history, European history, and even planetary history, it has never before been known for a Bureaucracy to go to a Government and to propose to cooperate with that Government in cutting out its own excrescences; but it happened in 1939. One would have thought that the appropriate response of the Government to that gesture would have been whole-hearted acceptance, and even a measure of acclamation; not a bit of it! Sir Horace Wilson replied, when we proposed that we should have a committee composed of representatives of the Government and of the unions to go through staff work and simplify it, that to do so would upset the heads of Departments. I suspect that he had been reading Communist literature, because he counselled us to try to work through the Departments. He gave us the classic counsel: "Bore from within." We went back to the Departments and we tried to bore from within. For four years now we have been trying to get each Department to adopt the simple expedient of setting up a man-power committee composed of representatives of the Administration and the unions, to cut out the unnecessary work, make surpluses available where they could be revealed, and transfer the surplus staffs to other places. Will the House believe me when I say that, at the end of four years of effort, in only six Departments have we got a man-power committee set up? The total number of Departments is more than 100. At the present rate of progress it will take me another 48 years before the process is complete.[Laughter.] There is a humorous side to the matter, of course, but it is a tragedy that we should have to call up grandmothers between 46 and 51 years of age while that situation exists. The House ought not to give the Government these powers until and unless it is satisfied that unnecessary waste of manpower within the Armed Forces and the public services has been eliminated.

Sir Irving Albery (Gravesend)

Will the hon. Member tell us which are the six Departments? It would be very interesting to know.

Mr. Brown

No, Sir, but I will give the House one example, in the case of the Assistance Board, which appointed official representatives and staff representatives to a committee. I would like very much to tell the House what happened, because this case illustrates what can be done. The staff side of that committee put up a suggestion to the official side, one of many, and it was adopted. The saving on that one suggestion alone represented the full-time labour of 1,200 civil servants. If that can be done in one Department, there is prima facie reason for supposing that there is a great field of work for committees of the same kind.

Now, as to the method of putting this review into operation. One hon. Member suggested a Select Committee. A Select Committee to deal with waste of manpower in the Armed Forces would be a valuable step because—in the nature of things I am told—you cannot have in the Army an organised trade union which can bring to the Administration examples of waste of man-power and suggestions how it can be avoided. A Select Committee might be the appropriate instrument for dealing with that part of the problem. But I do not believe that it would be best in the case of the Civil Service. Here, I believe, the best instrument is the production committee on the spot, with the people concerned putting up suggestions for cutting out unnecessary processes.

Let me give an example. At the beginning of this war there were, as the House knows, hundreds of thousands of telegraph poles in Britain. Most of them stand on private land, and the Post Office pays a wayleave of 1s. a year for them. When the war started, girls were employed sending out hundreds of shilling postal orders every day, one in each envelope, to the way-leave holders whose year expired that day. The sensible thing to do in the middle of a war would be either not to pay these bobs while the war was on and to pay them at the end of the war or, if an excess of generosity could be permitted by the Treasury, to pay them five years in advance, and thereby save the business of sending out the Is. postal orders. That example of nonsense has been put right. But there are hundreds of instances, not dissimilar in principle, of processes which might have been all right in time of peace, but which have become unduly expensive of man-power in time of war. I believe that the best instrument is the production committee on the spot.

I want to address the Minister of Labour. He is not here, but no doubt my powerful and pregnant words will reach him. When he replies to me he must not shelter behind the Treasury or behind other Departments. He is the Minister responsible for the mobilising of man-power. I want him to tell me—and he rejects this on pain of my severest personal displeasure—that he will get a Cabinet direction instructing Departments to set up these production committees straight away in the 80 or 90 Departments where they have not yet been set up. I want that from him, because it is his pigeon, and if he finds obstacles from the Departments he has the right to go to the War Cabinet and get the direction. I shall not believe that he is in earnest about man-power in the public services until he does so.

The second assurance I want is connected with the matter mentioned by the hon. Member for Gorbals (Mr. Buchanan), who said that there was a growing disposition to mobilise for mobilisation's sake. We have all heard of the headhunters in Borneo, whose military prowess is assessed by the number of skulls they can stick outside their tent door. The Minister of Labour is not a head-hunter; he is a body-snatcher. He is inclined to estimate his prowess by the number of bodies he has mobilised in one way and another. I want to beg him not to be a "body-snatcher" but to be a "headhunter"; I want him to hunt the heads that can utilise to the fullest extent the man-power and woman-power that he has already secured.

There is record after record of man-power wasted on the stupidest grounds. May I give a further instance? The Americans wanted the British Office of Works to build them an aerodrome. It was wanted in a hurry. News comes that the men engaged on the job have gone on strike. An investigator goes down and finds that the men are having to sleep on a cement floored garage, covered with the grease of years of use. Their living conditions are horrible, and he is bound to agree that the men have some justification for discontent. He sees that there is a hostel already built on the site, and he says to the men in charge of the job: "Why aren't these men in the hostel? Why can't you put them there until the Americans want it?" The answer was, "We can't put them in the hostel because we haven't got the women staff in yet." He asks, "Why haven't you got the women staff in yet," and the answer is, "Because the furnishing of their quarters is not complete." Then he asks, "What is missing?" and the answer comes, "Three chests of drawers." So, because three chests of drawers are missing the women would not come, and because the women do not come in, the men cannot go in, and the go electricians who are waiting at Birmingham and who are required to light the place up as rapidly as possible cannot go there. Yet nobody had power to go down to the local second-hand shop and buy three chests of drawers. I do not want to weary the House, but there is case after case which demonstrates what is happening. We all know it in our experience. While that remains a fact, I do not think we ought to give the Government the powers for which they ask.

My final word is that I agree that this question touches the morale of the home front more closely on the women's side of the war effort the higher up you go in age. Everybody you take away leaves more domestic responsibility on those remaining. Every man and woman you call up leaves someone else responsible for looking after children, adolescents, and old people. The higher up it goes the greater is the residuary burden on the women folk left. Every year beyond 45 does more harm than two years under 45. Therefore I urge the Minister not to go ahead with these proposals. If he does, and there is any technical way of doing it, I shall vote against him. Let the Minister reconsider the whole situation, give us our man-power committees in Government Departments and a Select Committee to investigate the misuse of man-power within the Armed Forces. Then if, after that, he has not got his 75,000, and he comes to the House again, at least we shall know that we have no real alternative. But until we do know that, it is my submission to the House that we ought not to give the powers asked for.

The Financial Secretary to the Treasury (Mr. Assheton)

The hon. Member for Rugby (Mr. W. Brown) always enlivens our Debates, and I am sure we all enjoy listening to his speeches. I certainly do. He suggested that the Minister of Labour should not be provided by the Treasury with the shelter behind which he could get. I am quite certain that neither the Minister of Labour nor the Parliamentary Secretary will be able to shelter behind me, but in any case I can assure him that both of them are proposing to address the House later in this Debate. My hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary will address the House, I understand, early on the next Sitting Day, and it is the intention of my right hon. Friend to wind up the Debate. I should like, however, to make a few observations at this point on a matter which has been mentioned by a number of speakers in the Debate. It was mentioned by the hon. Member for Rugby, the hon. Member for North-East Leeds (Mr. Craik Henderson), the hon. and gallant Member for Epsom (Sir A. Southby), and the hon. Lady the Member for Anglesey (Miss Lloyd George), who has sent me a message to say she cannot now be in her place. It had been the intention of the late Chancellor of the Exchequer to have taken the opportunity to-day of saying something to the House on the subject of the Civil Service, because he hoped that what he might say might help to remove some at any rate of the misapprehensions which have grown up. My right hon. Friend has recently taken a great deal of interest in and paid a great deal of attention to this question of manpower in the Civil Service, and I hope I may be able to give the House some outline of the thoughts that had been in his mind and of the view which we at the Treasury have taken on these matters.

Broadly speaking, there are two main criticisms which are aimed against the Civil Service at the present time and which have been made in the House to-day. The first is the broad and sweeping criticism that the Civil Service as a whole is overstaffed and that it is in some sections at any rate badly underworked. The second, rather more specific, criticism is that there are many young and mobile women in the Service who could either be spared altogether or who could be replaced by older women. I should like to consider, if I may, with the House for a few minutes what the foundations are for these two lines of criticism. First of all, let us take the general question of the increase of the size of the Service, and the justification that there may be for that increase. Perhaps it may help the House if I am allowed to give them a few figures. The total increase in the number of non-industrial civil servants—and I count part-time workers as half units for this purpose—is from 400,000 in April, 1939, to 730,000 at the present time.

Mr. W. Brown

Is it not the case that the figure of 400,000 in 1939 was only 300,000 in 1936 and that the real contrast between pre-war and now is the contrast between 300,000 and 750,000?

Mr. Assheton

I was only comparing now with the period immediately before the war.

Captain Peter Macdonald (Isle of Wight)

Is it not a fact that the Civil Service started to build up in 1938 and that if the hon. Gentleman gives the figure for 1937, it will be more comparable?

Mr. Assheton

I have not equipped myself with the figure for 1937, but I will obtain it. I have no desire to conceal it from the House, and of course it is obtainable from various works of reference. I agree that it is interesting to know. It is a very big increase; I am making no bones about it, but to see the increase in its true light and to be able to form a fair judgment upon it it seems to me perhaps worth while for us to consider where it is in the main that this increase has taken place and what also are the new burdens which this staff has had put upon its shoulders. The first and greatest growth in staff without any doubt is that which is most obvious and which is most directly a part of the military effort, the growth of the Service and Supply Departments themselves. Of the increase of 330,000 between 1939 and the present time which I have just mentioned well over half is accounted for by those particular Departments. I feel bound to ask whether this fact can properly be regarded as a ground for complaint, in view of the vast increase in the size of the Forces which these Departments have to serve. It must be obvious to every hon. Member that the increase in an Armed Force must have its counterpart in an increase in the size of the civilian staff. Indeed, to mobilize and pay and supply and transport and generally administer these Forces will be recognised I am sure by the House—

Sir Edward Grigg (Altrincham)

Is the hon. Member making allowance for the fact that a very large proportion of the increased work involved in the Service Departments is done by uniformed men?

Mr. Assheton

I agree that that, is an important point. But for that these figures would inevitably be very much greater than they are. What I wish Members to look at is the enormous increase in the total size of the Forces and the comparatively small increase in the size of the civilian staffs which have to deal with those affairs.

But side by side with the growth of the Service and Supply Departments there is also the growth of other Departments of the State, which is nearly as great. These Departments include wholly new Departments, such as the Ministry of Food, which had no counterpart whatever before the war. I will not weary the House with a catalogue of figures, but I think it worth while picking out one or two illustrations of the causes of the enormous growth. Let me give an illustration from a Department with which I am myself particularly connected, the Board of Inland Revenue. During the war the number of taxpayers in this country has risen from 4,000,000. to over 12,000,000. Many hon. Members know what an addition that has made to their postbags. The Inland Revenue Department, by very great and sustained efforts, has succeeded in handling this enormous increase of business with only a 50 per cent. addition to their pre-war staff. I commend that to the House as an illustration of a hard-working Department, working under conditions of great stress and difficulty in time of war.

Sir A. Southby

Surely a great deal of the increased work is done by the employers?

Mr. Assheton

A great deal is done by the employers, and the Board is grateful to them for doing it; but my hon. and gallant Friend has only to go to a branch of the Inland Revenue Department to see what a great amount of work is caused by having to assess 12,000,000 taxpayers. He surely will not cavil at an increase of 50 per cent. in the number of staff to deal with three times as many taxpayers. Take the case of the Ministry of Pensions. That Department pays war service grants to dependants of a very large number of men in the Forces and pensions to a steadily increasing number of men who are discharged. It does all that work with a staff of 9,000, which is only three times the size of the whole staff of the Ministry of Pensions before the war. I suggest, comparing the volume of work done now with the volume which had to be done before the war, that that is quite a creditable result. Wherever one turns to cases in detail, one finds the same thing. There is essential work which has to be done, and which did not exist before the war. By and large, it strikes me as remarkable that the increase in the staffs of the Civil Service is as small as it is. I am not going to pretend that everything is perfect. I shall have a few things to say about that later on, and I know my hon. Friend the Member for South Croydon (Sir H. Williams) will listen to me when I come to that point.

Perhaps I might call attention to one or two other facts which I think have a bearing on the position of the Civil Service. It must not be supposed that the Civil Service has escaped the effects of the call-up, which have fallen upon other sections of the community. The pre-war full-time strength of the Civil Service was 375,000—the figure of 400,000 which I gave included 50,000 part-time workers. That was in April, 1939. About 90,000—which is a quarter of the whole—have been called up for the Forces. All the men in the administrative and executive grades under the age of 30 at the time of registration have gone, except a very few who have been specially deferred by the Kennet Committee. From the vast clerical grades, practically all under 35 at the age of registration.who are medically fit have gone, and from the manipulative grades—also a very large number—everyone of military age who is fit has been taken away. I ask the House to bear those facts in mind. It will be realised that this has meant a severe loss to the Civil Service when very heavy demands were falling upon it.

It should not be overlooked that for nearly 10 years after the last war the Civil Service did not recruit any young men or women by the ordinary methods of competitive examination, but confined recruitment largely to older ex-Service men. It was not until 1927 that the first open clerical examination was held, and not until 1928 that there was an open executive examination. The recruits whom the Service took in between that date and the outbreak of the war had become the backbone of the middle and junior grades of the Service. Those very people have been taken away among the 90,000 who have gone into the Forces. When people feel, as everybody feels at times, disposed to criticise the Civil Service, it should be remembered that the Civil Service at this moment is more than half composed of comparatively untrained men and women. It is from among the permanent and more experienced staff that we have suffered this great loss. The Government owe a very great debt of gratitude to the thousands of older men and women and to the boys and girls straight from school, who have done splendidly for us. They have come to do this job in the war, and I do not want them to feel that they are getting nothing but kicks from the public, and no gratitude. I am very proud of them; they are doing a very good job of work. It is no discredit to them to remind hon. Members that older people when they come into an office to work are inevitably slower, and very often they are less experienced than the peacetime entrants. This makes an enormous addition to the work and to the difficulty of organising it.

There are other factors. There is this question of evacuation all over the country. One hon. and gallant Member suggested that the Civil Service should be brought back. I would like the House to consider the difficulty of doing that. Before the war we had a Civil Service of 375,000 full-time and 50,000 part-time members: now we have 730,000. Where are they going to live if they are brought back to London? Also, more than half of the temporary staff have been recruited locally, near Colwyn Bay or Harrogate or wherever it might be, and many of them are immobile. If the offices were brought back my right hon. Friend the Minister of Labour would be left with the problem of how to employ these immobile people. So it is not a practical suggestion; my hon. and gallant Friend sees that at once.

I should not like it to be concluded that, because we think the Civil Service deserves thanks rather than criticism, either Ministers or Departments are prepared to sit back and accept the growth in numbers as being inevitable. Nothing of the kind. On the contrary, everything that we can do is being done by constant inspection and investigation to keep the numbers down, but it is a very difficult task, and to overdo inspection of this kind would itself add enormously to the number of staff employed. Will hon. Members think for a moment of the case of Departments which have offices scattered all over the country? There are 1,300 Ministry of Food offices throughout the country and the difficulty of keeping a careful watch upon, and making an investigation and inspection of, these Departments is a formidable task. My Noble Friend the Minister of Food, I am certain, keeps a most careful watch, but all these things are limited by human possibilities, and the House must bear that in mind. I am glad to say that during the last 18 months a great deal has been done to keep down the growth of staff, particularly in some of these scattered places.

In addition to that there is another point I should like to make. The House may be aware that the Treasury has been pressing on very hard with an intensive study of the technique of the organisation of offices and methods of organisation and so on. A check is being kept on the increase of staff by a small section of liaison officers attached to the Treasury, who examine all the departmental demands for staff, demands which are instantly refused unless the liaison officer is able to agree that they are necessary. That machinery does what is primarily required to keep down the grant of extra staff, but in addition to that, as some hon. Members know—and the point has been mentioned already in the Debate—a special Cabinet Committee was appointed a little time ago, and their task was to see whether it was possible to cut out some unnecessary blocks of work. Generally speaking, the only way you can get big reductions of staff is to cut down some of the work. On that Committee Ministers realised very clearly the immense difficulties which Departments have to face. The load is a very heavy one, and it is very difficult to determine what work which is being done is not absolutely vital. Most of it, I am certain, will be regarded by hon. Members as being quite essential. [Interruption.] My hon. Friend the Member for South Croydon (Sir H. Williams) says "No," but the point he has in mind is a different one. He has in mind what I daresay other hon. Members have, that some of the work the Government are doing is unnecessary.

Sir H. Williams


Mr. Assheton

If that is so, this is not the time to discuss it.

Sir H. Williams

No, the hon. Member is quite wrong.

Mr. Assheton

The point we are on now is whether the staff is too large for the work that has to be done.

Sir H. Williams

The administrative method.

Mr. Assheton

My hon. Friend will no doubt be making his contribution later in the Debate. I would like to say a word about the question of the younger women in the Service, and I should like to give one or two figures to the House.

Mr. Molson

Is my hon. Friend leaving the point about reducing staffs? Would it not be worth while introducing man-power committees inside the Departments, because they would have knowledge of what, work has to be done and whether it is practically possible to get the same work done and, to alter the method?

Mr. Assheton

I will leave that question to be dealt with by my right hon. Friend. The main question of manpower is one in which they are Concerned.

Mr. Molson

I understand that the Financial Secretary to the Treasury was the Minister generally responsible for the staffing of the Civil Service organisations.

Mr. Assheton

That is right, but the responsibility for the use of man-power in the war effort is in the hands of the Minister of Labour, and as far as the Civil Service is concerned, the Treasury have a certain responsibility.

Mr. W. Brown

We are having a very valuable, detailed and informative statement from the Minister, but his statement does not bear the slightest relation to the criticisms we have made. It is not that 700,000 are redundant, but it is part of my case that by the use of man-power committees you could save a number of them. Cannot the hon. Gentleman say something on that point?

Mr. Assheton

I can say nothing on the subject of man-power committees, but I can remind the House of what I said at the beginning of my speech, and that is, that this matter was given a great deal of thought lately by the late Chancellor of the Exchequer, and a good deal of thought has been given to it by the Treasury, and I thought that there was a false impression throughout the country as to the work that the Civil Service was doing and the way in which it was being done. I wanted, to some extent, to try and put that matter in proper perspective and in right balance. That is my principal purpose in intervening in this Debate, though I have certainly tried to meet, and have met, a good many of the criticisms which have been made in various quarters of the House during the Debate.

Mr. Orr-Ewing

The Financial Secretary has just said something very im- portant on the question of the responsibility of the use of man-power within the Civil Service. He has said, as far as I understood him, that the responsibility of investigating how that man-power was used really rested with the Ministry of Labour, though, as he said, the Treasury was interested in some way. May I ask him to put it rather more clearly? Is the Treasury, as the largest employer, responsible to see that the man-power in each Department is rightly used, and not the Minister of Labour?

Mr. Assheton

I would make that clear. The primary responsibility in every Department rests with the Minister concerned. The Treasury has always had a special responsibility to see that the tax-payers' money is well spent, and in consequence of that it has always had the responsibility for seeing that the Departments in general were not over-staffed. The Minister of Labour is primarily responsible for determining how many people are put into this part of the war effort or that, but when these people are in the Civil Service, then the responsibility lies with their Ministers, and to some extent with the Treasury.

Mr. W. Brown

Whose is the responsibility for saying "Yea" or "Nay" to the proposition I made that we should have a production committee in every Government Department? Is it the hon. Gentleman or the Minister of Labour? If it is not the Minister of Labour and he has not to accept responsibility, then it is the hon. Gentleman. I want an answer to my question.

Mr. Assheton

That is certainly not a question for the Minister of Labour.

Mr. Brown

Then what is the answer?

Mr. Assheton

That is a question on which the Treasury and the Government certainly take responsibility.

Mr. Brown

What is the answer?

Mr. Assheton

That is a proposition which the Government are not prepared at the present time to accept.

Sir H. Williams

Does the production committee apply to everybody else but not to the Government?

Mr. Assheton

The hon. Member cannot get away with that. The production com- mittee were set up for a very different purpose from this. The matter we have to consider here is largely a matter of policy as to what work is to be done. That is a policy for which the Government are, and must remain, responsible.

I want to come for a few minutes to the question of the young and mobile women. That has been raised in certain quarters, and there is one figure that I wanted to give before I leave this subject. About 35,000 single women under the age of 32 were in certain Departments two years ago. The process of combing out a proportion of those women has been going on steadily for two years. Nearly 12,000 have been offered release, and something like 10,000 have been called up. Of the balance, some are awaiting call-up and others have to be replaced by substitutes before the call-up becomes effective. It has been suggested in some quarters that a general call-up of women in the Civil Service who are in these groups should be made, regardless of its effect, but any such general release would create a great many difficulties. Many of them are in key positions, on communications, perhaps, payment of allowances, decoding, ciphering and a great deal of important work, and it is essential not to have congestion or slowing-up in these quarters, otherwise there will be well justified complaints throughout the country.

I would like to say something about the allegations we are continually bearing about individuals in certain Government offices being under-employed and who are spending their time knitting or something of that sort. It is very seldom that the Government are given detailed particulars of such cases. My hon. Friend the Member for North-East Leeds (Mr. Craik Henderson) quoted one to-day which I would be happy to investigate if he would send me the particulars, although perhaps he may not find it convenient to do so. I do not want to pretend for one minute that there are no soft spots, that there are no idlers or that there are no individuals who are anxious to work but for whom proper work cannot be found. In a Service of nearly 750,000 that must be so, because it is scattered all over the country; it is corn-posed very largely of newly created organisations, and some cases have been due to the difficulty.of providing the right staff. But I am sure the House will see this matter in its proper perspective and will not give undue weight to such cases. In war-time waste, a great deal of unemployment and under-employment is inevitable. It is a necessary feature of war, just as there is bound to be great waste in the Armed Forces and in A.R.P. when people are waiting for something to.happen. While they are waiting for something to happen it is much better to knit than to do nothing.

Viscountess Astor

Hear, hear, and smoke and drink.

Mr. Assheton

There are bound to be certain reserves to meet contingencies. I think the House will accept the proposition that by far the great majority of civil servants are not under-worked but are badly over-worked and have been for a considerable time. None of us should forget the great debt we owe to the Service which, with little warning, tackled the enormous task in the change-over from a peace-time to a war-time organisation. None of that would have been possible without enthusiasm in every part of the Service. There may be shortcomings, but the Service has devoted itself by its labours to the creation of a central machine through which our war effort is running and on the whole our war effort is not running unsuccessfully.

Mr. Murray (Spennymoor)

During the Recess it was both my privilege and pleasure to visit practically the whole of the division I represent and to address between 20 and 30 meetings. It was a great joy to me to note the active interest that was being taken in Parliamentary matters. My constituents were anxious to know when the Government intended to implement the Beveridge plan, when they were prepared to increase the basic pension for old age pensioners and also to increase compensation payments. The question was put to me several times, "Do the Government realise that there are still many men in this division, soldiers of the last war and this war, rejects from industry, who are crying out for employment?" This was the most burning question at all the meetings I addressed. When the man-power situation is so acute and urgent, as I believe it is, these men say to me, "Why are we compelled to be idle at this time if we are able, willing and anxious to work? If we cannot obtain employment now after four years of war, what will be the prospect for us in the new Britain which is so much talked about at the present time?" One man put it quite bluntly to me at an open-air meeting. at Langley Moor. He said, "Do you think it right that my wife, who is over 50 years of age, should be given employment while I have to stop at home and do the housework? I cannot get a job, although I have tried all over the place." I say that the time has come for a fine toothcomb to be drawn through the factories to comb out the mobile labour, the single women, so that these men can be given a chance. The unemployed man is simply bitter with disappointment to-day. He is at a loss to understand the reason for all this. He simply cannot comprehend why the Minister of Labour requires women from 45 to 51 to register for employment when so many men are standing, in old-fashioned Biblical language, idle in the market place waiting for someone to say, "Who will go and work hi my factory to-day?"

I know that the Minister's task is not an easy one. I had a great admiration for him long before he came to the House of Commons. He was one of my pet men in the trade union world, and I used to love hearing him speak. But I realise that what he is dealing with at present are human beings and not raw material. I admit that in the majority of unemployed cases there may be men with physical defects or some handicap, but no one will convince me that, despite those handicaps, some of these people could not be doing useful work for the country in war-time. I foresaw long ago that one of the greatest troubles we were going to be confronted with was manpower. We have only 45,000,000 people to deal with, and the responsibility, I could see, was going to be a great problem for whoever had to tackle it, so that I am not offering carping criticism. I want to be helpful. May I illustrate what I mean by examples? I know a man resident at Sunnyside, his wife, a charming woman, full of energy, doing any amount of social work. What is his reward? Thirty shillings a week from the employment exchange. Do you think that woman is not bitter? Her husband and another man worked with pick and shovel erecting two factories. Not a charge, as far as I know, has been laid against either of them, and they gave satisfactory service as far as I understand. When the factory was erected they asked for work inside, where the work was less arduous and the pay a good deal larger, but the reply was that there was no suitable work to offer. I sent these cases to the Department, and the reply was that these men's medical condition was such that they could not be employed. What do you think those two men felt like? It will take a good deal more than the House of Commons, or a letter from the Ministry, to convince them that a man's physical defect allows him to use a pick and shovel out of doors in all kinds of weather, but not to work inside a factory.

Here is another case. Brownie Colliery finished in 1938. There was a man who worked in the pit every day. He had had an operation for right hernia, for which he now receives the large sum of 12s. a week. He is 53 years of age. He has had 40 years' experience in the pit, but no one wants him, because he has had right hernia. The only pit work he has had since 1938 was when he was doing air-raid warden's work, and he was turned off when the staff was reduced. Are there not any amount of jobs in those factories that that man could do? I am sick and tired of receiving letters from all over my Division asking if I can give the writer a job. Every Member is getting similar applications. I want to make a special appeal to give these men a chance. Surely every man who signs on at the Employment Exchange ought to be working. Do not tell me that there is no one working in those factories who has a handicap. I know a man who suffered for four years with silicosis. He was given a job in a factory two years ago, and he has never stood idle for a day. I sent the case to the Department and received a letter saying that his medical condition was such that he could not be employed.

The time has arrived when a severe scrutiny ought to be made of the factories so as to see that not a woman between 45 and 51 is registered or given employment until every man has been given a job. I have made my protest in my Division, and I am making it here. If the man-power problem is of such an urgent character as I believe it is, no man should be drawing money for doing nothing. He ought to be making his contribution to the war effort. We have been told time and again "We will not pursue this war one day longer than is necessary," and yet we keep all these men idle. The two things do not go together. I feel from the bottom of my heart that I am expressing the sentiments of the people of my Division when I say that no man should be kept out of a job. I had a mother, and I have a wife, and it is no use people just flippantly saying that this age is not a bad age. Some of us have common sense, and we know that that is not true. We know that some of these women have to be taken to another place to be looked after because of the critical condition that they are in at that age. Some of them have worked hard and long and at 50 are old women and should be having the comfort and rest of their homesteads instead of being driven into factories.

I know any number of women of this age who have gone to factories voluntarily, and if they want to go, they should be encouraged. I know a woman who has turned 53 who got a job after her husband died rather than go on Poor Law relief. That is the spirit of the women. They want to retain their independence and we admire them for it. Nothing should be put in their way if they want to go to the factories, but there should be no attempt to force them to go when any number of men with small physical defects are lying idle. This kind of thing will not be tolerated in such Divisions as the one I represent, and I am sure I am speaking for other Members when I say that. I hope there will be a severe investigation and a small toothcomb applied so that places are made for the men I have mentioned. I am not one of those who believe in making places for individuals and paying people for nothing. I had to fill in a form for a girl who told me she was earning £5 10s. on an average just for ticking-off in a factory. Such jobs could be given to these men. It would make them happy and content and they would feel they were making their contribution in this huge war effort which we are all anxious to see end as early as possible.

Mr. Orr-Ewing (Weston-super-Mare)

The sentiments which the hon. Member for Spennymoor (Mr. Murray) has expressed will find agreement in practically every quarter of the House. There are a certain number of men of the type of which he has been speaking who are eating their hearts out because they feel they might be doing more. I think, however, that there are larger fields than that to which we have to pay closer attention. I was rather alarmed at my right hon. Friend's approach to this Debate. It seemed to me that he suspected those of us who are in doubt as to the wisdom of calling up these older women, of two things—first, of trying to run a so-called party racket, and, second, of trying to start some sort of battle between rich and poor. My right hon. Friend is not justified in any way in having that sort of suspicion against Members who have raised this issue. I would give place to no man in my admiration for the gigantic task he has done, and done extremely well, and there is no desire on my part to attack him personally or from any party point of view. With regard to the second suspicion he seemed to have, that there was something in the nature of a rich and poor division in this matter, I can only say that I have not had a single word of complaint from my constituency as regards the suggested cal]-up from the well-to-do. What I have had is an express desire for a deputation to be received composed of quarrymen and their wives. I have heard that in every public house throughout the countryside the Minister's name—and I ask him to take this seriously—has sunk from the high level which it had reached as a result of his admirable work to a very low level, because the countryside feels that the Minister does not understand their lives. That is a personal matter, and the Minister is far better able to defend himself than I am to defend him.

But it goes deeper than that. One of the things we all want to avoid is for the people of the country at this stage of the war to lose the sense of confidence in the Government by suspecting that the Government do not understand what effect the war has had on their lives. This Order has really had that effect on the people. I am speaking of a constituency most of which is within 20 miles' radius of Bristol and a 10 miles' radius of some important factories. It is a large cottage population, scattered about in a large number of small villages, and they really do not understand this sort of thing. They do not understand how they can run a cottage if they have to go to a factory. They do not understand the way this thing was put across and the way it is to be done. They feel that they are to be taken from their houses and forced into factories. The Parliamentary Secretary shakes his head, and of course we here know that that is not the case, but they do not know and do not understand what the Order means.

Mr. Bevin

I suggest that the Press and those who oppose the Order deliberately misled them.

Mr. Orr-Ewing

I do not think my right hon. Friend is right. He is responsible for placing this Order, and surely he is responsible for seeing that it is properly explained. What he has said to-day will do a great deal to remove unfounded suspicions from the minds of those who will be interviewed. I cannot understand why their suspicions were not removed before the Order was made. A certain number of jeers have been thrown at the Voluntary Services and the way in which people in those Services have been avoiding other forms of work. That may or may not be the case, but my own experience is that those in the Voluntary Services are working as long hours as, if not longer than, many of those in the factories. But that is not entirely the point. The whole question of whether this Order is applied rightly and properly really depends on the efficient working-of the filter, which is the interview. In the past interviews have been carried out by women who have deliberately taken the line that voluntary work is not really work at all, and I hope that before these interviews, which the Minister has wisely told us are to be carried out by older women, the interviewers will be given their instructions and advice. They should be told exactly what the Voluntary Services do and what whole-time work in them means. A great deal of friction and ill-feeling would be avoided if that were done.

Another point is that a great many of the women to be called up will come from the countryside, "some way from Employment Exchanges. It may sound rather absurd to say it, but I believe it to be true that the average age of women in the countryside is higher than ever before, obviously as a result of previous call-ups, and they are people who are not used to being interviewed at Employment Exchanges or anywhere else. Would it not be possible to decentralise interviewing in such areas as those from which I come? Would it not be possible to make those interviews as human as possible and to take these interviewers from among women who do understand something of the extremely hard work that the cottage woman in the countryside has to do, because that is not appreciated at the present time?

To turn to another side of the matter, I was alarmed at the attitude of the Financial Secretary to the Treasury to the investigation into the use of manpower and woman-power in the Civil Service and in the Departments. I hope the point of view which he put to us will be reconsidered, because I do not think people will have full confidence in the justification for this call-up of older women unless they are satisfied that those engaged in the Civil Service are fully employed. A great deal of mud has been thrown at one of the most wonderful Services in the world, and it is up to the Government to clear that Service by a full and proper investigation in each Department. The investigation should not be limited to the Civil Service. All engaged in industry know that one of the difficulties in industry on a largish scale is to see that labour is properly balanced, not just properly employed, but properly balanced. What happens now? If an employer rejects an unsuitable applicant for work who has been sent by the Employment Exchange, probably by agreement with the man-power board, or applies for releases for unsuitable employees—if those two cases together amount to a reasonable number in a comparatively short time, an officer of the Ministry is sent to investigate the labour position in the factory. That means a great deal of work for everybody concerned. The whole question of the manpower employed in the factory is put into the melting pot, and there is a great deal of argument. What is the result? The employers often accept or retain unsuitable labour, and that labour is not properly employed.

Mr. Tinker

Could the hon. Member give any instances of that?

Mr. Orr-Ewing

It is difficult to give specific instances across the Floor of the House, but hon. Members will know what I mean. When men are not taken into a factory after that factory has applied for labour, it is right that the Ministry of Labour should investigate the position, and all I ask is that the investigation should be done in such a way as not to incline the management to retain unsuitable labour or employ unsuitable labour merely in order to keep on good terms with the Ministry and to avoid a lot of argument. There is nothing improper in the procedure of the Ministry, but the actual procedure does lead to the retention at times of unsuitable labour, which is therefore wasted labour, and there may possibly be a saving to be made in this direction.

On the question of the calling up of women of the higher ages, there has been some talk about the impossibility of employing such women, but that is not the issue. Not only are very large numbers employed, but they do extremely well and are valuable women. The point is whether those who have not already come forward but who could come forward can be filtered out efficiently, so that there may be a feeling of fairness. If the Minister insists on going ahead with this Order, I ask him to devote great care to devising a form of interview which will arrive at the facts. There he comes down to what is the greatest difficulty, and that is the type of woman interviewer to perform this duty, and I ask him seriously to consider that key point with the greatest possible care.

Mr. Kendall (Grantham)

I have followed this Debate very closely indeed and was rather surprised to hear the hon. Member for Weston-super-Mare (Mr. Orr-Ewing) say something about a party racket having come into the Debate and that party had been set against party. I tail to understand that, after listening very carefully to the Debate.

Mr. Orr-Ewing

I do not think the hon. Member can have heard what I said. I said I regretted that it seemed to me that the Minister, in his opening remarks, boasted that there was a party racket among those who criticised. I very much regretted that, because personally I cannot see that' there has been anything of the sort.

Mr. Kendall

It was not my impression that there was any party racket, nor did I get that impression of the Minister's speech. It was a very good speech, but I must say I do not think he made out the case for the Government. At the same time I have received only one letter of complaint on this subject from my constituency, and I am given to understand that the right hon. Member for Horsham (Earl Winterton), who sits for a division with 100,000 electors, the majority of them being women, has only had one letter of complaint also. The Minister referred to the difficulties of his task. It is a difficult task and a thankless one, and, generally speaking, he has handled it well, but in to-day's Debate he has not, I submit, made out a sufficiently strong case for calling up women up to the age of 55. One thing he must take into consideration is what will be the effect on the home life of the people and the effect on husbands and sons who have been called up for the Armed Forces. The boys and husbands will come home and find their mothers and wives in munition factories; they are not going to feel very happy about it.

I believe I know something about the industrial side of this country. The hon. Member for Gorbals (Mr. Buchanan) made a first-class speech, and the hon. Member for Rugby (Mr. W. Brown) made very good points about the Civil Service. The Minister who replied on behalf of the Treasury evaded the whole issue. The hon. Member for South Croydon (Sir H. Williams) asked why industry should have its production committees for efficiency while the Government refused to have the same kind of organisation in their Departments. It was a good point, which again was not answered.

I would like to ask the Minister of Labour about the hundreds of thousands of workpeople who are in the factories but are not efficiently employed. I do not know of any machinery which acts as a check upon efficiency. The employment exchange handles the labour in and out, the National Service officer handles individual cases, and the man-power boards visit factories and agrees with the managements whether 300 or 500 men and women are required in this or that factory; but this Ministry of Labour organisation has no check upon the efficiency of manpower. If the Production Minister goes to the Minister of Labour or to the Ministry of Aircraft Production and says, "We must have 30 per cent. or 100 per cent. more Lancaster bombers, and here are the factories that are to be given the task of increasing the number," there is nobody, to my knowledge,in the Ministry of Labour—and I follow the question pretty closely—who can say how efficiently the labour in those factories is being used at present. Before the Minister proposes to call up women of 50 into those factories, he should ensure that the call-up is necessary. That is the major point.

I have a suggestion to make that might be of help. There are many manufacturers in the country producing like articles, yet we have no committees set up to handle that same article throughout the whole of the country. There are regional officers and committees to handle questions of aeroplane, gun, tractor and all kinds of manufacture, and I know of an area where the regional board is controlling 240 different types of industry. How is it possible for them to do so and be able to decide the efficiency of those industries? That is not the way to get the best results and use of man-power. I suggest that the Minister should set up an organisation of trade union and management representatives—and by "management" I do not mean guinea pig directors; they must be eliminated, but real practical management representatives—and other workers who can work directly for him and decide the efficiency of the various factories when Ministries of Production are asking for additional manpower.

I do not know how production can be divorced from labour. The Minister of Labour has not shown sufficient interest in the output demanded required from various firms in the country. He has simply been interested in transferring labour here, there and everywhere, regardless of the efficiency of the output of the firms concerned. I believe that it is time that the Minister insisted upon being brought more fully into the picture of production in relation to labour and not just handle the labour problems. There is a full tie-up between output and manpower efficiency. There has to be, and must be, before the Minister pushes this new Order through Parliament, to get mothers, grandmothers and elderly people into the factories, the most efficient use of the labour at present in those factories. He probably knows that there are in the factories hundreds of thousands of people who could be put to better or more efficient use.

There is a factory recently taken over by the Ministry of Aircraft Production. That factory is not doing so well. There is plenty of labour there, hundreds of people are walking round not knowing what to do. The factory was taken over by the Government because it was inefficient, and yet it is just as inefficient, for the percentage of improvement is so slight that we can discount it for the moment as it ever was. The Ministry has actually hundreds of labourers walking round to-day not knowing what job to do. There are other factories, some ordnance and `some private, and I see no difference between the two of them, because the problems are the same for both. Some are very efficient and some are not. I ask the Minister to consider this matter, perhaps under the present man-power boards We have a pretty good one handling a very big area in my constituency, and I think these people should be given further help and additional powers to check efficiency by groups. Like manufacture should be handled by bodies for that. manufacture. The manufacture of aeroplane motors should be handled by the aeroplane motors committee. Do not try to mix coal mining with high precision jig boring. It is a lot of nonsense to suppose that one can mix the two. I hope the Minister will answer me on this point of whether it is possible to set up this organisation or tighten up the existing organisation, to give attention to efficiency, before he decides to call up women of the age of 51.

Sir Henry Morris-Jones (Denbigh)

My right hon. Friend the Minister of Labour uttered a reflection to the effect that if the proposal he is bringing before the House now had been brought before the House in 1940, there would have been no Debate at all. With all my respect for the dialectical powers of my right hon. Friend, I cannot see the relevancy of that remark to the position to-day. One might just as well say that there were no strikes in 1940 but that there are in 1943. He also, if I may say so, rather gave the impression to the House that there was something in the objection that had been made to this proposal in the nature of a personal attack on himself. He said, if I remember his words correctly, that the proposals he has brought before the House are the result of decisions made by the War Cabinet and that we were not going against the proposals of the Minister of Labour but against the Prime Minister. I do not think it was necessary for him to go to the extent of those remarks. Anyone acquainted with the procedure of this House knows that on a responsible occasion proposals made are always a Government decision, not those of a single Minister.

I should like to endorse what I ventured to say to this House on the day after the original introduction of these proposals, that they are a definite blot on the Minister's escutcheon, a blot on his record at the Ministry of Labour. Nothing that has occurred in the interval of the last six weeks will divert me from that feeling, which I then expressed. On the contrary, they are amply confirmed by my knowledge of the feelings of the people both in my own constituency and elsewhere and it is most certainly not a Press agitation. I am a great admirer of my right hon. Friend. I go so far as to say—I have said it before—that I doubt whether there is any Minister in this country or any man in or out of this House who could have got through the proposals which the right hon. Gentleman the Minister, of Labour has got through this House in the last three years. I am asking him to consider again before he goes on with these proposals. He said that he was endeavouring to get a residue of 700,000 people who were available out of our total pool of man-power. It may be rather late now to emphasise the point that was put before the House to-day by my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Epsom (Sir A. Southby) and put by myself in the earlier stages of the war, that this country is trying to do too much from a man-power point of view. It has established an immense Navy, an immense Air Force—the most powerful in the world—and an immense Army, out of a population of 46,000,000 people.

It being the hour appointed for the interruption of Business, the Motion for the Adjournment of the House lapsed, without Question put.