§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ 11.6 a.m.
§ The Minister of Defence (Mr. A. V. Alexander)
I beg to move, "That the Bill be now read a Second time."
This Bill gives effect to the decision which was made by the Government, and announced by the then Secretary of State for War on 20th November, 1946—which I think, at the time, was generally approved by the House—that the Women's Services would continue on a voluntary basis to form a permanent feature of the Armed Forces, and thatthe Auxiliary Territorial Service and the Women's Auxiliary Air Force, with such changes in titles as might be necessary and appropriate to their altered status, will be incorporated in the Army and in the Royal Air Force respectively."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 20Th November 1946; Vol. 430; C. 859.]The House was told at the same time, for reasons which I will explain later, that it was not the intention to make the Women's Royal Naval Service subject to the Naval Discipline Act, and accordingly this Bill does not apply to that Service.
All our experience has shown, and I am certain the House will agree, that manpower is one of the chief limitations on this country's capacity to wage a major war. We have seen it turn out to be necessary, both in the first great war and, more particularly, in the war which has ended recently, for us to employ women in large numbers and for a great variety of duties with all the Armed Forces. I do not know whether it is realised by the public—I know hon. Members here realise it—that well over half a million women served in His Majesty's Forces during the war. The Auxiliary Territorial Service actually reached a peak strength at one time of 212,000, the Women's Auxiliary Air Force reached 182,000, and the Women's Royal Naval Service nearly 75,000.
Thousands of women volunteered to assist the Services and there is general agreement about the magnificent contribution they made, and their complete success, whatever their duties might be, sometimes in clerical or domestic jobs, but 2047 also on occasions in posts requiring great individual courage, general adaptability and resource in other more active and more technical spheres. The House will recall with pride the work of the women in the anti-aircraft barrage defence, in the balloon barrage, and in the operations rooms of the Royal Air Force, where I had the privilege of seeing them at work many times during difficult bombing periods, and with highly technical and urgent signals to handle. I have never ceased to have a great admiration for them. If one could have shown a picture to the whole country of that enormous organisation of women, with the staff officers of the various Services who were behind that tremendous operation of the landing on the coast of Normandy, I think all would agree that we could never contemplate having to go into such wide operations again without having the best trained women for the purpose. Beyond doubt, therefore, the women have proved their worth to the Armed Forces and established their right to a place in those Forces in any future emergency, and they would certainly insist on exercising that right to the full.
The Auxiliary Territorial Service was constituted by Royal Warrant in September, 1938. The Women's Auxiliary Air Force did not separate from it as a self-contained service until June, 1939. There was all too little time to organise and train them before war broke out. I think one of the main lessons learned from this experience was the great difficulty of bringing about a rapid extension of these forces and fitting them into the most useful employment without some peacetime basis of experience, organisation and training. That is one main reason why, for the future, we want to maintain the Women's Forces permanently. Apart from that, they have an invaluable contribution to make to the maintenance of our necessary peacetime Forces. Only by continuous service and experience can the full value of women as members of the Armed Forces in peace or war be realised.
The original members of the Auxiliary Territorial Service and the Women's Auxiliary Air Force were civilians, subject to the appropriate regulations only by virtue of an undertaking to observe them. When the war broke out, they remained on an essentially civilian basis, although legally they became to a 2048 very limited extent subject to military and Air Force law. This was not in keeping with the status they acquired by their duty; it was, moreover, a status which had major defects in the matter of discipline.
In 1941, by which time the Women's Services had expanded considerably, and were being employed on a much wider range of duties in substitution for men, it was decided to commission their officers and extend application to them of the further disciplinary provisions of the Army and Air Force Acts. Whole-time members of the Auxiliary Territorial Service and the Women's Auxiliary Air Force, together with women doctors and dentists and members of the Army and Air Force Nursing Services, were then declared to be members of the Armed Forces of the Crown by the Defence (Women's Forces) Regulations, 1941, made under the Emergency Powers (Defence) Act, 1939. These regulations made them subject to the Army and Air Force Acts to such extent as might be specified by the Army and Air Councils. Later by reason of their service overseas, where Defence Regulations did not apply, a similar provision was embodied in Section 176 (A) of the Army and Air Force Acts by the Army and Air Force Annual Act, 1943. Under these provisions, the Army and Air Force Acts were applied, though again only to a limited extent, to the Women's Forces; their commanding officers were, for example, empowered to administer certain summary punishments.
Defence regulations are, however, temporary in their operation, and the Defence (Women's Forces) Regulations will come to an end in 1950. This Bill is intended to put the Women's Forces, including reserve and auxiliary elements, on a permanent basis and at the same time to bring them generally on to the same disciplinary basis as men. Naturally in practice the code of discipline employed in the Army and Air Force Acts will be administered in relation to the Women's Forces with due regard to their sex; but, with one or two exceptions, it is intended that they shall, in law, be subject to disciplinary processes and penalties similar to those which are applied in the case of men. The Women's Auxiliary Air Force will be very closely integrated with the Royal Air Force proper. Members of the Auxiliary Territorial Service, while in the main continuing to serve as members 2049 of a women's corps, will, nevertheless, frequently be serving in mixed units side by side with men. In these circumstances, broadly similar codes of discipline are clearly desirable, subject to the point I have already made as to their practical application to women.
The House will expect me to say a word or two about the position of the Women's Royal Naval Service. Members of that service have never been declared to be members of the Armed Forces of the Crown in the same way as the Auxiliary Territorial Service or the Women's Auxiliary Air Force. They were not included in the Defence (Women's Forces) Regulations, 1941, as were their sister services. They have remained a civilian organisation, and it is intended that they should continue to do so. They will be considerably smaller numerically than the women's components of the Army and the Air Force, both because the Navy will itself comprise a smaller personnel than the Army or the Royal Air Force, and because the scope for employing women in a Service which spends much of its time at sea is necessarily much more restricted.
For the same reason, the Women's Royal Naval Service will not be so closely integrated with the Navy as will the other Women's Services with the Army and the Royal Air Force. Moreover, the policy of retaining the Women's Royal Naval Service on a civilian basis is not inconsistent with many other parts of the Naval system under which ancillary services—for example, the supply service—are run by civilians, although in the Army and the Royal Air Force they are organised on a military basis. It is intended therefore, that W.R.N.S. are to retain their existing civilian status. This difference in practice has been accepted hitherto. It has operated in practice very satisfactorily. We therefore see no reason to change it. My terms of reference as a Minister enjoin me to secure that the Services follow the same policy in matters of common concern where this "is desirable." For the reasons I have outlined, I do not think a common policy in this matter is strictly necessary and I hope the House will accept that.
Turning to the detailed provisions of the Bill, to a considerable extent they merely make permanent the existing temporary provisions of emergency legislation. Clause 1 extends the statutory 2050 power to raise air forces, embodied in the Air Force Constitution Act, 1917, to cover women, and declares that the prerogative power, not embodied in any Statute, to raise regular land forces, is similarly extended. It also extends the statutory powers to raise Army and Air Force reserves and auxiliary forces, to include forces composed of women. The Clause covers not only the regular women's components of the Army and the Royal Air Force, but also women's reserve, auxiliary and territorial forces, and women doctors and dentists. It will also cover the Army and Air Force Nursing Services, whose members at present have commissioned status in the Army and Air Force by virtue of the Defence Regulations to which I have referred. Clause 2 empowers women to hold commissions in the land or air forces and in the corresponding reserve and auxiliary forces.
The first part of Clause 3 makes what I will call a general translation in all the enactments, including in particular the Army and Air Force Acts, which affect men of the Army and Air Force. It provides that in all these enactments the words referring to men shall be read as if they included also members of the Women's Forces, who will thus be put on the same legal basis as soldiers and airmen. The second part of Clause 3 enables any necessary consequential modifications of enactments to be made by Order in Council, subject to affirmative Resolution. This provision is intended to cover three things:—first, it is intended to enable certain modifications to be made in the Army and Air Force Acts for application to the Women's Forces in addition to the general translation provided for in the first part of Clause 3. In this respect it merely continues the existing provision in Defence Regulations and in Section 176 (A) of the Army and Air Force Acts, which enable those Acts to be applied in whole or in part as modified or amended by instructions of the Army and Air Councils to whole time members of the Women's Auxiliary Territorial Service and the Women's Auxiliary Air Force. Instructions of the Army and Air Councils modifying the Army and Air Force Acts for this purpose are not subject to the control of the House and, in the view of the Government, are not therefore appropriate instruments in peacetime. Procedure by, Order in Council, subject to affirmative 2051 Resolution, has, therefore, been substituted in this Bill.
Secondly, Clause 3 (2) will enable us to apply to the Women's Forces the provisions of a small number of enactments which clearly should apply to them, but which are not legally made to apply simply by the general translation effected by Clause 3 (1). An example is the Disabled Persons Employment Act, which gives disabled members of the Forces certain advantages as regards training for and placing in employment. I am advised that a specific Amendment to this Act will be necessary to cover members of the new Women's Forces; this will be made by Order in Council, to be submitted to the House. Thirdly, although all Statutes known to be affected by the first part of Clause 3 have been carefully reviewed, without, as one would expect, revealing any that cannot properly apply to women, we cannot completely rule out the possibility that, as the result of experience, it may be necessary at some time in the future to limit or amend the operation of a particular Statute on members of the new Women's Forces. Clause 3 (2) would enable this to be done by Order in Council.
Clause 4 provides that the National Service Acts, and particularly the 1947 Act, are not to be extended to cover women. There is, of couse, no intention of departing from the position which I made quite clear during last year's Debate on National Service that women would not be made subject to the National Service Acts, but it might conceivably be argued that the general translation by Clause 3 (1) of references to men so as to include references to women, brings women within their operation. To avoid any such misunderstanding the possibility has been specifically ruled out in Clause 4.
The new women's components of the Army and the Royal Air Force will be constituted on a date to be fixed by Order in Council as soon as the necessary administrative preliminaries can be completed. When they are constituted, members of the Auxiliary Territorial Service and the W.A.A.F. who are at present serving will have the opportunity of volunteering to transfer to them and of finding in them opportunities for a stable peace time career. I want to make it 2052 clear, however, that these new forces will be entirely voluntary. No one will be compelled to serve in them. I am, nevertheless, quite certain from my experience of these Services that we shall find that in these conditions the new forces will attract willing volunteers and that they will worthily carry on the high traditions of their predecessors, and bring still more honour and distinction to the Women's. Forces.
I never forget all the services the women rendered during the war. Surely, there is no more shining example of deliberate cold-blooded courage than that of those members of the Women's Forces who parachuted into France in the heart of the enemy-occupied territory to do work which heartened and encouraged the Resistance movement there. We are very proud of them. We think it is a good thing to recognise their achievements and to put them into the Regular Forces in this way. With this brief, but I hope sufficiently detailed, explanation, the House will, I trust, give a Second Reading to the Bill.
§ 11.24 a.m.
§ Earl Winterton (Horsham)
This Bill is not quite as simple and uncontroversial as the right hon. Gentleman has suggested. I have quite a number of questions to put which I have no doubt will be answered by the Minister who is to reply to the Debate. Before putting those questions, I should like to join with the right hon. Gentleman in paying my tribute to the value of the Women's Services during the war. Naturally, I did not have the great official experience which the right hon. Gentleman had, but I had considerable experience of those Services, because I was connected with welfare in London, working under a noble Lord in another place, Lord Nathan, who, as the House will agree, did most admirable work in connection with welfare in its earlier days. I saw the growth of the A.T.S. and I also had the opportunity, late in the war, of paying a visit, at the invitation of the then General Officer Commanding the Air Defences of Great Britain, to see the magnificent work of the Women's Services in what might be called the English front line at the time when the V.I's and the V/'s were coming over.
As the right hon. Gentleman said, the Bill places the A.T.S. and the W.A.A.F. 2053 on a statutory footing, and applies to them, subject to adaptations and modifications, military and other law applicable to the Army and the R.A.F. My first point of comment, if not of criticism, is that, despite the intention which has been expressed on more than one occasion to increase uniformity and co-ordination between the three Services, the reason which is indeed responsible for the right hon. Gentleman's official existence as Minister of Defence, opportunity has not been taken in this Bill to include the W.R.N.S. as well as the A.T.S. and the W.A.A.F.
I would like to examine a little more fully than did the right hon. Gentleman the reason for that decision. I thought he skated over it rather lightly. He attempted to excuse the lack of uniformity by saying that there were certain differences between the organisation of the Navy and the other two Forces, and he referred to the Supply Services. Frankly, I do not think that that is any analogy whatever. Because the Navy happens to have certain Supply Services which are more or less under civilian control seems to me to be no reason for not having the W.R.N.S. put on the same footing as the other two Women's Services. I do not want to introduce unnecessary controversy into this Debate, but I feel bound to say that the real answer was not given by the right hon. Gentleman, namely, that he has not succeeded in persuading the First Lord of the Admiralty and his Naval advisers that it is desirable. We all know the great power which the Admiralty always has vis-a-vis the other Services. Without breaking the Official Secrets Act, those of us who have held high office in connection with the Services know the constant struggle that goes on, and I am sure that privately the right hon. Gentleman would agree with me in that regard.
§ Earl Winterton
The struggle that goes on between the three Services is not merely between Ministers but more often between their Service advisers. It has always gone on and always will, but it was hoped that when the right hon. Gentleman was created Minister of Defence that struggle would be abated.
If I may say so, the right hon. Gentleman is a most popular and respected 2054 Member of this House, but in his Ministerial capacity he appears to be figuratively, though not physically, a rather dim and insubstantial person. He has certainly missed the opportunity, in this Bill, of seeing that that co-ordination takes place. I have listened carefully to his remarks and I see no reason why the W.R.N.S. should not have been included. I do not think it is satisfactory to have two women's forces on one basis and the third women's force on an entirely different basis. I hope we shall have from the Minister who replies some much fuller explanation than that given by the right hon. Gentleman.
That is not the only difficulty about this Bill and the regulations under it. I think that in the opinion of all hon. Members, on whichever side of the House they sit, and especially those who represent garrison or dockyard towns, who have given attention to these matters, there is an unsatisfactory state of Statute law in regard to the Armed Forces. There are already separate Statutes governing the service obligations of the Regular soldier, the Volunteer, the territorial and the National Service man. In the opinion of my hon. Friends on this side of the House, there should be consolidation and codification of all the Statutes under which persons serve. I hope the right hon. Gentleman will be able to give us an assurance that that matter is being considered. It is relevant to consideration of this Bill. I would point out, though I have not the quotation by me, that such codification was distinctly promised during the passage of the National Service Act, 1947. The promise was given by a Minister, a noble Lord in another place, and I wish to ask whether we can receive any information upon it.
Regarding the reference to Orders in Council, the right hon. Gentleman, who is a very adroit and popular Parliamentarian, suggested that everyone in this House loved Orders in Council. Certainly the Government do. It is their fetish and glittering idol. For my part, I wish to see many more things put into the law, so that we know where we stand. The right hon. Gentleman suggested that he was making a great concession to the House, because he was proposing to deal with many of the regulations by Orders in Council. Some of these adaptations may be very far-reaching, and while it may be necessary, as an interim measure, to have 2055 Orders in Council, in my opinion they should, sooner or later, be embodied in appropriate statutory law. I think that is only fair from the point of view of the people in the Services.
One point which I wish to put may seem to be in contradiction to what I have just said. I admit that here my argument may appear weak, but I merely ask for information. As the Secretary of State for War will be aware, the A.T.S. throughout the war insisted on what might be termed a double command. While for their actual duties the women were under the command of the appropriate Army officer, they were, for discipline and welfare, subordinate to their own hierachy. I think that is a fair description of the situation. It had the effect, which I think was valuable, of enabling the special interests of the A.T.S. to be protected, and their case to be presented at all levels up to the Army Council. I understand that under this Bill that will be abolished.
The right hon. Gentleman made some reference to it, and I think that it will be agreed that in peace time, just as much as, if not more than, in war time, the success of the Women's Services will depend on the quality, and particularly upon the training, of the officers and noncommissioned officers. A scheme has recently been presented—I do not wish to trouble the House with particulars of it—in a paper issued by the War Office for the training of A.T.S. officers. On the face of it, the scheme appears to be satisfactory. It is clear that the Secretary of State for War and his advisers attach great importance to this matter. I would like to have an assurance that there will be no attempt at unwise economy by the shortening or pruning of the initial or higher training of officers and non-commissioned officers of the Women's Services. It would be out of Order to make more than a passing reference by way of parallel to what is taking place in the Army generally. There is one feature apparent in the Army generally, and that is that great care is taken with the training of officers and non-commissioned officers. I wish to see the same thing applied to the Women's Services.
It will be generally agreed by those who have experience of such matters that during the war an adequate proportion of married women in the officers corps of the 2056 Women's Services was desirable for a number of reasons. That idea always was favoured by the Army, the Higher Command and the War Office. I would like to know the Government's policy in regard to the employment of married women as officers or other ranks. I admit it will be more difficult in peace-time conditions, and there will probably be a lower proportion of married women than is desirable and to be expected in war time, but, so far as I know, there has been no announcement by the Government on this matter, either in reply to Questions, or in any statement. I wish to know, also, whether we are to have any statement of plans for part-time A.T.S. That affects this Bill, at any rate indirectly. I would add, by way of comment, that experience before the war, and in the F.A.N.Y's., showed that annual camps and part-time Women's Services were as essential an element as they were in the Territorial Army.
Wide latitude is always allowed by custom on the Second Reading of a Bill to raise questions which are analogous to the matters dealt with by the Bill. I think, therefore, it is appropriate to ask the Government whether some announcement may be made on the question of purely voluntary organisations, and I use the term "voluntary" in the sense of those who are not in the Regular Services. I do not think the establishment in peace time of a full-time and part-time A.T.S. will render superfluous such voluntary organisations as the F.A.N.Y.'s and the W.V.S.
If it is impossible, or the Government consider it would not be in Order to give an explicit answer to that question in connection with this Bill, I would request that they do so when we come to the Debate on the White Paper on Defence. It is very important that we should be aware of the intentions of the Government in regard to these Services. Though they were voluntary and not directly subject to Parliamentary control and Government responsibility, these organisations during the war showed themselves able to fulfil roles in which the employment of the A.T.S. was either refused by the Government, or only tardily conceded. It was for this reason that F.A.N.Y.'s were able to do work in Burma before the despatch to that theatre of any regular Women's Services was authorised.
2057 I hope there will be all-party agreement with this Bill. I see no reason why it should be voted against at this moment. I hope that the Government will be able to give an answer to the points which I have ventured to make, and that they will be borne in mind when the general Defence Debate takes place. I end on a note which will be received with universal agreement. The Women's Services have proved to be an integral and essential part of the defence of this country. I hope it will not be wounding to any other country, or our Allies, to say that no country in the last war employed women more fully, efficiently or effectively in the Defence Services than did this country. All in this House, whatever our ordinary political views may be, will take this opportunity to pay a tribute to the magnificent service which those women performed, and also a tribute to those of them who lost their lives in giving that service.
§ 11.40 a.m.
§ Mrs. Leah Manning (Epping)
Subject to the reservation that I look forward to the time when national armies, navies and air forces will have given place to an international force, I welcome this Bill. There is no doubt that a very large number of women will expect to find a career open to them in the Forces. Knowing that to be true, I am glad that, with the exception of two important matters, I can regard this as an egalitarian Measure. Those of us who had anything to do with the Women's Forces during the war must agree with the noble Lord the Member for Horsham (Earl Winterton) that they formed an absolutely essential part of our Services. As in almost every other walk of life, men would be of very little use if they were not supported by the work of women. During the war, it was obvious that the great base of the Army in many forms of ancillary service was formed by the Women's Services.
The first point I wish to discuss is one which has already been mentioned by the noble Lord. I was distinctly dissatisfied with the statement of the Minister of Defence that the W.R.N.S. are not to take their share in this new Service. One knows the standing of the Senior Service. I presume that we find here some analogy to the House of Lords—the last place from which women are excluded. Those who remember how difficult it was to get 2058 into the W.R.N.S. realise what magnificent material did eventually enter that Service. We recognise the intelligent and splendid work done by W.R.N. writers and cooks alike, as well as by their commissioned and non-commissioned officers, and we are astonished that the Navy have not welcomed them with open arms. Certainly that is what I would have expected. The Minister of Defence must find some better excuse than the one already put forward if we are not to assume that the noble Lord was right in his view as to why they have been left outside this new integrated Force.
The House will expect me to raise another matter. How long are we to wait for the women in the Forces to get the rate for the job? I must assume, though I would like a definite answer, that where doctors and dentists are concerned they will get the rate for the job. If these Forces are to be integrated in the way explained this morning, it is obvious that women will be doing exactly the same work as men in many spheres. I should have thought this new Measure provided an opportunity for the Government to make some practical expression of their faith on this important economic matter.
I am glad that the noble Lord raised the question of the marriage bar. I am not sure whether or not it is intended that it should operate. I hope it is not intended. One appreciates that it is difficult for married women in peace time to do very much work outside their homes but we are constantly urging them to undertake jobs. I should have thought that on home stations we would have found extremely important work for married women to do, in cases where their husbands are engaged on work which takes them to foreign stations, and if women are to go there, it would be an enormous help to girls in the Forces to have married women stationed there also. I should be very sorry to see any kind of marriage bar, and no doubt the Minister who replies to this Debate will be able to explain the situation.
On the question of discipline, I am not such a determined feminist that I think every kind of discipline, and every kind of sanction which applies to a man, must necessarily apply to a woman. I would very much regret to see some of the inhuman disciplines that are applied to men in the Forces being applied to 2059 women. I hope that with our new attitude towards women we may hope to see in the Army a changed attitude shown in regard to the men. That kind of thing has often occurred, for example, in Factory Acts. The gentler attitude towards women has pushed open a door which has made things very much better for men as well. Those of us who deeply disapprove of the kinds of discipline so often applied to men in the Forces hope to see the entrance of women having its effect on the discipline applied to men.
I am not sure how far the Forces really are to be integrated. My right hon. Friend said that there would be mixed groups of men and women. I do not know whether the women's commanding officers are to be separated as they were during the war. My right hon. Friend did not explain that point. I hope that he will make clear how far a woman who is a commissioned officer or a non-commissioned officer will be integrated with the commissioned and non-commissioned officers among the men. Also I hope that he will explain whether the women's commanding officers are only to deal with the cases of women, and whether the senior officers or directors of the Women's Services, will be concerned primarily with women's welfare.
My final reason for welcoming this Bill is that on many occasions I have had to call attention to the bad show the women get in the case of Army education. During the latter days of demobilisation we were frequently told, "Well, you know, the women cannot have this or that course; they are very busy and must do some particular piece of work." Over and over again, we found that the women were doing work which was properly men's work, while the men got the educational courses and the women missed them. I assume that, if there is to be complete integration, the educational courses for the women will be exactly the the same as the educational courses for the men though, naturally, more suited to women's needs.
On all these grounds, I welcome the Bill. I believe it to be an egalitarian Measure. I hope that the Minister who replies to the Debate will take note of my comments. I would particularly like to know whether there is any chance of more favourable treatment for the 2060 W.R.N.S. All hon. Members feel that this Bill is really a tribute to the magnificent courage of the women during the war, and their desire in peacetime to make the Forces a career and to get a proper training equal to the training given to the men. We hope to see them treated as the intelligent, important part of the Services which they really will become.
§ 11.49 a.m.
§ Brigadier Head (Carshalton)
I have little to add to what has been said by the noble Lord the Member for Horsham (Earl Winterton). I agree with a great deal of what was said by the hon. Member for Epping (Mrs. Manning), though I cannot go the whole way with her regarding discipline. Perhaps I may be considered to be a rather bigoted believer in discipline as the most important single preparatory thing for men who are about to fight. Although I see her point, I hope that the incursion of the A.T.S. into the Army will not have too astonishing an effect on the sergeant-major. Of course, that will remain to be seen.
I join in what has been said regretting that the W.R.N.S. are not included in this Measure. We cannot tell the exact reasons, but I must say that I heard no convincing or good reason put forward by the Minister of Defence. Possibly what has happened is that the First Sea Lord has said, as far as the Navy is concerned, that, in the words of Mr. Sam Goldwyn, "You can include them out." The Minister of Defence said one argument was that it would be difficult to include W.R.N.S. in a service which spends most of its time at sea, but with our present Navy that seems a very poor argument indeed.
I also join in regretting the fact that this Bill contains a great deal of delegated legislation and Orders in Council. That cannot be a good thing, especially for the Services who like to know where they stand in these matters. I cannot help feeling that it is a habit when preparing a Bill to leave things out, the view, of course, being, "We shall say anything we think of later." It seems to me that a great many things have been left out which might well have been stated.
I would like to follow the noble Lord the Member for Horsham in his remarks about voluntary organisation. It seems to 2061 me that the fact that we are going to have a corps of Regular women in the Services in no way diminishes the importance of the voluntary element, whose contribution in war is a very large and important one. For that reason, I very much hope that the Regular women in the Forces will not take complete charge, to an undue extent, of the voluntary effort which comes into existence in a war. I believe that would be most unfortunate; it is most unfortunate in the men's side but it would be even more unfortunate in the women's side.
I am told on all sides that it was found in the war that many of the most important posts were filled to a large extent, and filled very well, by married women. Probably many Members of the House had experience, as I have experienced, that married women are very good commanders. Perhaps they have a great deal of experience as leaders of men in their civil life. It is likely, however, that the proportion of married women will be unduly low and I hope if and when war comes—and we pray it will not—and we have more volunteers, that there will be good fusion among the more important posts, which should not be retained to an undue extent, as they sometimes are in the men's forces, for the Regular element.
I hope that in this system, the women will think out and put forward to some extent their own suggestions and their own policy for ensuring a really good and smooth mobilisation of the voluntary elements in wartime, because I think women have not had very much opportunity of thinking out their schemes in peacetime. One thing which should be organised in the event of war or of mobilisation is a scheme whereby a really rapid team of secretaries and clerks would be available. At the outbreak of the last war the shortage of clerks and secretaries made things absolutely chaotic for a time, and I can well remember when G.H.Q. went to France there was an extremely difficult problem on the clerical side, a difficulty which was enhanced by the fact that the typewriters were all lost on the way out. The boxes were then found and were opened with great ceremony and were found to contain the saddles for the Duke of Gloucester's chargers. This sort of thing happens in war. A great deal of chaos could be avoided if many girls were earmarked so that they could go 2062 immediately to their wartime posts, because that needs no previous training but is of absolutely inestimable value to those who are working very hard with the enormous amount of paper which is necessary nowadays in the conduct of a war.
I join with other Members who have spoken in welcoming this Bill and I should also like to pay my small tribute to what the women did in the last war. The Minister of Defence mentioned the astonishing bravery of the women parachutists behind the lines in France, and that really was an extraordinary performance, but I would also like to mention the countless women who carried out the most dreary dull and unglamorous jobs, working very long hours, in a way which was rewarded with little or no notice throughout the country. Nevertheless, these women did release a large number of men to be employed elsewhere fighting, and they assisted the smooth running of that immense administrative burden which war imposes and in the jobs which have to be done but which many people do not like doing. With the establishment of women in the Forces it will be the duty of everybody in the Regular Forces to see that they are not only welcomed, but are given the fullest opportunity to display their talent.
§ 11.56 a.m.
§ Mr. Emrys Hughes (South Ayrshire)
I regret that, unlike previous speakers, I cannot welcome this Bill. I am opposed to it because it is a further step towards acquiescence in the belief that we must organise for war. I believe this is a view which must be challenged on all occasions, whether they arise on big Bills or small Bills. The more I listened to the discussions and the explanations of this Bill, especially by the Minister of Defence, the more I am convinced that this Bill should be scrutinised very carefully by Members. Last Friday I ventured to put what I thought was a very relevant question to the Minister of Defence when I asked him what sort of a war we are preparing for. We got no reply. The Minister of Defence looked as if he had been torpedoed amidships. He sat there and it was like "The Wreck of the Hesperus":The skipper answered never a word,For a frozen corpse was heWe have had no more enlightenment as to why women are to be organised into the 2063 war machine than we had in explanation of the Marines Bill last week. I hope I shall always oppose any extension of military activity in this country because I believe it is perfectly futile, and because I am asking a question which the right hon. Gentleman who was the Secretary for India in the last Government asked in a Sunday paper last week: "After all, were not Mr. Gandhi's ideas the most effective way of keeping peace throughout the world?" I wish Mr. Amery had been present in this House to put that point. I always look at these Bills in the light of the general background of what happened in the last war and what is likely to happen in the next war. What kind of activity is to be asked from these women? I join entirely with the tributes paid to the courage of the women in the war. It was very courageous—probably one of the most wonderfully courageous things done in this world—to go down on a parachute into a France occupied by Nazi troops. It would also require a very great deal of courage for a woman to parachute into Soviet Russia. [An HON. MEMBER: "Or the United States."] Or the United States, or any other country.
We are very careful to avoid in these discussions facing up to the realities: who is this war to be against and what sort of war is it likely to be? The hon. and gallant Member for Carshalton (Brigadier Head) and the noble Lord the Member for Horsham (Earl Winterton) have talked about co-ordination of the different Services. There seems to have been no co-ordination by the War Office on this question of how the women are to be used. Last Tuesday the hon. Member for Windsor (Mr. Mott-Radclyffe) put a Question about the headquarters of the A.T.S. in Windsor, and asked whether the Secretary of State would:give an assurance that as soon as alternative accommodation is found for the A.T.S. at present occupying the Imperial Service College in Windsor, these premises will be derequisitioned and handed back to the Windsor Borough Council.Apparently the welcome given by this hon. Member to the A.T.S. is to try to get them ejected from their headquarters at Windsor. Then the hon. and gallant Member for Carshalton asked:Is the Secretary of State aware that part of his own flock, namely, the Household Cavalry, are in urgent need of these premises 2064 also?"—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 3rd February, 1948; Vol. 446, col. 1635.]There appears to be a question here of the relativity of importance. I cannot understand this co-ordination when the military Members of this House are anxious to know whether the headquarters of the A.T.S. will be handed over to the borough council or requisitioned for the Household Cavalry. My prejudices are in favour of the Windsor Borough Council. Every office existing at the present time is needed for housing somebody, and I do not believe the housing situation either in Windsor or anywhere else is so good that we can afford to contemplate an extension of the A.T.S. and so make further housing difficulties for the local authorities through premises being requisitioned to accommodate the recruits.
We are not agreed as to what kind of headquarters this organisation is to have. What are we going to do when the strength of the organisation is increased? There is only in this country a certain amount of woman power, and how are these recruits to be obtained for these women's Services? Are they to be obtained from the very small proportion of women who are unemployed? Are we going to have competition between the organisers of the A.T.S. and other organisations, such as the nursing service which are anxious to enrol women labour? I object very strongly to a recruiting campaign for the A.T.S. at a time when in Scotland we are short of nurses to the extent of 4,500, many of whom are needed to nurse the tuberculosis victims of the last war.
Are we going to compete for the women with those services which are supplying personnel so badly needed in the hospital services? Is this extension of the A.T.S. to be in opposition to and in competition with the Women's Land Army. The Women's Land Army is of immensely more importance than any of the activities the A.T.S. are contemplating. Only last evening I saw in an evening paper that 30,000 women were likely to be brought over to this country to work in the textile industry. These German women are needed here because there is a shortage of labour in our factories. There is a shortage of woman power in the hospitals, in the Land Army and in industry. On them depends our future as a country because we need an expand- 2065 ing export trade to which women workers contribute so much. This is not the time to take away from our woman power to provide women for the A.T.S.
I want to know precisely what these ladies are going to do? I have read a sort of preliminary statement put out by the War Office, and I am not at all convinced—I hope the Secretary of State for War will pay some attention to this argument when he replies—that these ladies will be serving a useful purpose in the A.T.S. when they can be employed in any of the other services which I have mentioned. In the "Star" of Tuesday evening we were told that the Sandhurst A.T.S. will get 4s. a day. In what way are they going to be trained? We had some pertinent questions from the hon. and gallant Member for Carshalton about the training for soldiers and marines and we got absolutely no satisfaction from the Front Bench. Last week the Financial Secretary to the Admiralty told us that these details would be worked out later. In other words, the practical details of training are to be worked out after they get the men. First they want the men, and then, afterwards, they will think of what they are going to do with them. That is precisely what we are going to do with the women.
Here is this "Star" report and from it it seems to me quite obvious that the organisers of the A.T.S. have simply no conception of what training is to be adopted for the new personnel. I read this:Visits to factories and magistrates' courts will be in the syllabus of the A.T.S. who will train for commissions under the new War Office schemeI should like the Secretary of State for War to explain that. These ladies will be visiting factories watching other people work when the need is to man the factories. The second item in the syllabus is that they are to visit the police courts. Why the police courts? In the old days there used to be beautiful recruiting posters on the hoardings of the country declaring, "Join the Army and see the world." Some of the men of this country joined the Army and saw far too much of the world. Now the new slogan issued by the publicity department of the War Office is, "Join the Women's Service and see the underworld." If the War Office can think of nothing else for these ladies to do except visit factories to watch other people 2066 work and go to the police courts, there is no reason why this House should pass the Bill, certainly not until we get some idea of what these people are going to do and how the taxpayers' money is to be spent.
The Minister of Defence spoke about discipline. That is a word that always has some meaning for me. His argument was that it was necessary to apply to these women the same regulations in regard to disciplinary treatment as apply to men. I have some idea of the disciplinary treatment applied to men. I have been in a military detention camp, and I do not want to see an extension to women of the discipline adopted there, because that is what the Minister of Defence means when his words are worked out to their logical conclusion. If that is not what is meant, what is meant? Are we to give power to courts martial to sentence women to terms of military detention? The skipper still answers never a word. Are we to send these ladies to military detention camps run by the War Office, or are we to have special military detention camps for women? I shall never vote for establishing a military system which will result in court martialling women and sending them to military detention camps.
The hon. Member for Epping (Mrs. Manning) said that this was an egalitarian Measure for women and that she welcomed it as such. But that is precisely what it is not. Clause 4 of the Bill says:Nothing in this Act or done thereunder shall render a woman liable to be called up for service under the National Service Acts, 1939 to 1947.Thus men are to be in the unfavourable position of being conscribed while women are not. If the hon. Lady did believe in a really egalitarian Measure, she would have suggested that women should be conscribed as well. She also spoke about education in the A.T.S. I wish that hon. Members, before this Bill is passed, would read the Report of the Committee on Amenities and Welfare Conditions in the three women's services. It is an interesting document from which I wish to make one or two brief quotations. It was written by a committee set up by this House, which committee went very thoroughly into the organisation of the A.T.S. The Report is very interesting and lucid, and with a great deal of it I agree. It says: 2067The widespread ignorance about current affairs in the Army had attracted the attention of all thoughtful regimental officers. Many men had not even an elementary idea of why the country was at war. Yet, clearly, a man who understands what he is fighting for fights better than one who does not.The organisation of education has been dealt with briefly, but I would ask for some assurance that there will be some reasonable education for these people enlisted in the Forces.
I apologise for having taken up so much time, and I am sorry to disturb the unanimity in the House, but I believe that it is the duty of those who take a realistic view of what the next war will be like and of what it will mean, not to tinker about with the A.T.S., but to face the fact that it is a fundamental change in our international policy that can be the effective defence for this country in the event of another war.
§ 12.14 p.m.
§ Mr. Gage (Belfast, South)
I want to say a word or two on the disciplinary aspect of the Bill. My reason for doing so is that during the war I had a fairly considerable experience of dealing with disciplinary problems in the Army; and I had also a slight and short experience of dealing with those problems in the A.T.S. As far as I was concerned, if I had had any control over my appointment to do that particular work with the A.T.S., it would have been of even shorter duration than it was, because it was not altogether a pleasant or easy task. My experience was that courts martial under the Army Act were totally inappropriate for administering discipline, and I am sorry to see that this method is to be perpetuated by the Bill.
Although its application to the A.T.S. was modified then, as I see it is to be modified now, my view was that an Act, which, after all, applies the very stringent discipline required in a fighting force of men, however modified, could not be expected to work with women. Members of the A.I.S. could be court-martialled only for absence without leave or for the conduct to the prejudice of good order and discipline, and they could be sentenced only to 14 days' confinement to barracks. So we had all the lengthy rigmarole of officers coming to a long trial very often over some trivial matter, and at the end the unfortunate girl was sentenced to 14 2068 days' confinement to barracks. I do not think the discipline of the A.T.S. or anyone else was in the slightest degree advanced by that. It was different in the case of officers, because they could be dismissed the Service, and that, of course, was the heaviest sentence.
There must be some method of control in such a force as this, but I do not think it should be by the Army Act. I am certain a method of discipline could he worked out by the officers themselves. I am fortified in this belief because the W.R.N.S. during the war—and now—did not come under the Naval Discipline Act, and yet nobody has ever suggested that their discipline or the way in which they behaved were in any way adversely affected by it. I do not know how they ordered their affairs, but I am certain, judging by their standards and by their qualities, to which tribute has been paid, that there was no lack of discipline amongst them. I do not think the Army Act or the Air Force Act are of the slightest assistance in respect of the other Women's Services. I do not pretend to say how the method of maintaining discipline should be worked out, but I am certain that the good sense of the officers concerned would enable them to evolve a code which would work perfectly well, and that it is not necessary to bring in all the business which is inseparable from the operation of the Army Act. Trying girls and sentencing them by court martial is inappropriate, and I am sorry to see it perpetuated by Clause 3 of the Bill.
§ 12.19 p.m.
§ Air-Commodore Harvey (Macclesfield)
I should like to make an observation on the speech of the hon. Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Emrys Hughes). I have seldom heard a speech in this House so far removed from present-day realities. He talked about organising for war. No one suggests that this Bill is an attempt to organise for war. It is a Bill to bring women into the Services as an insurance against war. The hon. Member said that women entering the Services should be doing other jobs; but by entering the Services women will be relieving men who will be able to go to jobs in the factories. This country has gone far enough in giving a lead to other countries in the reduction of armed Forces.
I welcome the Measure, with the one exception that it does not extend to the 2069 W.R.N.S. I should like to have seen the scope of the Bill extended to cover all three women's Services. The women of all three Services did a magnificent job of work throughout the war; indeed, I sometimes wonder if, without their assistance, we should have won the war.
Has the right hon. Gentleman in mind new names for the women's Services? Surely, they are not to continue under the old names? I should have thought that this would have been the appropriate time to announce to the country new names for the women's Services.
In supporting the hon. Member for Epping (Mrs. Manning) in her plea for the rate for the job I do not wish to get involved in the controversial subject of equal pay, but I must say that there is a very strong case for paying these women more than they receive at present. In the W.A.A.F., the airwomen have been given a token increase of 8d. and the officers of 1s., but in some cases their pay is still well below two-thirds that of the men. That must be rectified. These women do their work well, and in some cases do the job better than the men, particularly in certain operational matters, such as the handling of radar, in photography, and in numerous other directions.
I hope the Minister will examine this problem and give the women some encouragement. All the Services are underpaid, but a woman, who gets less than two-thirds the pay of a man, has insufficient to keep her in nylons, and her other needs. I welcome the integration proposal, because from my war experience I believe that women work particularly well under the direction of male officers—sometimes better than under the command of female officers—and I hope that will be continued. I welcome this Bill except for the fact that the W.R.N.S. are not included. The women's Services have earned their places in all three arms, and I take this opportunity of wishing them good luck, for I am sure they will render valuable service to our country.
§ 12.22 p.m.
§ Squadron-Leader Sir Gifford Fox (Henley)
First, let me say how pleased I am at the introduction of this Bill which gives women the chance of a career in the Armed Forces. They did magnificent work during the war, and it is a just reward that those who wish to continue to 2070 serve in the future should have the opportunity of making it a career. I regret very much that the W.R.N.S. have not been included. I cannot understand why that should be so when such a Measure is introduced, and when all the Armed Forces are being re-organised. During the war I was a provost officer in the Royal Air Force, and had many opportunities of seeing the difficulties which arose. As far as I could make out, the only reason why the W.R.N.S. were different from the A.T.S. or the W.A.A.F. was because they were not under the naval disciplinary code. If a seawoman went absent or deserted, she could not be arrested, as could an airwoman or an A.T.S. private.
The Minister was asked what would be the position under this Bill of absentees or deserters from the A.T.S. or the W.A.A.F. There was dead silence. I am quite certain that the Government do not know the answer. As a provost officer during the war, I was the first to encounter the problem of what to do with an airwoman who had been arrested as a deserter. In the result, the airwoman was taken to an R.A.F. station where six other airwomen were used to guard her during the 24 hours. A lot of telephoning with the Air Ministry ensued, and they eventually decided what was to be done in future. Before this Bill becomes law it is important to make clear exactly what is to happen should any unfortunate woman go absent or desert, or get into other trouble.
I support the hon. Member for Epping (Mrs. Manning) on the question of equal pay for women officers in the Armed Forces. I maintain equal pay to be the only fair treatment. Members of the Armed Forces are paid very badly, and in many cases officers cannot be housed on their station. For instance, officers stationed in London have to live out, finding their own lodgings, at very high rents, and this faces them with a difficult problem. This would be the opportunity to see that justice is done. As the hon. Member for Epping said, there may be difficulties in regard to doctors in the Services. Are they to be paid the same or not? I understand that they are. But if a woman doctor is paid the same as a man doctor, why cannot a woman adjutant be paid the same as a man adjutant?
2071 I regret, too, that in reorganising the Services the opportunity has not been taken of trying to achieve better co-ordination. This would be a good chance to co-ordinate the Services, and thus effect a great saving of manpower. In the provost branch, for example, why not have one organisation, with power over both the W.A.A.F. and the A.T.S., instead of two separate entities as at present, with two lots of military patrols and provost officers. Were that to be carefully thought out, a great saving of manpower would be achieved.
We have not heard from the Minister whether under this Bill, the uniforms will be changed. What arrangements have been made to incorporate what is called the "new look" in their uniforms. If the W.R.N.S. issue such a uniform, we ought to know whether the A.T.S. and the W.A.A.F. will be permitted to do likewise, for great interest is taken in dress by the women's Forces. Recently, the W.A.A.F. have been authorised to issue a new hat, which will take a great deal of extra material, although it does not look any better. Why cannot they have a "fore and aft" if they want it? That had a great appeal to the W.A.A.F. in the Middle East, and it would save a lot of material. Now is the time to try to introduce a good uniform, and one which will save material during this time of shortage in civilian life. When the Minister replies, I hope he will answer some of the questions that have been put to him today. I conclude by repeating my pleasure that the women have been given a chance to make a career in the Armed Services.
§ 12.27 p.m.
§ Mr. Charles Williams (Torquay)
I would not dare to comment on what the hon. and gallant Member for Henley (Sir G. Fox) said about uniforms. I am quite ignorant on women's clothing, and all that side of life. I leave it to those who have greater knowledge, like the hon. and gallant Member for Henley or the Home Secretary. Before referring to the speeches of the Minister of Defence and the noble Lord the Member for Horsham (Earl Winterton) I wish to comment on the remarks of the hon. Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. E. Hughes). He, as we all appreciate, has tremendous sincerity, and 2072 a belief in everything he says. However, today he was treading on rather dangerous ground in referring to Clause 4 and the fact that the Government are laying down the principle that women are not being conscripted—on which I give them my fullest support. The hon. Member was extremely logical in the way he dealt with equality; but, realising that very often the Government get hold of the wrong end of the stick, I felt that the Government may take the view that he was urging conscription for women. I am sure he did not mean that, but knowing the Government I ought to warn him that in future he should be much more careful in his approach to the Government on such matters, because they often badly misinterpret people.
Here, I should like to add my support to the tribute paid by every hon. Member who has spoken to the valuable service rendered, and the immense courage shown, by British women in the Armed Services during the war. They faced up to terribly hard conditions with great gallantly. When I heard the Minister of Defence referring to the sea, I remembered that the W.R.N.S. did a considerable amount of boating during the war under the most adverse conditions, and did it very well. I do not want to be more controversial than I can help, but I may be more controversial on this matter than some of my hon. Friends. I thoroughly agree with what the Minister of Defence said on the subject of the W.R.N.S. Brigadiers and other people of that kind have never been able to grasp the fact that the Admiralty are at least a generation in advance of the other two Services. The real reason why the W.R.N.S. are not included in this Bill is that there is no reason for them to be included. I am also doubtful whether the two other Services should be included, but I suppose that the brigadiers and air marshals think that they should.
When hon. Members say that they want to see the W.R.N.S. included, they give no reasons, and I can only suppose that it comes from the rather dull sort of brigadier outlook that every one should be treated in the same way. This is not the Navy's point of view. What the Navy wants is the best every time. The fact is that it is the ambition of every woman to join the W.R.N.S. rather than either of the other two Services. [HON. 2073 MEMBERS: "No."] Naturally, there are exceptions to that. For example, if a girl comes from a soldier family, she might wish to go into the Army. That is the tradition, and everyone is proud of it. In general, however, the W.R.N.S. is the Service which attracts women more than the other two Services. The Minister of Defence is on strong ground in keeping the W.R.N.S. out of this Bill, because naval discipline has always been different from that of the other Services; and there are also very many other differences to be found in the case of the Navy. I congratulate the Government on not doing something to upset a Service which is going on very well. Up to now, I think that I have been more in support of the Government than my hon. Friends who have spoken on this Bill. I think that they have been wrong on the subject of the W.R.N.S.
On the other hand, I agree with some of the criticisms which have been made in regard to other aspects of this Measure. In Clause 3, we have the provision which is so often found in other Bills, that certain matters are to be left to be dealt with by Orders in Council to be approved by both Houses. I understand that the present system is to carry on until 1950, but if we are legislating for a considerable period of time, it is far better to have it laid down in the Bill what we wish to have done, rather than leave it to Orders in Council. I do not say that Orders in Council may not be necessary on certain occasions, but in present circumstances it is entirely impossible for Members to digest all the Orders in Council which are being made by this Government. I am afraid that in this case it means that the question of discipline in these Services will not get the attention it deserves, and that is a very serious defect arising from the Bill.
I wish to ask one question, which I hope will be answered by the Admiralty, because naturally the Admiralty will give a more effective reply than any other Department.
§ Mr. Williams
I have not thought of doing that. Coming from the West country, I am naturally prejudiced in favour of the Admiralty, although I consider that 2074 the Army and the Air Force are the most efficient services of their kind in the world. I cannot really be accused, therefore, of showing any bias in this matter. My question is whether we can have some idea as to the numbers affected by this Bill. I do not expect to have a specific reply, because this is a very technical matter, but we have a right to know the approximate number of people to whom this Bill may apply in the future. I do not want to get into the realm of national defence, but when we are passing a Bill affecting a class of the community which is highly thought of in the country, we ought to have some idea of what is involved.
I agree with the hon. Member for Epping (Mrs. Manning) and with my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Henley on the subject of equal pay. This is a matter which is likely to affect discipline, because there can be a tremendous difference in the rate of pay which is paid to men and women doing the same job. We should have some enlightenment on this subject. I am not one of those who think that a job can be done in the same way by a man or a woman. There must inevitably be cases where men and women have to do approximately equal jobs, and some kind of feeling of the kind I have described arises. It is, therefore, essential that we should get somewhat nearer to equality of payment. I strongly emphasise again that it would be fatal to bring the W.R.N.S. into Army discipline. I hope that the Government will not be shaken from their decision by the attacks upon them.
§ 12.41 p.m.
§ The Secretary of State for War (Mr. Shinwell)
The observations which were made by my right hon. Friend on the subject of the services of women with the Forces during the war have been endorsed by every hon. Member who has since addressed the House. I cordially share their views, not only as regards the services rendered during the war, but as regards those rendered at the present time. We are happy to have women members of the Forces with us. If we are unable, because of varying conditions fully to integrate the three Women's Services with those of the male members of the Forces, it is not because we have no desire to achieve complete integration, but for reasons which were 2075 stated by my right hon. Friend. The hon. and gallant Member for Henley (Sir G. Fox) referred, presumably facetiously, to the Women's Services acquiring a "new look." In our view, members of the Women's Services are sufficiently attractive and do not require any further aid.
In a characteristically sincere but in my view completely illogical speech, my hon. Friend the Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. E. Hughes) indulged in some facetious remarks about the training arrangements both for the women's and for the men's Services. He referred to the procedure whereby—I believe it applies equally to the three Services—men and women are taken from time to time to various industrial establishments to acquire information upon industrial matters. That is a very valuable part of their training. It is desirable that members of the Services, both the rank and file and the officers, should acquire such knowledge as is possible, having regard to their duties, of economic matters. Indeed, they have a wide and varied syllabus which relates to training facilities.
Let me take an example. They have a syllabus of lectures, which I think applies equally to all the Services, upon the British Constitution. We impart information about Parliamentary procedure and the activities of Members of Parliament, and about what they do in their spare time. It is quite proper that questions relating to these important matters should be asked by members of the Services, who, let it not be forgotten, are citizens equally with the civilian population. Sometimes it is just as difficult to answer questions put by those men and women as it is for me to answer some of the question put by my hon. Friend the Member for South Ayrshire.
§ Mr. Emrys Hughes
There was one important point. Will the Secretary of State for War deal with the question which I put to him about prison discipline? Will women be liable to be sent to military prisons after courts-martial?
§ Mr. Shinwell
I shall come to that question. I would say, in passing, although it is not really relevant to this Measure, which is a modest one and seeks only to elevate members of the women's Services to a proper legal status—that is 2076 all that is in it—that my hon. Friend is in favour of the complete abolition of the Forces, and has said so quite frankly in this House. He is in a minority in this matter, and if he starts a speech in a Debate of this character by postulating the abolition of all the Services, it seems to me that the rest of his speech does not matter quite so much. I will now deal with the points which he and other hon. Members raised.
One or two questions were asked of which I can dispose at once; for example, in relation to rates of pay in the Services. My hon. Friend the Member for Epping (Mrs. Manning) and other hon. Members asked questions about the rate for the job. We cannot possibly apply different treatment to the Forces from that given in other spheres of State activity. This is a very wide issue which has been debated in this House more than once, and hon. Members are fully informed of the principles involved and the difficulty of their application. I am afraid that I can make no further comment at this stage upon that point, which does not mean that the matter will not be raised again. No doubt it will be raised frequently until it is decided definitely and we know where we are.
As regards the suggestion made by the noble Lord the Member for Horsham (Earl Winterton) about codification of the various provisions and enactments relating to the Services, I am advised—at short notice, because I did not expect that the point would be put to us—that we have not been able to trace any promise about codification. It is true that in another place a reference was made to some consolidation of the National Service Acts, but that is another matter. Although it is another matter, it is being considered. Codification would be a very big job and would take draftsmen and others a considerable amount of time which cannot be spared at the moment. It is doubtful, I am informed, whether there is any particular disadvantage in the present position. The various enactments are set out in the manuals and regulations published for the information of all concerned. That is as far as I can go at this stage on the subject of codification.
A question was asked about a "dual chain of command" for members of the A.T.S. The right hon. Member who put the question from the other side of the 2077 House was concerned because he suspected that a change was about to occur. I am advised that there is to be no change and that there are to be, as there are at present, women directors in each of the Services who will have, as they have at present, direct access, in the Admiralty to the First Lord, in the Air Force to the Secretary of State and, in the War Office to me without any difficulty at all. Access has been sought, and found easy, in the War Office. Conversations have taken place. At any time the respective directors of the Women's Services can make representations direct to the political chiefs in their Departments. Of course, more often than not and for obvious reasons, it is much more desirable that representations should be made through the appropriate superior officer. There is no difficulty about that. Women officers in the Service as a whole must be concerned in particular with questions of welfare and discipline as they affect members of the A.T.S. in the sphere of administration though not necessarily of policy.
The noble Lord asked about a new scheme for A.T.S. officers, whether it was proposed to continue with the present form of training, and mentioned a report which he had seen in a newspaper. He wanted to know whether, because of financial stringency, we intended to skimp and prune training. The answer is that the financial stringency—of which more will be heard when we deal with the Estimates—naturally imposes limitations upon us at present, and is likely to do so for some time, but we shall endeavour to see that training is of the most efficient character. The War Office have been devoting considerable attention, daily, to the subject of training, having regard to the financial and physical limitations with which we are now faced.
§ Earl Winterton
I have in my mind a statement which was issued by the right hon. Gentleman's Department on 1st February on the subject of A.T.S. commissions. I gather that if there is to be any departure from what is already laid down, the right hon. Gentleman will be in a position to make an announcement on the subject during the Debate on the Army Estimates.
§ Mr. Shinwell
We shall no doubt discuss many points, some wide and some detailed, when we come to the Estimates. 2078 I have here the document to which the noble Lord has just referred, but I can see no particular advantage in discussing its details now. I think the right hon. Gentleman will agree that we had better leave that matter until we come to the Estimates.
§ Earl Winterton
I agree, but I wanted to know whether the right hon. Gentleman would be able to deal with the matter then if there had been any departure from this very important announcement.
§ Mr. Shinwell
Yes. Now I come to the question of detention. Women will be subject to court martial for serious offences. If there is to be some form of integration the principle of equality must apply but always, of course, having regard to the difference in sex. All things being equal, the same treatment will be meted out—
§ Mr. Emrys Hughes
Does the right hon. Gentleman mean that a court martial will be able to send a woman to a military prison?
§ Mr. Shinwell
Women will be liable to detention. Let us be quite clear about the definition of "detention." We are concerning ourselves now, and have been for some time, with this matter, and we are providing what are called "corrective establishments."
§ Mr. Shinwell
My experience was of a very limited character, and for an offence not quite so serious as that of the hon. Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. E. Hughes). I know that my hon. Friend behind me, the hon. Member for West Ealing (Mr. J. Hudson) is an "old lag"—
§ Sir G. Fox
Is it intended to put a woman in a cell, and turn the key on her, or put her in a room with a wardress to supervise her?
§ Mr. Shinwell
I cannot give a picture of the kind of establishment we have in view. At Colchester recently, I saw an establishment for men where there were three tiers of treatment—
§ Mr. Shinwell
No, t-i-e-r-s. According to the nature of their offence and sentence, their general conduct, general demeanour, and their capacity for improvement, the men are treated somewhat differently. I was very pleased, on the whole, with what I saw, although there were some blemishes to which I directed attention, and which we hope to correct. It will be necessary to establish special detention barracks, but there is no question of a "glasshouse," or anything of that sort. I think it may be assumed that we should hardly dare to impose severe punishment upon women; I can imagine the resentment which would be expressed if we tried to do anything of that sort. But if there are serious offences, and courts martial, the women themselves could hardly expect to be excused.
Now I come to the question of part-time service. When I was in Germany, recently, I saw the work being undertaken by members of the W.V.S. It was highly commendable; the influence they are exercising there is substantial and beneficial, and I cannot praise too highly what I saw being done. This organisation will continue, although it is my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary who has some jurisdiction in this matter. I was asked about part-time service. We shall be only too glad to avail ourselves of volunteers for the Territorial Army, for administrative and other services.
§ Earl Winterton
Will the right hon. Gentleman deal with the point I put about married woman officers?
§ Mr. Shinwell
Yes, I am sorry. Married women are quite acceptable, provided they ask for no special conditions. But we obviously cannot accept those who have children for whom they have immediate or direct responsibility while they are attached to the Service. Subject to conditions being satisfactory, we shall be able to have the services of married women.
On the question of lack of uniformity in treatment, I can only advance the case 2080 which has been presented by the Minister of Defence. I am obliged for the enthusiastic support of the hon. Member for Torquay (Mr. C. Williams), all the more so because it is so unusual.
§ Mr. C. Williams
I have never done anything except support the right. The unusual thing is that the right hon. Gentleman and his friends should be doing right.
§ Mr. Shinwell
I was trying to be appreciative. At any rate, we welcome the support accorded by the hon. Member, and we hope that if there are substantial differences between him and his right hon. Friend below him, they will be resolved happily and with no subsequent discord in the party opposite.
§ Mr. C. Williams
I can assure the right hon. Gentleman that there will be no question of "arsenic and old lace" about it.
§ Mr. Shinwell
The hon. Member is now dipping into history. However, the case he presented was 100 per cent. right. If a system is working well, there is no reason why we should disturb it. That applies not only to this Measure but to a variety of other contexts. The system in the Navy, we are advised after careful consideration, is of such a character that, in the judgment of those most competent to express an opinion, it should not he impaired. They advance arguments not unlike those advanced by the hon. Member. One is that the traditional naval practice of manning its ancillary services is on a civilian basis, and as it has worked well in war, it should be continued. I understand that the Navy have availed themselves of civilians for a longer period than any of the other Services, and this is just a continuation of the practice which is working satisfactorily on the whole.
Another argument is that the W.R.N.S. are not as fully integrated with the male element in the Navy as are the Women's Army and R.A.F. Services. Finally, there is the point raised by the hon. Member about the Naval Discipline Act If we sought integration of the W.R.N.S. with the male element in the Navy, that Act would require considerable modification, and we do not know how far that would lead us. In all the circumstances, therefore, it is thought better to leave it where it is.
2081 The Noble Lord raised the general question of uniformity. This is not the appropriate occasion for a discussion on that matter, though no doubt the time will come. This is just a beginning, not necessarily in the sphere of unification or co-ordination, but a practical step which we thought it desirable to take to promote greater efficiency. We shall have to watch this modest beginning, see how it evolves, and make what necessary adaptations are required in the course of time.
§ Mr. Shinwell
I beg hon. Members to allow us a little latitude in this. As we say in the House, it is under active consideration, exceedingly active consideration. We had hoped to be able to make an announcement today but, in the circumstances, we would prefer to defer it for a little while. In all the circumstances, and with the good will of every hon. Member, I hope this Bill will be allowed to pass,
§ 1.6 p.m.
§ Colonel Ropner (Barkston Ash)
I would like to pay my tribute to the skilful and gallant service given by the Women's Services during the war. I had some experience of working fairly closely with women in anti-aircraft regiments, and I know from practical experience the high degree of skill and the very great courage which the women displayed in action.
I want to dispute with the right hon. Gentleman his arguments against the inclusion of the W.R.N.S. in this Bill. One reason he gave why the W.R.N.S. should be excluded was that the present system has worked in the past. Surely that is a Colonel Blimp attitude—if the hon. Member for Torquay (Mr. C. Williams) desires to accuse either side in this controversy of taking the part of "Blimpish Brigadiers." [Interruption.] The House of Lords works very well at the moment, but right hon. Gentlemen opposite still want to make a change. We think that the W.R.N.S. should have been included and I believe the W.R.N.S. themselves would wish it if they realised—which they certainly did not in the last war—that they were civilians. Could the right hon. Gentleman tell me whether the W.R.N.S. were awarded the War Medal? If they were, they were not entitled to it any 2082 more than any other civilian. I am perfectly certain that only a small proportion of women serving in the W.R.N.S. appreciated that they were still civilians.
The right hon. Gentleman defending the fact—I think he was right to defend it—that women in the W.A.A.F. and A.T.S. may be subject to court martial, said that there must be in force the principles of equality, but he is departing from that principle completely, and will not apply it, or his right hon. Friends will not apply it, to the Women's Service of the Navy. He said also, in defending the decision, that the W.R.N.S. were not integrated with the Navy as the A.T.S. and the W.A.A.F's are with the Army and the Air Force I think that they should be. I see no reason why the W.R.N.S. should not be integrated with the Navy. Surely we have reached the time when everyone appreciates that women are part of our fighting Forces, and a very valuable part.
I was not quite able to follow the argument of the right hon. Gentleman about the Naval Discipline Act, but it seems to be no reason why W.R.N.S. should not be included in this Bill because subsequent changes would be necessary in that Act. The right hon. Gentleman ended by saying that this was not the time to think about unification for it was only the beginning of legislation to deal with the women's part in our fighting Forces. That was the only reason he gave with which I have some sympathy. If he really meant that he thought the W.R.N.S. should have come under this Bill and that on a subsequent date there will be legislation to bring the W.R.N.S. under a code of discipline, as is the case of the women's Forces in the other two Services, then that meets our view to a certain extent. I do not suppose that right hon. Gentlemen opposite will be prepared to meet the very cogent arguments which have been adduced this morning. But I hope that on some subsequent occasion, not very far ahead, the W.R.N.S. will be given an opportunity of playing their part, not as civilians, but as part of the Fighting Forces of this country.
§ Question put, and agreed to.
§ Bill accordingly read a Second time.
§ Bill committed to a Committee of the whole House for Monday next.—[Mr. R. J. Taylor.]