§ Order of the Day for the House to be put into Committee read.
§ Moved, That the House do now resolve itself into Committee.—(Lord Moyne).
§ On Question, Motion agreed to.
§ House in Committee accordingly:
§ [The EARL OF ONSLOW in the Chair.]
§ Clause 1:
§ General obligation to serve.
§ 1. It is hereby declared that all persons of either sex for the time being in Great Britain are liable to National Service, whether under the Crown or not, and whether in the Armed Forces of the Crown, in civil defence, in industry, or otherwise:
§ Provided that—
- (a) the liability of any person to whole-time service in the Armed Forces of the Crown or in a Civil Defence Force within the meaning of the National Service Act, 1941, shall be such as may be imposed upon him under the National Service Acts, 3939 to 1941;
- (b) the liability of any person to any other form of National Service (including part-time service in the Armed Forces of the Crown or in such a Civil Defence Force
287 as aforesaid) shall be such as may be imposed upon him under Defence Regulations;
- (c) nothing in this section shall relieve any person from any liability to National Service which he would be under apart from this section.
§ THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOR THE COLONIES LORD MOYNE moved, in proviso (a), after "in," where that word occurs for the second time, to insert "or with." The noble Lord said: The first amendment is purely a drafting one. The same words are proposed to be inserted in proviso (a) and proviso (b). The reason for inserting them is that those are the words used in Section 2 of the National Service Act, 1941, which provides that a person called up for civil defence under that Act should be deemed to have been taken into the service of the Crown as from the day specified in the enrolment notice, and Section 3 provides that such a person shall serve with the Civil Defence Force specified in the enrolment notice served upon him or with such other Civil Defence Force as may, from time to time, be notified. The Bill as drafted uses the preposition" in," and it is very desirable to avoid any suggestion that there is a difference of meaning between the principal Act and this amending Bill and so, for caution, it is desirable to put in "or with."
Page 1, line 12, after ("in") insert ("or with").—(Lord Moyne).
§ On Question, Amendment agreed to.
Page 1, line 18, after ("in") insert ("or with").—(Lord Moyne).
§ On Question, Amendment agreed to.
§ LORD ADDISON moved to add to proviso (b) the words "which shall provide that no person engaged in agriculture shall be removed therefrom without the previous consent of the war agricultural executive committee of the county in which such person shall be working." The noble Lord said: This Amendment calls attention to a very important matter. Though I was unfortunately not able, to be present on the Second Reading, a careful reading of what the noble Lord, the Leader of the House, said on this subject leaves me exceedingly dissatisfied, 288 and therefore it is that I move this Amendment. The fact is that the noble Lord then announced the decision of the Government in respect to 10,000 non-key men in agriculture. The case of these men had been considered by the agricultural war executive committees during the course of the last twelve months, and they have not been called up because the agricultural war executives said, with the full knowledge of the actual facts, that these men were indispensable for getting the work done, if we were going to cultivate all the extra millions of acres which we are cultivating. Now I see that the noble Lord said that it is not a new decision, but that the Government think that these men should be treated the same as other people, or words to that effect. That does not convince me a bit.
§ What is required in this emergency is that men should be used, whether in the Armed Forces or in any other sphere, in the best interests of the whole effort of the nation. It is not a question of treating one class of persons better than another. I am in daily contact with agricultural labourers, and I never met one who wants to be let off anything. He is perfectly prepared to do his bit, and the question is where is the best place to employ him. Therefore, I think myself we ought to have some surety that men are not called up, if I may say so, without any disrespect, at the will of any particular recruiting officer, but that the cases shall be investigated by the people who know the facts—and they are the agricultural war executive committees. To my personal knowledge they have subjected these men to what may be called a small tooth-combing operation repeatedly during the last twelve months, and the only men who have even been placed on provisional lists are those who have been placed there with profound misgiving. It is fair to say—it is certain in fact—that if these 10,000 men are taken away from agriculture you will knock the bottom out of the food production policy. That is true; I am sure it is true, and I feel very strongly on the subject.
§ The noble Lord tried to comfort the House by giving us some very nice assurances. Let us take a look at what they were. He said that in August last there had been 15,000 men from the Army employed in different ways in agriculture. I accept that figure. They did their best, and I know myself of many cases where 289 appeals were made to Commanding Officers, who did everything the}' possibly could. But how long were the men there? Two or three weeks. Unfortunately the weather was very dreadful, and no one could help that. The county committees were, I am sure, under an obligation to local Commanding Officers, who did everything they could to help. But that has nothing whatever to do with the case. Of course' you need extra men in agriculture. Fifteen thousand is a mere flea-bite. The need is for experienced people who will help us to secure the cultivation of the extra millions of acres which have been ploughed up. We want experienced agricultural workers now for the spring ploughing and for the hundred and one operations essential to agriculture. These are the men who are key men, and who have been carefully "vetted." The fact that we did get a great deal of help from the Army—and I am sure will again—in harvest time has nothing whatever to do with the case. I am sorry to put it so strongly, but I am indisposed to leave it to Regulations and. to the well-meaning efforts of the Ministry of Labour. At all events, we should have a safeguard, and the safeguard I suggest is the one which is in operation. All these cases have been carefully investigated by the county war agricultural executive committees, ' and I am convinced it is right that we should ensure that the men who are called up should be called up with the assent of those committees. For that purpose I move the Amendment standing in my name.
Page 1, line 20, after ("Regulations") insert the said words.—(Lord Addison).
§ LORD TEVIOT
I should like, most heartily, 1.0 support my noble friend's Amendment, and to draw attention to the fact that this Amendment would protect girls working on the land as well. I can quite conceive a position where you had a number of girls working on farms near a factory and they might be taken in under this Bill. If we are going to lose men or girls who are efficient in agricultural knowledge, it will be very difficult, once they have gone, to get them back. That is the experience one has had in many other instances, and I hope my noble friend who is going to reply will be very sympathetic and will accept the Amendment.
§ LORD MOYNE
The noble Lord, Lord Addison, has raised a matter on which there is a good deal of sympathy with the agricultural community. We know how difficult it is to rearrange the work with new entrants into the industry, and for that reason a delay was agreed to in calling up for the Armed Forces the men who had been selected as least indispensable. It is, of course, necessary that all industries should be given a fair distribution of the sacrifice, and the matter has been considered over and over again with every anxiety to hold the balance as evenly as possible among the vital industries. Agriculture has had long notice that these men would be called up—not under this Bill at all. They were picked out before this Bill was ever in contemplation.
The actual Amendment which the noble Lord, the Leader of the Opposition, has moved is, of course, narrower in scope than the wide issue he has raised, because his Amendment is to Clause 1 (b) which deals with direction under the Defence Regulations. If he had moved it to paragraph (a), that would, of course, have dealt with the call-up for National Service under an enrolment notice. I am sure he really has in mind the question of taking these people away for the Armed Services, but on the strict technical application of his Amendment I can assure him there is going to be no question of transferring these men from agriculture to other industries under the Defence Regulations. There may have been a very few cases where people have been taken from agriculture into the mining industry, but, generally speaking, the case which disturbs the noble Lord is National Service in the three Fighting Services.
In any case it would be very inappropriate that the decision should be transferred from the responsible Minister of Labour to the county agricultural executive committees, who really are agents of the Minister of Agriculture. They have been fully consulted. They have cooperated in choosing these men, and I do not think it would be a reasonable proposal that the Minister of Labour should be subject to the veto of the Minister of Agriculture. These Defence Regulations are issued only after the fullest departmental discussion at a Ministerial Committee, and the noble Lord is aware that at the end of this very long and painful discussion the Minister of Agriculture, 291 who put the case of exempting that industry very skilfully, agreed that all industries, however vital, must be treated alike—agriculture with munitions—and he has asked the agricultural industry loyally to' accept the Government's decision.
§ LORD ADDISON
I am sorry to be difficult. As a rule I am not; and I accept what the noble Lord said that the place of this Amendment should have been in paragraph (a). It was so intended, as he quite properly said. But what I am endeavouring to protest about, quite moderately, is the notion which underlies even now what the noble Lord says about a fair distribution of sacrifice as between the different industries. That has nothing whatever to do with my Amendment, or with what is in my mind. Every industry must do, or ought to do, whatever is best in the national interest. It is not a question of favouring one industry or another, and so far as sacrifice is concerned I think the agricultural industry will show a magnificent record when compared with any other industry. It lost about 40,000 men at the beginning of the war and I think most of them enlisted in one form of service or another. Then just as many—though I do not know precisely how many—were lost by the drift to the making of aerodromes and to all sorts of other attractive jobs, where they got much bigger wages, until powers were taken to prevent that drift away from agriculture.
I think that probably the industry must have lost another 40,000 men in the first eighteen months or two years of the war. Agriculture has made its sacrifices already. It is a matter of the in-dispensability of these men to their industry, and, in regard to their being called up, it is only a question of consulting the people who know the agricultural business, as the Ministry of Labour does not know it. That is the fact. I am not prepared to accept that Ministry's opinion. I have not moved this Amendment in the right place, and I am sorry it is in the wrong place, but I hope the noble Lord will think it over between now and the next stage, because I promise him that I shall move it again on Report in the right place, and, if necessary, divide upon it.
§ LORD HUTCHISON OF MONTROSE
A point comes in here that I think is vital 292 to many farmers, and it is this. Will the farmer be consulted by the labour authorities as to which men they shall take from the farm? There are many cases where farms are staffed by youngish men, and it is a question which are the more easy to dispense with. That is the question which very many farmers are most anxious about. They want to know which men are to be taken and which are to be left on the farm.
§ LORD MOYNE
We shall no doubt have another discussion on this matter at the next stage of the Bill; meanwhile I can assure the noble Lord that what he suggests has already been done. It is a matter that has been under discussion for many months and the county agriculture war executive committees have prepared the nominal list in consultation with the farmers concerned.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ LORD NATHAN had given Notice of an Amendment, at the end of proviso (b), to insert: "and no Defence Regulation shall without the previous approval of both Houses of Parliament provide for any person to be liable to whole-time or part-time service in the Home Guard." The noble Lord said: On the occasion of the Second Reading of this Bill a question arose as to whether the matter of the Home Guard should be dealt with on that occasion or on some later occasion. I indicated, in addressing your Lordships' House, that I had understood it was to be treated as a separate subject, and I have put down this Amendment, which is in quite neutral terms, with a view to giving opportunity for the subject to be raised. Since I put the Amendment down, however, the noble Lord the Under-Secretary of State for War has very courteously intimated to me that to-morrow a White Paper is to be issued on this subject. It would appear to be far better that the matter should stand over for discussion until the White Paper has been issued and studied. I shall, therefore, not move my Amendment now, on the footing that my noble friends will have the right to raise this question if they should think of doing so on seeing the White Paper and before this House adjourns for the Christmas Recess,
§ Clause 1, as amended, agreed to.
§ Clause 2 agreed to.293
§ Clause 3:
§ Extension of Acts to women.
(3) At the end of subsection (1) of the said Section eleven, the following words shall be inserted:—
(h) is a married woman or a woman who has living with her a child of hers under the age of fourteen (including a step-child, adopted child (whether adopted under the Adoption of Children Act, 1926, the Adoption of Children (Scotland; Act, 1930, or otherwise), and illegitimate child).
THE LORD CHANCELLOR (VISCOUNT SIMON) moved, in subsection (3), after "woman" where that word first occurs, to insert "not living apart from her husband under a decree or order of any Court." The noble and learned Viscount said: This is one of the two Amendments that I mentioned to the House on the occasion of the Second Reading debate. I do not think it requires more than a word of explanation and I do not doubt that your Lordships will approve the suggested changes. In page 3 of the Bill on line 4 there begins paragraph (h) which would be inserted in Section 11 of the principal Act. The paragraph reads:
(h) is a married woman or a woman who ha9 living with her a child of hers under the age of fourteen (including a step-child, adopted child (whether adopted under the Adoption of Children Act, 1926, the Adoption of Children (Scotland) Act, 1930, or otherwise), and illegitimate child).
It was pointed out in the House of Commons that, as that exemption stood, it would exempt a married woman even though she was a married woman who was living apart from her husband under a decree or order of the Court. Though no doubt a lady in those circumstances is married for many purposes—she cannot marry again, for example—none the less her situation is such that she ought within the scheme of the National Service Act to be treated as an unmarried woman since she has not the responsibilities which would otherwise attach to her position. I beg to move to insert after the word "woman," where it first occurs on line 4, the word;; "not living apart from her husband under a decree or order of any Court.''
Page 3, line 4, after the first ("woman") insert ("not living apart from her husband under a decree or order of any Court").—(The Lord Chancellor.)
§ On Question, Amendment agreed to.294
THE LORD CHANCELLOR moved, in subsection (3), after "step-child," to insert "and an illegitimate child, and, if the adoption took place before the passing of this Act, an." The noble and learned Viscount said: This is the other small change in this part of the Bill which I also mentioned on the Second Reading, and for more convenient arrangement there is a slight change of the position in which the case of the illegitimate child is mentioned. I move in line 6, after step-child, to insert "and an illegitimate child, and, if the adoption took place before the passing of this Act, an." Then there is a consequential Amendment to line 8. The result would be that the words would then run from line 6:
a child of hers under the age of fourteen (including a step-child, and an illegitimate child, and, if the adoption took place before the passing of this Act, an adopted child
whether adopted by one means or another. It is more convenient to move up the reference to the illegitimate child. Again I think this is a change which is manifestly required because, as I observed on Second Reading, it could not be the intention of any of us to provide an exemption from the responsibilities which the Bill imposes on a woman because after the passing of the Act she adopts a child. It is quite a different matter to say she shall be exempted if she has already adopted a child. That is the effect of the Amendment which I now move.
Page 3, line 6, after ("step-child") insert ("and an illegitimate child, and, if the adoption tool; place after this Act, an").—(The Lord Chancellor.)
§ LORD NATHAN
There is one point which is perhaps not directly affected by the Amendment but is relevant to it, to which I should like to address attention and invite perhaps a comment from the Lord Chancellor. It is not clear what will be the position of a married woman who has a child evacuated. The reason why I put this point is that there is an observable tendency on the part of mothers who have children in reception areas, but are themselves still in evacuation areas, to bring their children back so as to put themselves in the position of a married woman with a child living with her. If the noble and learned Viscount the Lord Chancellor thinks it 295 not irrelevant to answer this question on this particular Amendment, I think it would be convenient to have the position clarified. What will the position be of a woman whose child is evacuated? Because it is clearly undesirable that a woman should bring her children back from a reception area to an evacuation area for the purpose of avoiding any obligation under this Bill.
Before the noble and learned Viscount replies to that point, perhaps I might be allowed to mention another aspect of the matter with regard to the adoption of children. Your Lordships will all sympathize with the intention to prevent a woman deliberately adopting a child in order to avoid her obligations to the State, but I would like to put this case. Suppose there are two sisters, themselves orphans perhaps, one being a widow with young; children and the other a spinster. The latter may be called up and directed into a war factory or into the Defence Services. The widowed sister is exempt because she has young children. Suppose the widowed sister with children is killed or dies, the natural thing would be for the spinster sister to take charge of the young children. They would be adopted, though not necessarily legally adopted under the Adoption Act. In such a case can the spinster sister be excused because she is looking after young children?
The first duty of the State now is to the rising generation. I think that is common ground. I understand that the woman called up under the Bill will have the right of appeal to a hardships tribunal if there are special circumstances, but once she has joined up, or has gone into a national factory, can a woman in a position such as that of the spinster I mention be given a further right of appeal if her circumstances have changed? If it can be shown, for example, that she is looking after young children because of the death of her sister, can she appeal to the hardships tribunal to be released from whatever service she may have undertaken? That is one case, but there may be other perfectly genuine cases where it would be desirable that a woman who had adopted children after the passing of the Act should be given some safeguard. I would like to ask the noble and learned Viscount whether it would be 296 possible to put in some safeguard to deal with perfectly genuine cases of adoption.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
If I may, I will deal with the two points which have been mentioned. As the noble Lord, Lord Nathan, stated, the point which he raised is not strictly relevant to the Amendment under discussion, but that does not matter because the methods adopted in your Lordships' House are very convenient in allowing more latitude than perhaps would be allowed elsewhere. I think the noble Lord, Lord Nathan, is labouring under some misapprehension. He was concerned with the case which he thought might develop of a married woman, a mother who brought her child back from evacuation, in order that she, the mother, might escape the consequences of this Bill. Nothing of the sort can arise under this Bill. If the mother is a married woman she is exempt from the compulsory character of this Bill wherever her children are situated. She is exempt if she has got no children at all. She will not make her case any better or any worse if she brings her children back. The cases where it is material to see whether there are young children living with a woman are not cases of a married woman: they are cases where the woman is unmarried or where a woman has adopted children. The noble Lord will therefore see that there is nothing in the Bill as at present drawn which affords the least ground for a married woman getting her children back. It is quite unnecessary. She is exempt because she is a married woman.
As regards the point mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Strabolgi, I appreciate entirely the importance of considering whether we are still leaving some genuine cases unprotected. As he truly said, there may well be genuine cases after the passing of the Act, where, for good family or humane reasons, a woman adopts a child. The answer is two-fold. In the first place it is essential in legislation to lay down a general rule. I do not know any method by which in an Act of Parliament you can provide for what is called the genuine case. The second answer is that this provision in the Bill is merely to exclude from all liability to be called up people who fall into certain categories. That is far from saying that in every case the strict measures which might apply will be automatically applied. The whole 297 machinery for dealing with hardship—hardship committees and the like—at once comes into play and I apprehend, subject to correction, (and I will make inquiries afterwards and if necessary correct what I am now saying) that in a case where the letter of the law might apply compulsion, the method by which that is tempered to what the noble Lord calls the genuine and deserving case is not by altering the terms of the Statute but by exercising all those compassionate powers which are part of the machinery. For instance, there is compassionate release from the Forces, and there is compassionate release from the claims of industry. In the latter case the individual who feels that the compulsory provisions of the Bill operate hardly and unfairly, has the right to go to the local appeal board and ask for release. I think that is the way in which this will work, but I will gladly have the matter inquired into between now and the next stage to see whether I have correctly apprehended the position.
§ LORD NATHAN
I am greatly obliged to the noble and learned Viscount for his reply. I think perhaps the point which I wish to bring to notice was not brought up on the right part of the Bill. While I agree that a married woman is exempt from being called up by the fact of being married, a married woman with children is liable to be directed into industry. Perhaps should more properly have raised the point on another part of the Bill. Still, the point is the same. Women are, to an observable degree, bringing their children back so as to avoid direction into industry. Where children have been evacuated, are they to be deemed to be living with the mother so as to constitute a household responsibility? The point I wish to put applies more to industry than to calling up for the Services.
Before we leave this matter I would like to suggest to the Government that the matter can be put right if they can satisfy your Lordships on a particular point, which is not a narrow point. I would like to put a case similar to the one I quoted just now, of a woman who is called up and who would have got exemption through the hardship tribunal if the circumstances then had been the same as those which arose subsequently. If a woman joins 298 the A.T.S. or one of the other Forces, she has, I presume, the same right as a soldier or a sailor to appeal for release from the Forces on compassionate grounds. Will that apply also to the case of a woman in industry? If it does apply to the woman in industry in the same way as to the woman who joins the Armed Forces, the whole situation would seem to be safeguarded. A woman has the right of appeal to a hardships tribunal if she is called up, but it may be that after going to work in a filling factory or an aircraft factory her circumstances change. Can she claim to be released on grounds which are similar to those which would entitle a soldier, for example, to ask to be released? Can she in that case, being in industry, make a retrospective appeal, so to speak (though retrospective is perhaps not quite the right word to use in this connexion), to the hardships tribunal? In the case, say, of a girl working in an aircraft factory who has become a very important unit her employers might, naturally, be very reluctant to release her, but there may well be very serious family reasons why she should be exempted. Has she the right to appeal?
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
I do not feel any doubt about the point. My understanding is that there is a right to appeal in the case of employment in industry for release owing to change of circumstances which justifies release.
If that could be absolutely cleared up on the Third Reading, it would, I think, be very valuable.
§ On Question, Amendment agreed to.
Page 3, line 8, leave out ("and illegitimate child").—(The Lord Chancellor.)
§ On Question, Amendment agreed to.
§ On Question, Whether Clause 3, as amended, shall stand part of the Bill?
§ LORD ADDISON
Might I ask the noble Lord to say a little more if he can on a point arising out of the discussion which we had before the Bill was introduced. I read with great care the report of the Second Reading, and I noted that while the Lord Chancellor, in his speech, approached the point I refer to he did 299 not specifically deal with it, and I would like to ask how the matter stands. The case is this. A married woman without children, who is under the age of thirty, may be directed into industry. It maybe that, in such a case, the married woman so directed is living with her husband, and it may be possible, therefore, as I understand the Bill, that she may receive a direction to go into industry, which direction will compel her to live apart from her husband. I do not think that would be desirable. It is said that, so far as possible, these women should be directed into industry' as near as can be arranged to their homes, and we understand that that will be so. I do not think, however, that we ought to leave it so that it is possible that if a man working on munitions, a highly skilled worker, and therefore indispensable, has a wife who is under thirty and they have no children, the woman may be directed into industry at some place away from her home. What I want to secure is not that she should not be directed into industry at all, but that the direction should not involve her being directed to a part of the country away from the home in which she and her husband have been living together. I do not want compulsory service for the woman to bring about separation of the husband and wife. I asked about this before. I am not putting down any Amendment, but I shall be glad if the noble Lord can tell us shortly how the matter stands.
§ LORD MOYNE
The answer to the noble Lord is that it is a definite practice that no married woman is ever directed away from her home in such a way as to cause her to leave her husband. If she is living in London, we will say, and her husband is living and working in Birmingham, she might be directed to go to work in Birmingham, but she would not be given any direction which would break up any existing establishment where she was living with her husband. I am assured that such a direction as the noble Lord seems to fear is never, in practice, given.
§ LORD HUTCHISON OF MONTROSE
With reference to the speech made on the Second Reading by the noble and learned Viscount, I would like to put to him the 300 position of the widow of a Service man. If a man in the field gets killed, do I understand that, under this Bill, his widow can be conscribed straight away? That is my first question. The second question I desire to ask is whether, if a woman who is conscribed under this Bill should marry, she is then released from the Service which she is giving.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
I did not quite hear the second question. Would the noble Lord kindly repeat it.
§ LORD HUTCHISON OF MONTROSE
The second question is this, If a woman is conscribed and directed into one of the Women's Services, say the A.T.S., and she afterwards marries, is she then released from the service in which she is engaged?
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
I think that as a matter of interpretation there is no doubt as to the answer in either case. If a woman is the widow of a Service man she can no longer be regarded as a married woman, unless, in the course of time, she marries again. As the Bill is drawn, unless she comes within some of the exceptions with which we have already been dealing to-day, the woman would be in the position of an unmarried woman and liable to the consequences which the Bill provides. As regards the second question, as to how matters would stand if a woman who was unmarried at the date of the passing of the Bill, and is liable to conscription, marries after the Act is passed, I apprehend that as, by her marriage after the passing of the Bill, she becomes a married woman, the provisions of the Act would apply to relieve her from the obligation of being called up which would attach to her only if she is unmarried. There is nothing which lays down that the provisions relating to married women shall not apply ' in the case of a woman married after the passing of the Act. There is no such provision as that relating to women who adopt children after the Act is passed. After all, when a woman marries she necessarily assumes new responsibilities; responsibility for her home, possibly responsibilities for children in the future, which place her on an equal footing with women who were married before the passing of the Act.
§ LORD HUTCHISON OF MONTROSE
I thank the noble Lord for his reply to the second question. With regard to 301 his answer to the first question I think it is deplorable. A man in the field shows extra gallantry in attack; gives that extra push which brings victory from defeat, and he knows that behind him is the fact that if he is killed his widow will forthwith be conscribed. Is that an incentive to our men to go on and give the extra bit that is required for victory? I cannot believe that anyone in this country would desire that these poor women, who have lost their husbands on the battlefield while fighting for their country, should be conscribed. I cannot believe the people of this country would tolerate such a thing.
May I dissent at once from the views expressed by the noble Lord who has just sat down. Conscription is not penalty or a punishment; it is an opportunity of service. If a woman who, under the Bill, is reserved for her duties as a married woman, ceases to be a married woman by being widowed in this war, I imagine that in ninety-nine cases out of a hundred she will be only too glad to help forward the national cause. I very much regret that my noble friend should regard the idea of people being summoned to the service of the State—because that is what it comes to—in the light of a penalty or punishment. It is nothing of the sort; it is an opportunity and a privilege, to which I am sure that the vast majority of women, as of men, will be glad to respond.
I am sure that the noble Viscount who has just spoken cannot have followed the discussion in another place, or in your Lordships' House, because it was made perfectly clear by the Leader of the House that the Service Ministers were strongly of opinion that to conscribe the childless wives of men who are serving would be a mistake; and exactly the same argument applies to the widows. I prefer the views of the noble Lord, Lord Hutchison of Montrose, on this matter to the views of the noble Viscount, if only because, if I may say so, the noble Lord has had rather more experience of the views of soldiers than other noble Lords may have had. Before we decide this matter, we ought to hear the views of the Service Chiefs. They made their views perfectly 302 clear on the question of the wives of soldiers and sailors serving abroad. The widow can volunteer, and in many cases will volunteer, just as many wives have volunteered; but, where she does not want to go, there may be all kinds of reasons for her attitude—an aged mother or an invalid sister to look after, or something of that sort—and, in such cases, surely she should be exempt. I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Hutchison of Montrose, will press this matter.
§ LORD MOYNE
I think that this debate is based on a misunderstanding. There has been talk of conscribing these women into the Auxiliary Services, and the noble Lord, Lord Strabolgi, has just said that the three Service Ministers have expressed a certain view on this matter. There is, however, no question of conscribing women into the Auxiliary Services; women have a free choice between the Services and industry, and therefore much of the anxiety which has been expressed is without foundation.
What is the difference between directing women into industry and conscribing them for the Services? It is only a matter of words. You can compel a woman to do her duty in a factory, and we do not object to that; but that is conscription in another sense.
§ LORD MOYNE
I thought that the noble Lord was objecting to women being conscribed into the Services.
§ LORD MOYNE
The House may well think that it is no hardship to go into industry; and, after all, if there is any special ground of hardship provision is made for that to be taken into account.
I do beg the noble Lord to consider this matter a little more seriously, if he will forgive me for saying so. I know he does not mean to do so, but he is misusing words. This is a Bill for industrial conscription; why wrap it up by talking about directing people into industry? This is industrial conscription, and my friends here and in another place 303 support it for that reason. We dislike it, but we support it. A woman who is directed into industry is not so well looked after—and I speak here with knowledge—so far as her welfare, medical attention, comforts and other things are concerned, as she would be in the Services. That is bound to be so. A factory management, whether it is a Royal Army Ordnance factory under Government control or a private factory, cannot possibly look after the women employed there as well as women can be looked after in the A.T.S., the W.R.N.S. and so on, because they have not the machinery for doing it, and the women have to go into billets or lodgings and fend for themselves. That cannot be helped. However, I should sympathize with the soldier who thought "If I am killed, my widow will be compelled to work in a factory, possibly in a dangerous area, and there may be reasons why she should not go." She may be of a temperament not suited for factory life; there are some people, and especially some women, who are not suited for factory life. I think that this matter should be considered much more seriously than the Government and the noble Lord, the Leader of the House, seem prepared to consider it, and I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Hutchison of Montrose, will press this matter.
§ Clause 3, as amended, agreed to.
§ Remaining clauses agreed to.
§ Schedule [Women exempted from liability to be called up]:
§ LORD STRABOLGI moved to insert: "11. Women enrolled in the Home Guard." The noble Lord said: The Schedule provides for ten classes of women who are exempt from calling up, and I have ventured to put down this Amendment to extend the number to eleven, so as to include women enrolled in the Home Guard. I confess quite frankly that this is a trial balloon, and I hope that it will show the direction of the wind blowing through Whitehall. There has been a change of policy, I understand, with regard to women in the Home Guard. First of all they were not recognized at all, but a number of them were found to be doing very valuable work, particularly in the North-West of England, as the noble Earl, Lord Cork and Orrery, knows, and there was a disposition to allow older, immobile women 304 to do certain non-combatant duties with the Home Guard. I understand that the whole matter is now being reconsidered, and it has been stated quite freely that it may be the intention of the Government to authorize women to enrol in the Home Guard as non-combatants. I have in mind, as I have said, older women, and women who are immobile, but who nevertheless have time to do very valuable work in the Home Guard. I should like to see them enter the Home Guard, if they wish to do so, as combatants, but that is another matter: I am trying to keep in step with the general policy of the Government with regard to women in the Services. If the noble Lord, Lord Croft, is able to tell us whether a decision has been come to, it may save time in the future if the Schedule is extended to include this eleventh class. I beg to move.
Page 5, line 27, at end insert (" 11. Women enrolled in the Home Guard.")—(Lord Strabolgi.)
§ THE JOINT PARLIAMENTARY UNDER-SECRETARY OF STATE FOR WAR (LORD CROFT)
I note that Lord Strabolgi has moved this Amendment as a balloon, but I am afraid that I cannot help him to catch the future policy of the Government with regard to the Home Guard. That, however, does not affect the matter. Whatever may happen in due course with regard to women in the Home Guard, as a matter of fact women are not enrolled in the Home Guard, and, even if they were, we could not accept this Amendment, because service in the Home Guard is only part-time service, which does not exempt anyone from being called up for full-time service under the National Service Acts. As a matter of fact, a special Act of Parliament, the National Service (Armed Forces) Act, 1940, was passed, expressly to provide that a man in the Home Guard should, not for that reason be exempt from liability to be called up under the National Service Acts, and so that would also apply even if the desires of the noble Lord in regard to women in the Home Guard were realized.
The noble Lord's logic, not for the first time, is irresistible, and I beg leave to withdraw.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Schedule agreed to.