HL Deb 03 December 1941 vol 121 cc164-95

LORD ADDISON had the following Notice on the Paper: To call attention to the need for securing the best organization and employment of the man- and woman-power of the country in the interests of the maximum agricultural and industrial production and of the Navy, Army, Air and Civil Services necessary for the successful conduct of the war; and to move for Papers. The noble Lord said: My Lords, it would be convenient I am sure, and will probably meet your Lordships' desires, if, at this stage, I formally ask the question that is in my name so that we can have the advantage of having the statement of the noble Lord the Leader of the House before us for discussion. I beg to move.


My Lords, when the noble Lord put down his Motion no proposals had been announced by the Government. Of course, since the Prime Minister's statement yesterday, it is natural that to-day's debate should deal very largely with the details of the scheme which has long been under consideration. I had hoped to be able to reply to the points which would be raised by noble Lords, and I thought that, probably, the statement of the Prime Minister would be a very convenient starting point for their criticisms. But I quite appreciate that Lord Addison feels it more convenient to have some outline of the proposals before we have our debate, and so I will reverse the procedure which I had anticipated and try my best to clear up any points which may be exercising the minds of noble Lords in advance of their criticisms.

The Prime Minister explained, yesterday, what is to be done to enable us to get a more detailed application of our resources in man-power, and all classes of the community will be called upon to make further adjustments in their war services. First of all, take the case of men. Hitherto the liability to compulsory military service has been limited to the class, to the age group, from nineteen to forty years of age. Of that group 6,850,000 males have been registered. Up till now we have been preparing the channels for intensified production and also for intensified military effort. Those channels are now completed, and we have got to see that they are filled. We, therefore, are no longer satisfied with the 6,850,000 who were covered by this first class, although it provided, in the earlier stages, all that could be equipped by industry, and all that the three Fighting Services were ready to absorb. We have got to extend this choice, and we are extending the class at both ends. We are going down to eighteen-and-a-half for a start, and raising the liability to fifty-one years of age at the other end. This will not mean that the older men will be taken for the combatant part of the Fighting Services; it will mean internal redistribution among these Services so that older men will gradually relieve younger men in the less active tasks, clerical, sedentary and other duties, for which their age will not be any handicap.

Apart from the liability for National Service in the Military Forces, there is already power to direct people into industry without limit of age, and it is proposed to amend the Defence Regulations— we have already got statutory powers—so that men and women can be directed into the Civil Defence Services for either whole-time or part-time service. This will mean a very considerable readjustment. Men will be drawn away from less essential work to the Fighting Services, and also, in many cases, they will go into the munition industries of higher priority than their present occupations. This will be brought about by a change in the system of reservation. Noble Lords will remember that reservation was originally on a block system. It was brought about by detailed schedules reserving men, at certain ages, according to their occupations. Even in a particular occupation there is a considerable variety in the war-urgency of the work carried out by the individual, so a further refinement was introduced which provided, in certain vital industries, two ages of reservation—one a higher age, perhaps, in the more vital industries, in the more vital organization of the industries, according to the type of work upon which the employing firm was engaged, and the other a lower age of reservation for the occupation generally. Firms doing special work were given special protection for their staffs at higher ages than people of the same crafts who were on less essential work.

All this is going to be examined individually, and instead of the block reservation and the reservation for firms, individual deferment is going to be applied. This is going to be done by a very simple but very ingenious method. From January I, the age of reservation for all occupations, whether with protected firms or not, will be raised a year at a time at monthly intervals. The need for this further readjustment was foreseen and the machinery is ready to hand. The local organizations of the Ministry of Labour have put each year-class into a separate category, and they can go into every individual case when the year-class which includes that case comes up at these monthly accelerations. When these cases are reconsidered, men and women will be given individual deferment according to the importance of their work. This system will be very wide in its application, but there will, of course, be exceptions for certain industries, such as the Merchant Navy, miners, employees of local authorities and those engaged in agriculture.

This, perhaps, is a convenient stage at which to mention the special case of agriculture. It will be remembered that when these systems of controlling labour were first instituted, agriculture was not in a very favourable state; there had been a steady drift away from the land, and perhaps no other industry was called on to make greater expansion in this emergency than certain types of agriculture. Before the war we had only 13,000,000 acres of arable land. We have added 3,000,000 acres, and, by this time next year, we hope to have 18,000,000 acres of plough-land. Of that plough-land the more intensive forms of production are now taking up a larger proportion, and the crop area is steadily increasing in proportion to temporary grass. In view of the exceptional importance and special problems of agriculture, that industry has always enjoyed special arrangements. Generally speaking, the age of reservation was originally twenty-five, but irreplaceable men were exempted at any age below that, according to the importance of their work. It is, of course, indispensable that these key-men should remain free from disturbance in their essential posts. There are about 10,000 men who have been considered for calling-up, however, who are not absolutely key men, and the exact arrangements which will be applied in these cases, where men can be spared, have not yet been finally decided; but I can give the assurance that the Government fully realize the importance of keeping these skilled men in agriculture, and some arrangement will be made, as a development of what was decided previously, under which by some special means, such as the county war agricultural committees, special consideration will be given to the needs of agriculture, and men will not be called up unless they can be replaced by some equally efficient form of labour.

We have already a considerable number of prisoners of war at work on the land. About 7,000 Italians have already arrived, and they are working either in agriculture or in providing accommodation for further consignments of Italians. The programme already covers another 21,000, so that immediate arrangements are being made for 28,000 Italian prisoners of war. They will mainly be working in gangs; but that, we hope, is not the end of this resource, and, as transport and accommodation can be arranged, so the figure will, we hope, be raised still further.

There is another matter which affects agriculture, and that is the possibility in certain districts of making service in the Home Guard compulsory. The Prime Minister announced yesterday that powers were being taken, but that they would not be exercised until Parliament had had an opportunity of considering the matter as a separate issue. I am sure that it is a matter which all of us who are concerned in agriculture will recognize to be of very great difficulty in the country districts, because there are a good many men who are engaged on milking and other work which must be done at particular times, and even during week-ends, when the Home Guard take advantage of relative freedom from work for their drills. Some provision will obviously have to be made to cover these special agricultural purposes in the event of compulsion being applied. It is, of course, a new problem to apply compulsion in this kind of part-time service, and, although powers will be in existence to apply this compulsion, it is not intended to put them into operation, as I say, until. Parliament has had an opportunity of full consideration.

To come back to the question of combing out men from the less essential industries for vital war work, the Ministry of Labour are undertaking decentralization. They are creating forty-five boards throughout the country who will work this scheme of individual deferment, and it is hoped that each board will be able to deal with about 1,000 cases a week; so that, multiplying 1,000 by 45, it will be seen that this process will go on with very great speed. Those who are de-reserved under this machinery will have the existing safeguards for postponement on grounds of hardship, conscientious objectors' tribunals, and all the other guarantees of fair treatment for individual cases which are available. So much for the new proposals as regards men.

Women will be called upon to make a very big contribution to our present needs in the Services and in industry. They will be needed to replace men and to free them for specialized industrial service and for combatant service, for which women have not got the trade or physical qualifications. In the first instance women will be dealt with in the age-group from 20 to 30. The registration has already taken place and covered 3,100,000 women. Of these, about 900,000 have already been interviewed, and some very interesting statistics are now available. Fifty-five per cent of this class proved to be married, and of the single women and widows 92 per cent. are either employed or working on their own. Of the married women 37 per cent. are working, apart from their household activities, and those figures mean that only about 100,000 single women and widows in the 20 to 30 age-group are employed solely on their household duties. Thus we shall have to go outside the 20 to 30 age-class who are limited to household occupations to fill our requirements. Of course, the very fact of registration is doing much to fill the demands of the Services and war industries for women recruits. The fact of registration has been found to act as a very strong stimulus to voluntary transfer to munitions and other work. And, to supplement the voluntary recruiting, already it has been arranged with the industries concerned in the case of the 20 to 25 group to draw women from the heavy and light clothing industries—the woollen and worsted industry—and the retail distributive trades, excluding the distribution of food.

Women who are called up for compulsory enrolment will, by administrative action, have a choice as to how their activities are to be used. It cannot be guaranteed that this choice will always be possible, but the Ministry of Labour are anxious that women should go to the work which they find congenial, and, if they are right in their expectations, it will be possible to maintain arrangements under which women who are compulsorily enrolled between the ages of 20 and 30 will have a choice of going either to the Services—the A.T.S., the W.A.A.F. and the W.R.N.S.—or the Civil Defence Services, or to certain specified jobs in industry. They have got to choose one of them, but when they choose one of those groups they will be subject to direction. It will not be possible to average out within the groups, because some of the Services within a group are in much greater need of recruits, and have larger numbers to be supplied, than others, and it will be necessary if a woman chooses, for instance, the Services, for her to be directed to whichever is in most need at the moment.

Under no conditions will women be drafted into the combatant side of the Services without volunteering, and I think that is a safeguard which will be generally supported. Even if a women has not been willing to go into the fighting part of the Services she will always have the same rights as men in the case of hardship committees, conscientious objectors' tribunals, and so forth; and the Minister of Labour is proposing that, in view of this new accession of women to the three Fighting Services, women members should be appointed to the conscientious objectors' tribunals and the hardship committees, and that a woman doctor shall be present at the medical examination. There is another alleviation in the case of the new demands upon young women—namely, that the wives of men in the Services will not be directed away from home, even if they are childless; that married women will enjoy special exemptions; and that childless married women will only be directed away from home if they are not married to Service men.

The only other class which I need mention is that of boys and girls between the ages of 16 and 18. The Board of Education are arranging for youth committees to interview this class after they have been registered. These committees will encourage them to undertake some form of training, such as the Cadet Service, the Air Training Corps and the Home Guard, for boys, and the various voluntary services which exist for girls and which deal very largely with nursing facilities.

The House will see that the Ministry of Labour are undertaking a vast task in this final redistribution of labour power in our war effort. The population of Great Britain is now 46,750,000, of whom there are 16,000,000 men and 17,250,000 women between the ages of fourteen and sixty-five. These are the ages between which people, even if they are not subject to compulsion, are in the majority of cases still able to make a contribution to the war effort. The Ministry of Labour have to control the whole of these vast numbers and to see that their activities are distributed in such a way that the best use is made of individual aptitudes in the war effort. The outlines of the scheme which were unfolded by the Prime Minister yesterday have been long in preparation, but the final details are really awaiting the criticism which is going on in another place and in your Lordships' House to-day. I hope noble Lords will excuse me if I go away from the debate for a few minutes to hear the present stage of these considerations. I hope to come back to reply to any criticisms which may be made by noble Lords.

The Government hope to publish a White Paper embodying the final details of the proposals in the next day or two, and I think the House will recognize that it is very wise that these exceptional steps should be taken to carry public opinion with us in the details of these proposals which, after all, touch all of us in our own lives and in the lives of our children. We feel that the public have only got to understand the needs of the present hour for them willingly to co-operate in the redistribution of effort which is now necessary. It is only by bringing in public opinion at the earliest stage that we can secure the willing co-operation of all ages and both sexes in the necessary sacrifices of freedom which will be involved in the readjustment of activities which almost all of us will be called upon to make.


My Lords, may I say at the outset that we fully understand why the noble Lord must go away for a short time, and we do not in any way take it as discourteous? In view of the momentous character of the statement that has been made, your Lordships will agree that the House is in a much better position to consider it and to discuss it through having had the statement made at the beginning of our deliberations. It was on that account that I desired to take the line which has been adopted. Never before in British history has such a step been proposed. I believe that what the noble Lord said at the end of his statement is abundantly true—namely, that if the people are satisfied as to the need for this step, and are carried along with the authorities in the reasonable and practical management of the enormous operations that it envisages, the step will be almost unanimously supported. But we have to recognize the vital importance of these qualifying words.

I was glad, in the statement that was made in another place, that the Prime Minister put in perspective the gradual development of the call upon national labour and other resources. It was inevitable, in view of the position in which the nation found itself at the beginning of the war, which was the subject of frequent discussion in this House, that it would not be physically possible to have a large output of supplies beginning earlier than about now, because all of us who have first-hand experience know how long it takes to build and equip factories and to get the procedure of supply ready for a large output. Therefore the state of affairs envisaged by the Prime Minister, when these factories were approaching the stage of completion and beginning to get into full operation, would mean necessarily a vastly increased demand on our labour resources, because they then became equipped to absorb more and more labour. It was, in fact, a rather comforting reflection for me, at any rate, and for my noble friends, who at all times have done our little best to put the brake on those amateur strategists who wanted the country to undertake vast enterprises which we knew we could not be in a position, physically, properly to support.

I am not going to enter to any extent into the details of the statement made by the noble Lord, except in one or two respects. We are not disputing in any way the need. We accept it, whether it is for the Fighting Services, for Civil Defence, or for labour. The question is, how are the ways and means proposed adapted to meet the ends? The first consideration that emerges from the statement to which we have just listened is that the reservation of people from military or other service is now to be on an individual basis rather than a block basis. I understand that there are to be forty-five new boards which will decide, in respect of these millions of individuals, whether they are to be deferred or not in their calling-up. Here I want the noble Lord opposite to make note of a very important question. I understand that these boards will, in respect of the people in the age-classes mentioned, decide whether they are or are not, to be deferred. That is their function. If they decide they are not to be deferred, will they be able to direct these people as to which Service they shall go into? because that envisages a prodigious machine on the part of the Ministry of Labour, and I am going to have some comments to make about the machine very soon. Who will constitute these boards? One finds that you have these forty-five boards which will lay down, I suppose, certain principles as far as possible, but in the end the system will come down to an individual or two individuals or more interviewing a citizen and deciding whether that citizen is to be or not to be deferred, and, if not deferred, whether the citizen is to be directed or not directed to do something or other.

One can see the possibility of vagaries in decisions and directions of a multitudinous character, and I think one wants to be very satisfied that this machinery is going to be efficiently run. It should be, I think, subject to constant vigilance and scrutiny. I would like to know what machinery the Ministry of Labour has in mind for ensuring that this gigantic task is sensibly and adequately performed. There is one point about the direction to married women of which, perhaps, the noble Lord will also make a note. I understand that the decision is that married women who are childless, married women under the age of thirty who are not the wives of men in the Services, might be directed to any particular Service. In regard to that I would like to ask this: Does that direction include the possibility of directing a married woman to leave her husband? That is a very important question, for it seems to me there is a possibility of that being done. I should hesitate very gravely to undertake that responsibility; at all events it is a very vital question that emerges.

I wish now to refer quite shortly to the competence of the machinery to do this work. What steps are to be taken to ensure that the ability to employ is consistent with the directions that will be given to seek employment? Hitherto, these things have been on quite different planes. I am quite sure that of the millions of women who have registered and who have looked for some direction, and who would be willing to accept direction, indeed are anxious to accept direction, tens of thousands have waited for months and nothing has happened. We do not want that to go on. One has a suspicion—it is more than a suspicion, a certainty resulting from knowledge—that these rather flambuoyant demands upon women have been made before the organization was ready and the factories equipped to give them the employment for which they were invited to volunteer, and this has had a very bad effect in a large number of cases.

Similar to that, there has been what I think is described as concentration of industry with a view to the release of, particularly, women from various employments; textiles, for example. Extensive amalgamations have been promoted, quite rightly, with a view to the economic employment of the labour and machinery in the business, but it appears to be undoubted that of every 1oo women made available by that squeezing-out process, only a very disappointing percentage found their way into war industries. There has been an amazing leakage somewhere. I do not think it is quite reasonable to expect this—shall I call it compulsory unemployment because that is what it amounts to?—to be brought about by this process, unless those dispensed with from the textile or other industries can be readily absorbed into war industries. That has not been the case hitherto. I think there is no doubt as to the facts. I confess to a real misgiving that we may have that kind of thing on a much larger scale unless the machinery is improved. You are going to have many more millions to deal with now, and I am raising these points solely with the desire of making sure that women are not called on to do something or other before the ability to employ them in that capacity is ready.

Two or three reasons, I think, account for the discrepancies that have existed hitherto between the paper demands and the vacancies filled. First of all, we have had a number of factories placed, I will not say in the wild, but anyhow in relatively remote places, without adequate foresight having been used as to where the people who were to work in them were to live, and there has been a separation between the work of the Ministry of Labour and the Supply Departments responsible for the initiation of factories. They should have worked hand-in-hand, but they certainly have not done so in a good many places. Therefore I would ask the noble Lord a further question on that. What arrangements are to be made to ensure that the efforts of the Supply Departments are co-ordinated better than they have been in the past to the work of the Labour Supply Department? We know that in some of these cases, owing to the remoteness of the factory from where the people live, those people have had to be brought uncanny distances in omnibuses, and we are told that in a large number of cases there has been a very considerable percentage of absenteeism, particularly on the part of women, because of what is described as travel fatigue. They have had to go such long distances to the factory either by omnibus or train, or in some other way, that they have got tired, the journey having proved almost as exhausting as the work itself.

There has certainly not been the cooperation between the Ministries of Labour and Supply that there will have to be in this matter. Take, for instance, the provision of hostels. That has not kept pace with the building of the factories. I often see a very considerable place that is being built—in splendid order, it seems to me—but it is three or four miles from anywhere, and where the people who are to work in it are to come from I do not know. I greatly question whether the Departments concerned have put their heads together on that vital matter, which will crop up as the first difficulty, the first week the place opens. I hope the Minister of Labour will give concentrated attention to the efficiency of his own Department. I say that in no unfriendly spirit, but because the operation of this gigantic scheme depends more than anything else upon the efficiency of the machinery of that Department.

In one case I got real comfort from what the noble Lord said—that was on the matter of agriculture—but there the disappointment I had expressed in other respects, or rather the misgivings, have been fortified abundantly. Getting on for a year ago the Minister said he would provide 10,000 additional workers for agriculture. This is a matter about which I happen to know something at first hand. I am sure he has not provided 1,000. I should be greatly surprised if he has provided many more than 100.




I am glad to know that the noble Earl is able to give precise figures. The promise getting on for a year ago was 10,000 and now we are told it boils down to 360. It does not give me an impression of efficiency. When the first hostel was being erected in the county where I am Chairman of the war agricultural executive committee, we were told that if we got the hostel ready by a certain date the Ministry would fill it. The Office of Works got a wonderful move on and did get it ready by the appointed day, but there was not a single employee available from the Ministry of Labour to occupy it—not one. If it had not been for the ingenuity and enthusiasm of our own officers, who raked up people from somewhere—I am not clear even now from where—there would have been nobody. As far as I am aware in not one hostel is there any one who has been sent to work on the land by the Ministry of Labour.




The noble Lord says two. I do not know about that, but this is a very vital point because it reinforces the necessity of not taking more men away from this industry. We have not had the reinforcements promised, and the noble Lord has told us that millions more acres of arable land will have to be dealt with, and we all know that that will require more labour. I would like to say a few words about another matter which I hope the Government will try to put on a better footing. There is a strange difference existing between the popularity of the W.R.N.S., the W.A.A.F and the A.T.S. For some reason or another the W.R.N.S. and the W.A.A.F. have appealed to the women and the A.T.S. has not. Whether it is because the hand of the War Office has been inept or whether it has been clogged by traditions I do not know, but the fact is that the A.T.S. has not had that popular attraction for women which the other Services have had. I think the noble Lord opposite might well employ himself trying to find out why it is. There must be a reason. The first reason may have been that the A.T.S. set out to recruit women for more menial services. That perhaps was the first idea and the development of opportunities for the employment of women in the A.T.S. has not been realized by the possible recruits In any case I am sure it is very desirable that this Service, which badly needs recruits, should be looked into in order to make sure that it is made as attractive to women as possible.

Before this business is finished we shall no doubt have a considerable demand, that when this call is made to all the citizens of the country there should be a different method of approach to certain private interests. I will not go into that at length now, but there is one service which I am quite sure people will demand shall be dealt with more efficiently than hitherto and that is transport. Everywhere, when one makes inquiries about difficulties of transport in relation to factories, we find all sorts of considerations, such as the future good will of a private omnibus company, and pettifogging considerations of that kind, taken account of, and these do in fact stand in the way of the provision of adequate transport facilities. I am not going to enlarge on that—it is relatively a side issue—but I am sure that as a part of this organization of the labour of the citizens the Government will have to deal in a much more effective manner than hitherto with the industry of transport. The noble Lord, I know, has made note of two or three very important questions which I have addressed to him and I hope he will reply to them. I can only conclude by saying that I am sure every one of us will be willing and anxious to try to make this unprecedented demand upon the lives and industry of our citizens work as smoothly and efficiently as we can.


My Lords, I desire to detain your Lordships for a very few minutes only because the important statement made by the noble Lord who leads the House demands, I am sure, more consideration than it has been so far possible to give it, and also because the noble Lord who has just spoken has asked a number of most pertinent and important questions to which I have no doubt His Majesty's Government will, sooner or later, give a reply. In one sense, of course, we are all entirely of one mind—namely, that in this life-and-death struggle in which we are engaged every faculty of every man and woman, whether it be intellectual or physical, should be employed to the greatest advantage. It is desired, I am sure, by everybody, to help His Majesty's Government to reach the necessary decisions in this regard.

It is impossible, of course, to ignore the questions as to the directions in which it is found necessary to apply compulsion, and one sees that His Majesty's Government have touched the question of general compulsion in a very tentative manner. I have no doubt that they are quite right to do so. I take it that there is no other country in the world in which compulsion is regarded with so much disfavour as it is regarded here. I, unlike most of your Lordships, am old enough to remember quite clearly the old controversy which arose as to whether, even in the matter of elementary education, it was right to apply any form of compulsion. It was thought by some to be an unwarrantable interference with the rights of parents to bring up their children as they chose. Well, that is very ancient history; but, even at a much later period, I well remember, as many of your Lordships also can, the doubts that were raised as to whether, in the last war, it was advisable or not advisable to apply methods of conscription. It so happened that I was Chairman of a Government Committee which examined that question, and some of us were surprised to find how widespread was the objection to any form of military conscription; objection which had been shown not very long before in the strong opposition which met the very modified proposals for military training which were associated with the name of the late Lord Roberts. Therefore, it is not surprising that His Majesty's Government have been very careful in this regard.

If the noble Lords on the front Opposition Bench will forgive me for saying so, it is certainly the fact that one of the principal objections which my noble friends on this Bench have taken to the adoption, in this country, of a full-blown Socialist system has been founded on the belief—whether we hold it rightly or wrongly—that such a system must involve a far greater degree of general compulsion and a diminution of individual responsibility. Whether that be true or not, it is certainly true that war is destructive of individual freedom in many respects. Freedom of trade, freedom of movement, either abroad or at home, freedom of the Press—all these suffer in war-time. Therefore, one feels that our fellow-citizens cannot complain if, in many respects, the compulsion is applied not merely for the Fighting Services, but also in respect of the Public Services generally. We all, I think, are agreed that little objection is likely to be taken to the raising of the age for compulsion, in the case of men, to fifty-one, the intention Being, as Lord Moyne explained, to release some of the younger men from the more sedentary and clerical duties which they are undertaking, and to place men of somewhat more mature age in the chairs which they have occupied.

Other points which the noble Lord explained, with regard to the service of men, related to the matter of agriculture. I agree with Lord Addison that those are points which will demand further inquiry and investigation. The general facts are so familiar to the country that it is useless to enlarge on them in the course of a debate of this sort, but the cry of the shortage of man-power, which cannot altogether be replaced by woman-power in the operation of agriculture, is, as we know, loud and continuing, and not, I think, greatly diminishing. The noble Lord has just mentioned miners as being exempt from the further calls which are about to be made, but he did not go into any further particulars with regard to them. At a later stage your Lordships will no doubt hear what the Government intend to do in order to prevent any further depletion of the number of working miners. I do not think that there are any further points which I wish to raise. When the Bill which has been foreshadowed comes before your Lordships' House, we shall no doubt learn in greater detail what the actual proposals are, and we shall then have had the advantage of reading the discussions which are going on in another place and of reading the comments in the Press. I shall therefore say no more, except to welcome the fact that the Government have so clearly determined to deal with this matter in the widest possible way and in a manner which we hope will be regarded as permanent—permanent, that is to say, as long as these present unhappy conditions exist.

LORD NEWTON, who had given Notice that he would ask His Majesty's Govern- ment whether, in view of the present shortage of labour, the question of increasing the employment of prisoners of war, especially with regard to Italians, has been considered, said: My Lords, I have a question on the Paper suggesting the further employment of prisoners of war in connexion with this matter, but it is no use having two debates on the same subject, and the question has to some extent been answered already by the noble Lord, the Leader of the House. This question of the employment of prisoners of war by the Government is one which interested me considerably during the last war, and I confess that, although I was a member of the Government myself at that time, I was moved to a sense of intense irritation at the inaction and the apathy of the Government in those days. It was never clear to me why they were afraid to do what every other nation was doing, but I believe they were actuated partly by fear of the trade unions and partly by fear of what, for the sake of brevity, I will call sabotage.

In the year 1917, the third year of the war, we had thousands of German prisoners, but hardly any of them were being employed; it was not until I, and others more important than myself, continually worried the War Office and the other Departments concerned that anything was done. By the middle of 1917, however, we succeeded in getting German prisoners of war employed in almost every possible capacity, and everybody realizes that their services were most valuable. I am aware that circumstances to-day are not what they were in 1917. In 1917 we held a great many thousands of German prisoners who were ordinary infantrymen, men whom we were entitled to employ. I take it that at present we have not many German prisoners, and, of those whom we hold, many are people who under International Law it is not permissible to employ on public work; but perhaps I may be given some information on that point from the noble Lord who is to reply. I should like to know how many German prisoners there are here—if there is no objection to my being told—and what proportion of them are being employed.

We need not, however, consider German prisoners in this matter, for I particularly want to point out the desirability of employing Italian prisoners. I take it that from the beginning of hostilities until now we have captured between 200,000 and 250,000 Italian prisoners. What has become of them? The noble Lord, the Leader of the House, has told us that 7,000 are already being employed, and that it is proposed to utilize another 21,000. I should like to ask why this has not been done before. Why has it only suddenly occurred to the Government to make use of these people? As far as I know—it is very difficult to ascertain anything, in view of the secrecy which prevails in regard to all movements at the present time—nearly all the Italian prisoners have been packed off to India or to our other territories in the East. I should like to ask what use they can be out there. They can be of some use, no doubt, but surely there is a superfluity of unskilled labour in those countries, and it is obvious that these men would be infinitely more useful and better employed here. Presumably I shall be told that they have not been brought here on account of difficulties of transport. I can well understand that, but, if there are difficulties of transport one way, there are difficulties of transport the ether way also. It must be just as difficult to transport them to the East as it would be to transport them to the West, and, had they been brought here, it might have been found to be well worth the trouble and expense involved.

We are singularly wanting in imagination in these matters. At heart the Italians are not hostile to us at all; no Italian feels any hostility towards us, and the last thing that the average Italian wanted was to fall out with us. This feeling has now reached such a pitch that the Italians are probably only too delighted to be taken prisoners, and, if they had an opportunity, they would not hesitate to express the strongest preference for working in this country under any conditions, rather than for fighting for Mussolini in Russia or in Abyssinia. I understand that those Italian prisoners who are employed here have been found to be entirely satisfactory. Anybody who knows anything about them knows that they are excellent labourers, specially fitted not only for unskilled work but for skilled work also. When I have approached people on the question of employing these prisoners, however, the reply has always been: "We could not think of trying this ex- periment, on account of the dangers of sabotage". Personally, I believe this to be an imaginary fear. It ought to be perfectly possible for our agents to discover beforehand which prisoners are likely to be dangerous and to eliminate them from those who are chosen. I trust that in any case further inquiries will be made and further steps taken, and, if transport can be found, I hope that those Italian prisoners who have been sent off to parts of the world where their skill is not wanted will be brought here. I hope that I shall not be out of order in asking the noble Lord who is going to reply to be good enough to answer the question which I have put on the Paper, and which I have mentioned in the course of my remarks.


My Lords, I hope I shall be forgiven if I ask a very few minutes of your Lordships' time to say a very brief word, which I think ought to be said, about the position of the clergy and other ministers of religion in regard to this vastly important matter which is under discussion. Your Lordships are, of course, aware that at the very beginning of the war the Government and Parliament decided that they should be exempted from any form of National Service other than that which they render by virtue of their calling. I think it ought to be known that that decision was taken without any request or representation from any religious body; I think it was a recognition by Parliament of the fact that the clergy in the performance of their normal duties are fulfilling a national service of the greatest value.

I often say that ultimately—I say "ultimately" deliberately—this war will be won or lost in the region of the spirit. The power of the spirit in this country is an essential element in the man-power and woman-power of the nation. It is not enough that the spirit of our people should be kept, as I think it is now, united and determined; it must also be kept, through all the changes and chances that may come, high and true. The influence most likely to strengthen that spirit is the influence of religion, and it is the ministers of religion who are pledged to be the leaders in maintaining the spiritual resources of the nation. I am sure therefore hat the Government were right in the decision which they t00k. I think I ought to add that they went a step beyond this and put upon the schedule of exemptions young men who by September, 1939, had been accepted as candidates of the ministry and had begun their training. It was done, I think, in order to prevent that very serious shortage among the clergy which occurred after the last war. But it ought to be known that when the stress grew greater the Archbishops intimated that in their view these young men should not only be allowed but encouraged not to avail themselves of this exemption, and many of them are now serving in His Majesty's Forces.

Of course, there is one way in which, while retaining their spiritual functions, the clergy and ministers of religion not only can but ought to serve within His Majesty's Forces, that is, as chaplains of the Navy, the Army and the Air Force. This is not an occasion to give any statistics about the number who are so employed. Suffice it to say two things: one, that so far as the Church of England is concerned, every Bishop in every diocese is straining his powers to the utmost to release men who are qualified by age or general fitness and who can possibly be spared from their parishes, for this particular service, and in the midst of increasing difficulties are continuing to do so. Secondly, I do not think it can be questioned that the services which these chaplains are rendering are of the greatest possible value. We must make allowances sometimes for inevitable exceptions, but I have everywhere received from the higher Commanding Officers abundant and willing testimony to the value of the work which the chaplains are doing.

But at the same time it may be urged it has been urged—that many of the clergy, even when they are rightly left in their parishes, might have some portion of their time which they could devote to other branches of National Service. In the early part of 1917, during the last war, on behalf of the Church of England I submitted to Mr. Neville Chamberlain, who was then the Director of National Service, a wide scheme for this purpose among the clergy, and he very readily accepted it. Under it a great number of clergy were able to give part of their time to work, either in offices or in factories or on the land. I take this opportunity of saying that if the Government, in view of the present grave emergency, were to represent to me that some such general scheme would be of importance, I should be most ready, if possible, and in every way that is possible, to meet their wish. But I am bound to say that the circumstances of the present war are very different from those of the last war. The whole question of Civil Defence has assumed an importance now which it had not then. In that region the clergy and other ministers of religion are actively rendering national service of a very varied kind. For example, some of them are serving as A.R.P. wardens, or as fire watchers, or, especially in the country districts, in association with the Home Guard; others are serving as billeting officers for evacuees, and are constant in their efforts to care for and help the children and people who have been compelled to leave their homes.

Moreover, I do not think I need call attention to the work which, in the cities and towns they are fulfilling in our night shelters. It was my privilege to have a shelter for some 200 of my poorer neighbours at Lambeth Palace until repeated attacks of the enemy from the air on that ancient home of my predecessors made the very existence of a shelter there impossible. Everywhere I know that the ministers of religion have been constant in their visits to the shelters and have done their utmost to keep up the cheerfulness, calmness and good humour of the people and children who come there night after night. Indeed many of the clergy rejoice in the new bonds of good will and friendship which have thus been created between them and the people of their parishes. In this and in countless other ways the clergy at present are fulfilling every kind of National Service, and I therefore doubt whether it would be either desirable or needed that any such general scheme as that which was introduced in 1917 should be attempted. I hope your Lordships will forgive this short intervention, and not regard it is superfluous. I should like to assure your Lordships and, so far as possible, the country, that the clergy and ministers of religion are doing their very utmost, in ways which are not less useful because they are unspectacular, to meet the national needs, quite apart from their primary function of maintaining the religious spirit of the nation at a stern and solemn time when that spirit is of supreme importance.


My Lords, I propose to detain you very briefly. The question to which I should like to draw the noble Lord's attention is whether the Government have taken into consideration under this new scheme the position of the hospitals in Great Britain. The domestic staffs and the clerical staffs in hospitals are not fully reserved. The result is that we have been losing them at a very high rate and, as I wrote to the Ministry of Health not very long ago, it is quite possible we shall have to close some of the wards in the hospitals unless we have some means of retaining these junior staffs. They are mostly girls between eighteen and twenty-five, and it is quite impossible to carry on the work of a hospital unless you have domestic staff. My own experience in my own hospital has been that a great many of these girls have been, I shall not say bribed, but attracted away by very much higher wages offered by hotels and other places, and now there is a very general feeling that they wish to get into some sort of uniform. Only this morning my matron told me that three maids had given notice because they wished to get into uniform.

Two years ago or more I raised this question with the then Minister of Health, Mr. Elliot, but I am afraid he did not look upon it as a very serious point. There is no doubt we should be able to retain a good many of these staffs if they had some sort of uniform to wear. They have been offered a button, but I am afraid a button is not a very good substitute for a uniform. I am wondering whether, if these girls are allowed to leave the hospitals and go into the A.T.S., any provision could be made for them to go back to the hospitals when they have enlisted and are willing to take up that kind of work, because I fear that the difficulties of replacing them are going to be very great. It has been very difficult to get fresh domestic or clerical staff up to date, and under this new movement for the employment of labour it will become impossible. We have been told to go to the labour officers, but the labour officers say they cannot help us at all—they have no one they can supply. I cannot believe that the Government think that the hospitals of this country are doing anything but important war work. At the present moment, no doubt, things are slack, but we have no guarantee they will continue so in the future, and if we find wards closed and a great shortage of staff I am afraid our position will be extremely bad. I do not suppose the noble Lord can answer any of these questions to-day, but I would ask him to be good enough to direct the attention of the Government to the seriousness of the position from the hospitals' point of view.


My Lords, I shall detain you for a very few moments only. I desire to ask two specific questions with regard to older men—that is, the group between forty and fifty whom we have been told will now be coming up for registration in due course. I understand that these men will have the opportunity of stating their own personal case before a selection board as individuals, but I should like to ask His Majesty's Government whether there will be any arrangement for individual businesses and firms to state a case for their employees as a whole. What I mean to say is that men between forty and fifty are usually key members of the staff in any business or firm. I know that there are certain industries classed as essential industries, and that they are catered for, but to-day almost every business is, to a greater or lesser degree, contributing to the war effort of the country. I do not suggest that large numbers of these men should be withheld, but I know cases of small businesses, such as accountants or insurance firms, where, if all the men between forty and fifty were taken, it would simply mean the businesses would have to close down. What I should like to see is some opportunity given to these particular firms to put up a case for the staff as a whole, and to be told that, perhaps out of twenty men who were eligible, say seven or eight should be retained, instead of a case having to be put up for each individual.

The second point I wish to mention is this. In this 40–50 group there are many men of very high capabilities, holding very responsible administrative posts. I hope the Government will, as far as possible, see that these capabilities are fully utilized, and that these valuable and able men are not simply put into posts of a menial character. There is only one other small point I should like to raise, and that is the point which was very ably dealt with by the noble Lord, Lord Addison, with regard to selection boards and the people who interview men and women for National Service. We know how difficult it is to get really good interviewers, but I hope the Ministry of Labour will give this matter every attention. I heard of a case the other day in which a nurse who had been in charge of a hospital ward for two years went up for an interview. Although she explained her position most carefully to the interviewer, the interviewer, who obviously had a one-track mind, said, "Surely your services would be much better employed in the A.T.S.?" I suggest that, in addition to the ordinary interviewer, there should be a direction that in any doubtful case at all the matter should be referred to some more senior and responsible official. If these three points could be given attention I should be grateful.


My Lords, I propose to intervene for no more than a few minutes. First of all I should like to refer to the question raised by Lord Newton and to say that I very cordially agree with him in his suggestion that use should be made of prisoners of war in this country; but not only Italians, as he suggests, because I see no reason why German prisoners of war also should not be used for these purposes. For instance, in my own county, in the last war, there were considerable numbers of German prisoners of war employed in gangs cutting down certain large forest areas which we had. But having said that and believing that these prisoners of war can be employed in building houses and in similar ways, I cannot agree with my noble friend in his view that there is no danger of sabotage if we employ these prisoners of war in factories or places where munitions or other supplies for war purposes are being manufactured. In the light of what we know has happened in Europe—in many cases to our own advantage—I sincerely, hope that the Government will consider very carefully before employing prisoners of war in any places where they might do damage to our cause.

On the main Motion of Lord Addison, I wish to record this view, that I believe, in the war conditions of to-day, the Government have no option but to do what they are doing and call up all the manhood and womanhood of the nation. I am not one of those who believe that the women object to this. I do not think any of them—any good women, any women of patriotic notions—will object to being called into service at these times, even compulsorily. I cannot think for a moment that there will be objections from that point of view. What really brought me to my feet was what Lord Addison, in part of his very interesting speech, stated—namely, that the success of this scheme-was going to depend upon the efficiency of the Department of Labour. I cordially agree with that, but he went on to say that individual women should not be called up until it was known exactly where they were going to be placed. Apart from agriculture, the whole of the manufacturing industry of this country to-day consists of three phases. First of all, you have labour, and then you have production. You cannot separate labour from production. Thirdly, there are the raw materials. You cannot separate those from production or even from labour; yet what is the position with regard to the direction of these three important items?

It is said you have an independent Labour Ministry, you have an independent aircraft production and you have an independent Supply Ministry which covers the production of all the other articles outside aircraft. On the top of that there is, I understand, a Co-ordinating Committee, or whatever it may be called, acting between these three Departments. That is where the whole system breaks down. My view is that, until you have a Ministry of Labour and Production apart from the Ministry of Supply, you will never get that smooth working which is necessary for the proper conduct of these Departments and for the supplies that we require for this war. Unless the Minister of Labour knows what is required from the point of view of production, he is not able to allocate labour for the purposes of that production. He must in fact be able to dovetail the two together. Unless that is made possible I, for one, can never visualize that this Department of Labour can be efficient, however many men and women are called up in addition to those already in the Services. I wish to recommend to the Government that they should consider seriously that point of view, as to whether it is not possible to bring into closer collaboration these two items of labour and production which must go hand in hand if you are to get the results that are required.

So far as agriculture is concerned, the noble Lord in his opening remarks informed us that, since the war, 3,000,000 additional acres have been put under cultivation and a further 3,000,000 acres are to be put under cultivation this year. If that is the case I think the Government will have to be more careful what they do with regard to the: calling up or releasing of persons in the reserved occupations of the agricultural industry, otherwise I do not see how it will be possible to get that additional acreage. But, with the calls that there are upon the country to-day, not only the calls due to the war directly against Germany and Italy on our own account, but the calls for Russia and the possible calls in the Far East, there is no doubt whatever that it is absolutely necessary for the; whole of the man- and woman-power of this country to be put at the service of the Government for the national cause.


My Lords, I am afraid I shall have to appeal for consideration in straining somewhat the Standing Orders of the House in order to reply to a debate in which I have already made a full statement, but I will be as short as I can, and will try to deal with the various points (hat have been made. The noble Lord who began our debate asked whether, when it is decided that a man is not to be deferred and is called up, the district board can direct to which of the three Services he is to go? The present system will continue under which an option is given to the individual to choose the Service which appeals to him, but it may not be possible to maintain this option in all cases. With respect to the women's Option as between the larger groups, this is only an administrative matter, and there can be no guarantee that it will be possible to continue it if there is a very big shortage in any particular Service. The noble Lord was anxious as to the arrangements for uniformity between the local boards, and he wished to know as to the constitution of those boards. They are a very great strengthening of the present local machinery. They will consist normally of the Labour Supply Officer for the district, the Military Recruiting Officer, the Deferment Officer and a Chairman, and uniformity will be achieved by the Ministry laying down general principles upon which they are to act, and will keep in very close touch both with them and with the Supply Departments in view of the constantly-changing needs.


Might I interrupt the noble Lord to ask a question? If it is not possible for him to answer now I shall understand. Will the Chairmen be appointed by the Ministry of Labour and will they be what one may call standing Chairmen? I am thinking of the possibility of men acquiring experience which is necessary for the purpose. Or will they be changed about?


As I understand it they will be standing Chairmen. They will be appointed by the Ministry of Labour and they will be civil servants, either temporary or permanent or called back, with the administrative experience which will qualify them for the work. The noble Lord asked whether childless married women might be directed to any service, whether they might, for instance, be instructed to go to a factory away from where the husband would be living. Generally speaking, women with household responsibilities will not be mobile. They will be kept to work either whole or part time in their own districts, and incidentally I may say that the Ministry of Labour are very anxious that part-time arrangements for work shall be developed. That is a side of our organization from which we hope to get a very large contribution to output.


The noble Lord said "generally speaking." Will there be exceptions to that, and if so what kind of exceptions?


When I said that I meant that the circumstances will have to be considered by the boards. They will have to say what are household responsibilities. If a woman is living in lodgings and her husband is away working somewhere else, the case of that woman I suppose would have to be considered as to whether she really has household responsibilities. I ought, perhaps, to withdraw the words "generally speaking." This rule will necessarily have to be interpreted for each individual case.


This is very important and I want to be quite sure that the noble Lord understands the question. I am not in the least pressing for a reply now, if he is not able to give one. This is the point. A childless married woman between the ages specified may be directed—there is a possibility of direction—to undertake employment perhaps away from her home. Her husband—it may be she and her husband—may be living at home and he may be working in a munitions factory. The question I am asking is whether it will be possible to direct a woman to employment which will involve her leaving her husband. That is really the question. I do not mind if the noble Lord does not answer now.

LORD MOYNE: I am grateful to the noble Lord, and I will inquire into that. I think the test is whether she is doing household work. In the case of a woman married to a Service man, quite definitely she cannot be taken away, but I will inquire into the matter and I will direct the attention of the Minister of Labour to the importance which the noble Lord attaches to it. A suggestion was made that some of the women called up have waited a long time for work. I think that must apply to women who have volunteered. I do not think it applies where women are instructed to leave less important occupations for work of greater urgency. Where they are under these directions, as I understand it, they do not have to leave their work until there is a vacancy for them to occupy. Of course, there has been in the past a certain lag between the voluntary enrolment and the placing of the candidates, but I do not think any loss of time is involved under the new arrangements, because people will not leave their existing work until they can be placed elsewhere.

The noble Lord mentioned that there had been a certain lack of co-ordination between the Ministry of Labour and the Supply Departments in the allocation of factories. Your Lordships will, I am sure, appreciate that factories have to be located according to a balance of considerations. It is not always possible to put factories convenient to the housing of labour. Instances, I am sure, will occur to everyone. It would not be wise to put up an aircraft factory in a very vulnerable position, nor a filling factory right in the middle of houses. I can only say that it is appreciated that the location of factories is of very great importance, and we hope that the complaints of the noble Lord will be dealt with by the utmost co-operation which can be brought about. The noble Lord also asked about the 10,000 men who had been promised to agriculture, I think mainly for drainage.


No, agriculture only.


I have only got figures for land drainage. I am told that up to the end of September the Ministry of Labour had supplied 4,500 men and that number has now been considerably exceeded. Italian prisoners to the number of 4,700 have been supplied and also 3,000 women through the Women's Land Army, but of course those are not all on land drainage.


Nor supplied by the Ministry of Labour?


I suppose the Ministry of Labour are glad to get contributions from elsewhere.


Or the credit from somebody else.


I am sure the noble Lord is chiefly concerned to see that agriculture does not go short. He also referred to the early unpopularity of the A.T.S. I am sure the noble Lord will understand that the A.T.S. had a particularly difficult problem in popularizing that Service. First of all they had to deal with much larger numbers and they needed a very quick expansion. They have the unattractive feature that many of their recruits have to be put in small parties and be scattered about the country, and, as I think the noble Lord himself suggested, they were often employed on the less attractive forms of work. We are all aware, from publicity in the Press and elsewhere, that new and varied opportunities have lately been opened and the War Office has substituted a very much better organization for the improvisation which was necessary in the first stages. I am sure the result car, be traced in the very large increase of recruiting which has recently taken place in advance of the new scheme coming into operation.

The noble Lord, Lord Greville, raised the question of domestic and clerical staffs in the hospitals. Well, there is no question, I believe, of these staffs being drawn away compulsorily. It may be that a good many members of them have gone of their own accord, because of preference for other kinds of work. I will take this matter up with the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Labour, because, of course, they are both concerned, and it may be that this is a matter which should be dealt with under the Essential Works Order, so as to keep the necessary numbers in the employment of these health services.

The noble Lord, Lord Gilford, was anxious lest employers would not be able to keep in the fullest possible touch with the district employment boards in the matter of the individual qualifications of men whose cases have to be considered in connexion with the acceleration of liability. I am assured that the district labour beards will be working in cooperation with employers. It is not proposed that they will interview the de-reserved people in the way that this is done at labour exchanges. They will be dealing, very largely, with employers, and with lists of men who can be spared, and of men who cannot be spared. The point which is in the noble Lord's mind, that a man can be spared in one age-group, if, in the next age-group, another can be retained, will, I am sure, be a matter which can be threshed out between the district boards and the employers concerned.

The noble Lord, Lord Newton, was concerned with the disappointing number of prisoners of war who are now employed. I do not think that the limiting factor has been the fear of sabotage, bat that it has been the difficulties of transport. In the last war, prisoners of war had to come here from quite a short distance. Now, the most suitable agricultural workers would have to come from the Near East, and the Near East is a very long way away seeing that transport has to be run by the Cape route. I am afraid that I cannot tell my noble friend how many German prisoners of war are here now nor where they are working, but I am sure noble Lords will recognize that in any case the Italian prisoners are more likely to be helpful.

The noble Viscount, Lord Elibank, referred to Lord Addison's remarks about lack of co-operation between the Supply Departments.


My Lords, may I intervene for a few moments as the noble Lord was not actually in the Chamber when I spoke on the matter to which he is referring. What I did say was in reference to the remarks of the noble Lord, Lord Addison, about the necessity for the efficiency of the Labour Department if it were to be successful in the work which it was going to undertake with this increased man-power. On that, I spoke of the necessity of associating more closely production and labour, because the two are necessarily inseparable, and I said that I hoped the Ministry might become a Ministry of Labour and Production in order to secure what Lord Addison had in view.


I am sure that everyone will recognize that the very closest coordination between labour and its use under the Supply Departments is imperative; but I believe that organization exists already. The Minister of Labour is Chairman of the Production Executive. I think it would be a mistake to add too much to the responsibilities of the constituent bodies which are represented on the Production Executive, and that, in fact, this organization which brings the Ministry of Supply into the very closest touch, through the Chairman of the Supply Executive, with the needs of the three main Supply Departments, is a more effective way of attaining the object in view than the setting up of a special Ministry of Production.


A Ministry of Labour and Production.


A Ministry of Labour and Production. I have seen a good deal about suggestions for the setting up of a Ministry of Production, but I had not appreciated that there had been an even more ambitious scheme to add the vast responsibility for controlling the labour of thirty odd millions of people to the very large task of applying that labour to the best purpose. I think the Government are very much indebted to the noble Lords for the suggestions which they have been able to make in the debate to-day. There is never any anxiety as to the readiness of the whole of our community to answer the call to more sacrifice. The points which have been raised to-day will be carefully considered. I am sure that all the criticisms which we have had have been offered in a very helpful spirit, and will be of use in perfecting the details of the scheme.


My Lords, I ask leave to withdraw the Motion standing in my name.

Motion for Papers, by leave, withdrawn.