HL Deb 25 November 1941 vol 121 cc73-101

VISCOUNT TRENCHARD rose to ask His Majesty's Government whether, in view of the continuous demand for more women to help in the war effort and particularly in regard to the Auxiliary Territorial Service, they are satisfied that the organization and well-being of the women are such that they will attract all the women that are necessary; and to move for Papers.

The noble Viscount said: My Lords, I feel rather diffident in rising to put the Motion that stands in my name, when your Lordships will naturally be thinking of the great battle that is raging with such intensity in North Africa. When we are all thinking of the wonderful courage, energy, and skill that all ranks in the Army and Air Force are showing in that battle, I should like to offer my humble praise to all those men who are so gallantly fighting there to-day. It is because I feel this battle will be an added inducement to the women—not that they want any inducement—to come forward and help the Army to the: utmost of their power, that I venture to go on with my Motion on a day like this. I was much interested and amused to read the Prime Minister's remarks in the other House in which he said: There was a custom in ancient China that anyone who wished to criticize the Government had the right to memorialise the Emperor, and, provided he followed that up by committing suicide, very great respect was paid to his words, and no ulterior motive was assigned. That seems to me to have been, from many points of view, a wise custom, but I certainly would be the last to suggest that it should be made retrospective.

I hope that when your Lordships have heard me to-day, and when the noble Lord comes to reply for the Government, he will not think it necessary for me to commit suicide or to say that I have any ulterior motive, because my only object is to get an organization which the women will willingly join to help the war.

I am moving this Motion rather with the desire to give the noble Lord and the Government an opportunity to satisfy the large body of people in this country who are uneasy—perhaps unduly uneasy—on the subject of the organization of the women, particularly in the A.T.S., in this war. Sometimes I have felt I should not raise the question at all, but I have done so because a great many, particularly men, have spoken to be on this question of running the Women's Services in this war. Therefore I hope that my remarks may be looked upon more as a contribution towards the solving of what apparently is a difficult subject. We all have seen continual demands for women for the Fighting Services, and apparently we are not getting anything like the number of women we expected to get or want, especially in the A.T.S. Over a year ago—I think it was sixteen months ago—a speech was delivered suggesting that a million women would be required. I would like to ask the noble Lord who is to reply if not many more than a million have joined to do war work since those days. I do not know how many have come forward, nor am I going to ask for the figures. It would give too much work to ascertain them, and it might be inadvisable to give the number, but certainly a very large number have joined for war work, including the making of munitions and for duties in the Services, since that speech was made.

It is said that a large number of young girls are doing nothing but enjoy themselves. I think this is a little unfair, and is like some remarks that used to be made in the last war about the young men. This statement is somewhat exaggerated. For instance, I know of a young girl who had done six months' service in the A.T.S. and was down in the West Country when it was being "blitzed" continually. She got forty-eight hours' leave and came to London. Dressed in mufti she was looking at a shop window when an elderly man came up and said: ''You ought to be ashamed of yourself for not being in uniform and for looking like a picture on a magazine cover. Why aren't you doing war work?" I have heard that several people have been questioned in restaurants about what they are doing. Sometimes it is said that these are official inquiries. I think sometimes things are said which are not accurate about what young women are doing. I am told also that some big hotels, to which I seldom go, are filled with young girls in mufti dancing in the evening. Well, so long as these girls are working hard all day, as I gather most of them, if not all, are, and have only a few hours' relaxation in the evening, I think they ought to be allowed to take it without comments of this kind being made.

This, however, is a diversion from my main theme. Wherever I have been I have heard of the good work being done by women in the Services, in the W.A.A.F. particularly, and in the A.T.S. Certainly they are doing skilled work on teleprinters, plotting, typing, shorthand and also useful work like cooking, orderly work, attending to the telephone, and driving cars. This may be humdrum work, but it is also the most valuable of all the work that they do, as they are really releasing men for the Fighting Forces and doing work peculiarly suited to women. I have been to several aircraft factories in various parts of this country where I have seen a large number of women happily employed at some particular work in their own bays of the factories. I have also seen work being done by women that women are not really suited to do, but all the same they are doing excellent work. Now we still see these demands for more women, chiefly for the A.T.S. A tremendous amount of publicity has been devoted to this subject both in the Press and elsewhere and in speeches. I have sometimes derived some amusement from looking at the advertisements round the Hyde Park railings. You cannot see through those railings because of the number of placards exhibited upon them. As I pass along the streets in the morning I come across advertisements urging women to join the Services. It would seem that women have not volunteered for the A.T.S. in the numbers expected of them and I would like to suggest a few reasons why I think that may be so.

First of all, the A.T.S. has never had a fair chance. It was never started as a women's show run by women, as it ought to have been—that is, run by women as it was at the end of the last war. In my experience, at all events, that is how the W.A.A.F. was run. The A.T.S. was started in September, 1938, and it was run by very junior Army officers. It was ten months before anything was really settled in regard to dependants' allowances. Women came forward in those days and asked about dependants' allowances, and many of them were choked off, while others who joined up had afterwards to leave because they could not afford to continue as things were. Dependants' allowances were eventually settled. As I have said, the A.T.S. was started in September, 1938, but no woman director was appointed till July, 1939. Therefore I say it started with all the disappointments that existed in those days. That was before the noble Lord (Lord Croft) was responsible; therefore I am sure he will not mind answering this. I feel certain that there were no dependants' allowances to begin with and many women who came forward in those days did not Join because they could not afford to do so as they had to support some dependant. Some had to look after their mothers or fathers or sick relatives. I think it was most vital that the details in regard to women's dependants should have been settled earlier. I feel that as a result of those early days the A.T.S. has suffered ever since. It certainly disheartened a great number of women who were then keen to join.

I would like here to emphasize what good work the A.T.S. of all ranks have done, and are doing, in spite of those tremendous difficulties in the early days of the organization. I am sometimes not certain that it has not been forgotten, that the main object of Women's Services is to replace men by women in certain jobs for which they are more suited than men. They thereby release men for the Fighting Services, for heavy munitions and other work which women, with some exceptions of course, cannot do and should not do. Now it seems to me—though I hope the noble Lord can reassure me on the point—that the present trend is to use women with the men, doing all types of work as if there were no distinction between men and women. I may be old-fashioned but it does go against the grain to see women undertaking what is, or what should be, purely men's work, even in the difficult circumstances we are in to-day. Is it necessary?

It made be asked, if women do not do this work, what work do I think women could do that they are not doing now. First of all, I would say that young women can surely do all their own pay accounts in the Services, keep all their own records and do all their own internal domestic economy. Are they really doing this? Can the noble Lord assure me that they have released all the men that they could release? Also, could they not take over and run the whole of the men's records in those large record offices all over the country? That is surely the sort of work they could do very easily. Could not those offices be run by women with, if necessary, one Army officer at the head? Again, I do not know whether women are doing all the clerical work, not in the mobile units, but in the big administrative offices. It appears from the Interim Report of the Beveridge Committee that—and here I quote— there are thousands of men of military age doing clerical, storekeeping and other light work in the Services which could be done by women or older men.

They also feel that there is a lot of work that women could do, work on which young men should not be engaged unless they are suffering from some severe physical disability.

The places of men could be taken by women. I know that women are doing teleprinting, but are they doing all the teleprinting? Are there not a good many men still retained on that work? Again, take the case of telephones. Are they manned by women? I seem very often to be answered on the telephone by men and I am not speaking of telephones for the Services only. Could not all the messengers be women? Then there is the driving of cars. I am not talking about lorries—although I understand women are driving some of these—or of cars for fighting units. I want to ask how many other Service cars are being driven by young men. Of course I recognize fully that certain of these cars must be driven by men, but there are a large number of men who could be released. What about the Ministry of Pensions? There are a large number of men in the Ministry of Pensions—a very large number, I understand, and I am told that they are not all C 3. men. The same thing applies to the Inland Revenue.


The noble Viscount does not mean that that work should be done by the A.T.S.?


I am not speaking only of the A.T.S. My Motion is not confined to that Service, although that is the chief concern. I am indicating where women could be employed instead of men. I want next to come to the question of discipline, and to ask whether that is really being left in the hands of women officers. It may be laid down that that should be the case, but is it really happening? An assurance on that point would help. Mixed discipline is not good. It goes against the grain, to my mind, and I know it does to many other men of my age, to think of their daughters being marched up in front of men and reprimanded by men. I saw only recently a case reported in the Press of a Court Martial presided over by an Army officer with another Army officer as a member of the Court and two women officers. I dislike it very much, and I think many other men dislike it equally. But quite apart from the fact that, as I have said, I and many others to whom I have talked dislike the idea of men interfering with the running of a women's organization, that does not release men for the Fighting Forces. It adds to the work that men have to do if they have to look after the women. One of the main reasons for the Women's Services is that men should be released. Women are infinitely better than men in handling domestic details for women. Men cannot be expected to know the small comforts and the many other things that make women happy.

I feel that the prospect of getting women for the A.T.S. on the present basis of voluntary choice between the various forms of service open to women would be made certain if a public assurance were given that the War Office intended to adhere to the original idea and system of running the A.T.S. as a women's force administered and run by women under its own women leaders. I had understood that this was the intention—and is still the intention—but it is not, I think, being done. I feel that the present tendency, though I hope it is not true, is to put the administration more and more into the hands of men. Surely it is a mistake to expect men and women to combine in running the women. The organization must be run either altogether by men or altogether by women. Mixed running is bound to present difficulties. Men will blame the women for anything going wrong, and women will blame the men. At the beginning of the war and even before the war a large number of girls joined the A.T.S. under the impression—the correct impression as it was then—that women were going to run the women's show themselves. Then, after about two years, it was decided to put the women under military law, to give them Commissions, and to make them subject to military discipline. The officers, both old and young, were asked if they would accept Commissions. I presume most did so. But no sooner was this done than the whole of the conditions of the A.T.S. were apparently changed. Were they changed? They may not have been changed, but they were apparently changed.

For instance, I hear of training centres where women are trained. They are, quite wisely, occupying barracks at certain depots which have been left by menrecruits, but at several of these there is a large man staff consisting of the Colonel, the Adjutant, the Regimental Sergeant Major, several Company Commanders and many N.C.O.s—sometimes as many as forty or fifty N.C.O.s. In addition to the men's staff there is also a women's staff composed of the Chief Commander, the Senior Commanders and Company Commanders, although they are short of SSwomen officers according to the establishment. I rather gather that when the A.T.S. recruits first arrive they are dealt with by the men N.C.O.s and officers and are not looked after entirely by women. I believe there are nearly one hundred men to every thousand women at the training centres in addition to the women officers. How does that release men?

At the end of the last war the recruits of the W.A.A.F. went to places like Alder-maston, to be trained by women;. I do not know if there were any men there. The recruits may not have been quite so smart at drill or in knowing bugle calls, but they were happy and contented. Now, I fancy, this is different. It was a great success then. I know it, because I remember the training in the last war. Now A.T.S. recruits are trained and run a great deal by men. Instead of leaving women to get on with the work they can do, men are doing it, thus defeating the object of employing women. It seems to me as if men in the War Office do not want to use women officers for this sort of work. I gather that from all these training centres the brightest and most intelligent go to anti-aircraft work. They are trained together with the men, they mess together and they take recreation together. Is this wise? When they have completed their training they go to work on anti-aircraft guns in small bodies scattered about the country with men who have been retained for this work because it is not very active work. Many are anxious about the well-being of the A.T.S. under these conditions.

It may be that a certain number of girls and young women like this, but I feel that many parents are doubtful whether it is a good thing for the nation. I feel that very great care should be taken in choosing men who can work under these conditions. It must be remembered that these girls have come straight from civil life, some of them straight from the shelter of their homes, and I feel that many parents are anxious about their well-being and, being anxious, they sometimes do not encourage their girls to join the A.T.S. This may be one of the main causes for the lack of volunteers. I feel that an assurance from the noble Lord on this point would influence many parents, and I hope that this assurance will be given. As the Minister of Labour wisely recognizes, in the question of woman-power we have to have regard to the parents and gain their confidence. That is vital. When you are taking young women from their homes and assuming liability for them, possibly in uncongenial surroundings, you must proceed with tact. When a son is called up it does not cause any anxiety whatever. Parents are sorry to lose him, but that is all. When daughters are called up, however, we think a lot about it and we want to be quite certain that the conditions are all as they should be.

In a debate on man-power in another place, a lady member said—and I agree with her— You will get. women more easily by appealing to their patriotism than by any amount of directions to them and compulsion. If conscription of women for the Services is necessary, which I hope it will not be, it will have to be watched much more carefully than conscription of men. I think men—I ask the noble Lord to pay particular attention to what I am now going to say—in the Services will very much resent the conscription of their women under the present conditions. They are fighting—abroad it may be—for their homes. They will feel anything but happy if conscription is brought in whereby women will be called up out of their own homes away from their children. Again, I think the idea of women leaving home would be still more unpopular with the men in the Services if the mothers were pressed to put their children into crèches while they joined up, I think the fathers would dislike it and do all that they could to prevent their women-folk joining the A.T.S. and the other Services.

I am pleased to see that the Minister of Labour fully recognizes that women are different from men, and should be treated differently. Confidence of parents in the well-being of their daughters is vital. No alteration to the uniform, making smarter women officers or allowing the use of lip-stick, and such like things, is going to help. What is the object, for instance, of saying that all the officers in the A.T.S. are to have Sam Browne belts like men officers? I thought that we were short of leather, material and the man-power to make them up, and surely this leather could be put to better purposes. I do not believe that this is going to get one extra girl to join the A.T.S. Women are women and men are men. Because we are in a very difficult situation there is no need to do these things. There is no need to lose our heads and ignore facts. Surely we are not trying to make women dress so that they are indistinguishable from men.

I am afraid that I am rather repeating myself, but I would ask the Government really to consider what a Times leading article on November 3 put so plainly, that all hindrances to volunteering should be carefully examined, and the fullest assurances provided for the well-being of the young women who are required to leave the shelter and the protection of the home for the conditions of the camp. Further it goes on to say: From reports received it looks as though assurances of moral well-being and security were the really important need. Women with children naturally want to be near home, and if they are in the A.T.S. and their children are ill, or their parents are ill—and of course women are much better fitted to look after them than are men—it must be women officers, and not men, that give sanction for leave on compassionate grounds. I think that this is of vital importance. The women in those circumstances must not be interferred with by the men who do not understand these matters as do women. Can we have an assurance on this point?

And now I come to another reason with regard to the shortage of women in the A.T.S.—namely, the age rule. This I touch on with fear and trepidation as, naturally, at my age, I view this difficult question of age somewhat differently from others. When I was responsible, in the last war, for the Royal Flying Corps, in the field and after it, when I was Chief of the Air Staff, I did everything to facilitate the employment of young men in the active life of the Service. I was young myself; but I also introduced many very senior and even elderly men to run a great deal of the administration of the Air Service. In fact, I remember bringing in two very distinguished Admirals and three very distinguished Generals of great seniority to run the administration of different Commands in this country. I hope the noble Lord will note that I brought in one more General than I did Admirals. I notice from the Press, and from speeches, that everyone is pressing for the lowering of the upper age limit more and more. I feel" that one day perhaps we shall have to have a Motion introduced to have a minimum age limit. If this is not done I do not know quite where we shall get to.

One curious thing that I notice is that this age rule applies only to the Services—the Army, the Navy, the Air Force and the Civil Service. It does not apply to other bodies, to some of which several of your Lordships belong, with the same rigid, enforcement, and perhaps advisedly so, but this rigid enforcement applies, I know, in the case of many of those who live an equally sedentary administrative life. Surely, the saying "Youth for action, and age for counsel" is still the wisest. In spite of the shortage in the Women's Services—especially in the A.T.S.—an age rule has been introduced on the same basis as for the active service men; not even on the basis of non-combatant services like the Veterinary Corps and the Pay Corps and so on, but for the fighting men. The result is- that a large number of women—and I am not referring only to the titled ladies whose names have been mentioned, but to many others—have been retired for age.

It must be remembered that the A.T.S. officers lead lives of a more or less sedentary nature, their work being composed in looking after the welfare of women, clerical work, records, pay and administration—a very different form of work from that of the fighting men. It is comparable to work in the big administration offices behind the Fighting Services, and there is a continual demand to take young men out of these offices and put in older ones. Is the reason more that the present trend at the War Office is to run the women by men, and therefore they do not really want any older women officers for this purpose? I can understand it if this is so, but I would like an assurance that it is not. I cannot help feeling that this age rule must influence considerably the parents of young girls who are thinking of joining the A.T.S. Fathers and mothers are not very happy at the thought of their young daughters joining up when they know there are few older women officers to look after them. This is perhaps another reason for the shortage of women in the A.T.S.

I would like to sum up, my Lords, by saying that I feel that parents would encourage their daughters to join up, and a large number of women would come forward to join up, with much more keenness if they could be assured that they would belong to a great Women's Service in which the organization was not continually being changed, and to a Service which was given some protection against cheap criticism. I feel it is not sufficiently known what great work the A.T.S. has really done and how enormously its members have helped the Army in the first two years of the war. I feel sure that many more will come forward and join this great Women's Service, whose one ideal is to help the Army, when it is run by women looked after by women, and not run by men just as a part of the Men's Service in a huge machine. As a man is proud of his regiment so the girls are proud of the name A.T.S. It may be asked why I have talked at all on this subject. All I can say is that, though no one else's experience is ever used or listened to by others, I did have the very heavy task of helping to form an Air Service and at the same time a Women's Air Service in the early days. It must not be forgotten that there were about 100,000 women employed in the Services at the end of the last war. From the day I had anything to do with it I never had any trouble with the Women's Service. It was then a women's force run by women, to do work for men, but not interfered with by men. That is my second reason for raising this Motion to-day.


My Lords, the noble and gallant Viscount has raised a question of great importance and one that commands a wide measure of public interest. His Motion refers particularly to the A.T.S., and in his speech he dealt very largely with that service. Nevertheless the Motion is not limited, nor was his speech, to that particular branch of women's employment. When we come to consider the question of whether compulsion should be extended to women in this country, of course, that relates not only to the A.T.S. or to the Armed Services but to industry as a whole. He has naturally paid a tribute to the invaluable work which is already being done by the womanhood of this country, and in that tribute we all desire to share. He would be the last to desire that any suggestion should be made here or elsewhere that the women of Britain are in any way remiss in the war effort; that is indeed far from being the case. If here and there there are deficiencies in the supply of women for the Services, whether military or civil, in which their help is needed, the fact still remains that, taken as a whole, British women are rendering immense and invaluable service to the war effort of the nation as a whole. The Ministry of Labour and National Service have lately-borne tribute to the fact that, of the registered age groups which are being called up, the single women of twenty to twenty-five years of age are found to be already in full-time paid employment in the proportion of nine out of ten, and, of the married women, 97 per cent. are either in full-time employment or engaged in full-time household duties.

I have lately had the opportunity of seeing the report of a careful investigation into all these matters undertaken by a group of able women under the auspices of the Liberal Party. That report shows that such deficiencies as may exist in the supply of women's labour are due to many causes. Nothing that happens in the world is due to a single cause; philosophy tells us that invariably there is a combination of many causes, and not any one single cause, for any event, and so it is in this matter. In the first place, it appears that there are defects in the system of interviewing applicants for employment and women who are already called up for employment. The experience and the ability of the interviewers are sometimes to seek; inadequate time is occasionally, it is said, given to these interviews, and sometimes there is insufficient privacy. These defects result in a certain proportion of the women going into employments which they do not really desire, and for which they are not fully suited. Secondly, when at the next stage there is the medical examination of women who present medical certificates, there is a lack of uniformity of standards in that medical examination, and the machine works inefficiently occasionally in that regard. Next, when women who are unskilled desire and receive training for semi-skilled or skilled work, when they go into employment it is sometimes found that they are not in fact put to the work for which they have been trained, but are put, at all events for a time, and sometimes for a considerable time, to unskilled labour, thereby getting a lower wage and worse conditions than they have been led to expect that they would receive when they undertook their training. They receive, of course, only the pay and conditions of the unskilled worker. There are questions here, as always, of the wage rates, and of compensation for war injuries, which is related to wage rates.

Further, the question of hours in women's employment is still often exceedingly unsatisfactory. The long hours that were imposed after Dunkirk were, of course, found to be very excessive, and have been greatly shortened; but the hours of labour which are now being worked are frequently so long as to be quite uneconomic. Not only is less work done than would be accomplished with shorter hours, but injury is done to the health and stamina of the workers. One example given in the report to which I refer, is that of a factory in Greater London where the hours of work for women—including all female workers of the age of sixteen and over—are 59½ a week. That involves that on four days of the week the women have to leave their homes in time to be at their work by 7.30 in the morning, and they do not leave again until 7 p.m., having been allowed, of course, the usual intervals for meals. One day a week they have to be there at 7.30 a.m. and leave at 6.30 p.m. and on Saturdays they work from 7.30 a.m. to 4 p.m. If you visualize the working week of a woman who is required to work those hours, you will realize that they are exceedingly onerous and exhaustive; but such hours are now quite legal and are not infrequently worked, so I believe, in industrial establishments. They do not allow adequate time for shopping and for home duties, and the consequence is that there is a considerable measure of absenteeism among women, greater than among men, which might be avoided by a more moderate number of working hours.

Frequently it happens that canteens are inadequate, and many complaints are made under that head. There is an insufficient number of crèches and nurseries for the children of women workers who are mothers. Transport is frequently a great difficulty. All these matters are dealt with to some extent by welfare officers appointed by the Ministry of Labour, but the number of those officers is quite insufficient, so it is stated, to cope with the tens of thousands of industrial establishments throughout the country, and consequently many evils, which are recognized as evils, still continue.

The conclusion is that when it is suggested that there ought to be conscription for women, we should rather make sure first that the arrangements are such as to make the fullest use of the women who are available on a voluntary basis. If these grievances were removed, and many-deficiencies in the organization were made good, in all probability there would be no need for the exercise of compulsion, which always gives rise to many difficulties and will do so particularly in the case of women's labour. If you have compulsion, you must have prosecutions in the Courts and penalties imposed and, in case of need, imprisonment. In general, it is far better to depend upon voluntary effort, if that can be done, than to apply conscription. Furthermore, once compulsion is adopted the great incentive to the removal of these grievances, many of which are quite legitimate, would be removed.

These comparatively detailed questions cannot, however, be dealt with in a debate in this House. They raise no question of general principle or of Government policy, nor are they such as to warrant a detailed Government statement in reply. In normal times the whole matter would be investigated by a strong Departmental Committee or other form of inquiry, and it is possible that that is the best course to take now; but the Government will know, better than any outside critic or commentator could do, whether under war conditions a departmental inquiry of that kind is practicable, whether it could be adequately manned or "womaned," and whether the evidence and the other material could be easily forthcoming. As to that, therefore, I say nothing, merely throwing out the suggestion that these more detailed matters, on which the whole question really depends, should receive investigation or attention in some form or other. I shall await with great interest the reply which is to be made on behalf of the Government, dealing with the highly important matter which we are indebted to the noble and gallant Viscount for introducing.


My Lords, the noble and gallant Viscount, Lord Trenchard, has raised a matter of very great importance, and as this naturally affects the Labour Party very intimately in all our association with trade unions I make no apology for intervening for a few moments. The wider point raised by my noble friend Lord Samuel, and touched on by the noble and gallant Viscount, Lord Trenchard, is that we have to get a great many more women into industry, and they have all to come out of the same pool. The noble Lord the Under-Secretary of State for War wants women for the A.T.S. but women are also badly needed by my right honourable friend Mr. Bevin for the training establishments and munition establishments. Indeed, to-day, a tremendous lot depends on who wins the race between Mr. Bevin and his scoundrelly opposite number, Dr. Ley, in Germany, in mobilizing the married women. The Germans have not yet succeeded in mobilizing the married women in factories, and neither has my right honourable friend Mr. Bevin to the extent that he would like. As I say, a great deal depends upon who wins this contest.

The only two points I desire to make are these. The indications we have are that one of the crucial questions is the care of the young children of the married women, especially when they are under school age, and our information is that the provision of crèches and nursery schools and kindergartens and care homes for the children is making extremely slow progress. This, of course, affects recruiting for the A.T.S. I understand it is the business of the Ministry of Health, and the Ministry of Health is moving in a ponderous, peacetime, bureaucratic way. Not nearly enough has been done in that direction. The Government surely know that they will have to speed up this process of providing care for the younger children of the married women if you are to get a big influx of married women into industries and into the A.T.S. That is the first point. How serious it is was brought home to me very closely when I visited one of the most important training centres in an industrial district, which trains young people to fill a tremendous gap in a certain type of skilled labour—I will not specify what it is. The arrangements are excellent. They have the latest machinery, partly provided by America, and a very competent staff. The young women who are being trained are most happy, and the whole spirit I found admirable. But though they had accommodation for a thousand students there were under 200, and the principal told me that he could not get more trainees. He was always applying, every week, to the Ministry of Labour, and could not get them. That is one example of the seriousness of the situation.

The other point I want to make is this. I do not know whether noble Lords or the Under-Secretary who will reply will agree with me, but this is an age of uniforms, especially for women. The noble and gallant Viscount, Lord Trenchard, said that the smartening up of uniform provides an attraction.


Made by men.


Designed by men, I dare say, but it is the uniform that is found to be attractive in all the three Services. The woman who is doing just as important work in the munition factory has nothing to distinguish her from her sisters. Why not introduce a uniform for munition workers: This is an age of clothes rations and the uniform would be an economy for a woman. Give her something to show that she is doing this important work for the nation, and I believe that will help the recruiting of women for the munition factories, ordnance works, and the like. I know it will be said that this would mean more cloth and more labour, but women's clothes have to be replaced in any case. They will buy clothes as long as the coupons last; why not let them have uniforms instead? I dare say this matter has been examined, but from what I hear in the industrial districts I would put forward a plea for this step to be taken.


My Lords, may I intervene for one moment with regard to the suggestion made by the noble Lord? He really introduced an important point, but what a cost it will be to equip these thousands of women with uniforms. I suggest that a badge would do equally well; it would be a distinguishing mark. There is a great deal in the noble Lord's contention that some distinguishing mark should be provided for women who are doing war work, but I do respectfully suggest that the cost of the provision of uniforms would be enormous and the amount of labour it would involve very considerable.


I am very much obliged to the noble Lord, but may I point out that "uniform" is an elastic-term, and if a conspicuous badge would serve the purpose, why not?


My Lords, the noble and gallant Viscount opposite courteously indicated that his question had mostly to do with women's service in the A.T.S., and my noble friend, therefore, asked me to reply. May I say that I was very interested to hear the speech of the noble Viscount, Lord Samuel, who dealt with the wider question of labour conditions in factories and canteens and other walks of labour, and I am sure that the Minister of Labour and the Minister of Health will be very interested to read his remarks. I will most certainly call their attention to the valuable contribution the noble Viscount made to this debate. With regard to the remarks of the noble Lord who has just sat down, it is quite new to me that there has been any question of a uniform for munition workers. I am sure that the suggestion the noble Lord has made will be read with interest, but I am afraid that is a subject upon which I am not very competent to enter at the present time.

The noble Viscount, whose great services in building up the Royal Flying Corps and the foundations of the Royal Air Force are in everyone's minds to-day, nevertheless has always, in spite of his great activities with the air arm, continued to take the keenest interest in the Army, to which he gave so many years of his early service. I appreciate, therefore, that his remarks to-day have been uttered, not with a view to criticizing for the sake of criticism, but rather to assist in making the great Auxiliary Territorial Service yet more efficient and attractive to the women who serve therein. I am sure all of them will be grateful for the tribute he has paid to their services in the Force. I ask your Lordships to remember that the A.T.S. was only formed in 1938, and that it had to be built from the foundations with few trained leaders or officers and no permanent staff. Yet it had to be built on such a scale and under such conditions of dispersal that immense difficulties had to be overcome. I doubt if in any other country in the world such a force could have been built so successfully from scratch.

I would ask your Lordships to mark this. There was no possibility of forming Officers' Training Corps or training units to which we could send our women recruits for some months' preliminary training. If there had been it would have been much easier, but in fact they had to be dispersed in small bodies from the start in a multitude of duties, such as cooks, mess orderlies, telephonists, and so on, under junior leaders, otherwise we would have had to allot an even larger number of fit AI men to these occupations. The noble Viscount has personal experience of building from the ground site, but even he had at his disposal a large number of highly-trained officers, mostly from the Army, whereas the builders of the A.T.S. had very few. Now all that is changed. We have our training units for the new entry, we have our O.C.T.U. for A.T.S. officers and we have officers' courses, whilst technicians can now be trained under specialist leaders. In other words, we should by now have broken the back of improvisation and have at our disposal experience and efficiency in what I may call the middle part of the picture. That experience is, of course, a tremendous asset to the whole question of care of women, which like the care of men can only come from those who have graduated in the art of leadership.

The noble Viscount, Lord Trenchard, is concerned to see that in any measures taken to attract recruits to the A.T.S. and other Women's Services, the home of the men in the Fighting Services should not be disturbed or possibly closed down. The Minister of Labour has taken and is taking all these matters into consideration. I would point out, on the other hand, that a large number of wives on their own volition and with the goodwill of their soldier husbands have joined the Forces, and the A.T.S. in particular, desiring, not unnaturally, to wear khaki like their husbands and wishing to share with them the honour of serving in the Army. Married volunteers are, in fact, a very considerable proportion of the A.T.S. Some say that the figure is as high as 40 per cent, and we certainly should do nothing to discourage this most desirable type of volunteer. I think the noble Viscount may rest assured that in any developments no woman will be forced to undertake combatant duties, and only those who volunteer to do so will serve in a unit of a combatant character; and that of course is very limited—limited to the scientific work in A.A. Defence. For the rest, all soldiers will realize perhaps better than those outside the Service how vital it is to secure the services of women in order to obtain the release of every soldier in '' satellite '' duties, so that our fit and virile manpower can take its place in the time of battle.

The noble Viscount mentioned the question of age. I can quite understand that this question should be asked. Having recently arrived at the age of three score years myself, I was annoyed when I was told that there was no place for me at the commencement of the war in the field where again I might have had the privilege and joy of serving in the Army. Like the noble Viscount, I was a young man of some thirty-three or thirty-four years of age, commanding a brigade, in the last war, and I refused to understand that in the meantime a quarter of a century had passed. That is the trouble with most of us; but when I found myself looking at the whole question from a more dispassionate angle, I realized that the strain of modern war does demand to a very large extent youth at the helm.


I was not talking about age in the battle line. I emphasized very much age in administration.


I am grateful to the noble Viscount for his intervention. I did understand that that was so, but of course, as has been pointed out, the whole machinery of modern war in this country means that we may all conceivably be very much closer to the battle line than we ever contemplated in the past. It is sometimes said that the question of age limit should not perhaps apply in equal degree to women. I am not so sure about that. It seems to me that a unit commander who has to carry on in control of women troops through a "Blitz," and still more in the event of invasion, will undoubtedly be put to a test similar to that which was proved up to the hilt even in the last war—namely, that when well past middle age, leaders who can bear the burden of responsibility plus the strain of bombardment are very rare. We are shedding some of the older Commanders in the Army, but let us never forget, as the noble Viscount said, that without their aid we could not have built up the very fine Army we now possess. The same is true of the older women of experience in the A.T.S.; they made a great contribution to this novel force at its inception. Your Lordships will agree that there must be some age limit in any service; otherwise there is a deadlock in promotion, and women who prove their qualities as leaders get disheartened. I would point out, however, that there has been no purge on grounds of age and that very few A.T.S. officers have been retired on the grounds of age.

I come to the treatment of women as compared to the handling of men. There are two schools of thought amongst women. One holds that women are the equals of men in every respect, physical and otherwise, and should in every particular be treated the same; that they should have no privileges not extended to men; that they should, if necessary, "doss" down on palliasses on a hard floor in a draughty hall with, perhaps, one blanket. There is another school of thought which demands exceptional comforts and luxuries; for instance, a perfect form of cubicles, and other extras for which we cannot possibly get the material or provide the space. The War Office subscribes to neither view. We are not prepared to treat all women as if they were as tough as soldiers, nor can we admit that a women's corps in war time should be treated like a women's university in peace. We are, however, prepared to do all in our power to provide them with such comforts as we regard as absolutely essential for women. In this spirit we: have vacated some of the very best of our barracks and hutted camps, and requisitioned, in some cases, hotels so that the conditions of service are not too harsh, In fact, the approved scale of accommodation for women is decidedly better than that for men.

The noble Lord particularly asked with regard to recruiting methods. Well, we are not getting as many women as we want, and it is perfectly true we have advertised on a very large scale. I think your Lordships will agree that that is necessary. The proof of the pudding, if I may use such a phrase here, is in the eating. The recruiting figures have been very successful, but not good enough. Still they have shown a very great improvement. I think the noble Viscount will be glad to learn that in round figures for October the enrolment showed an increase of 18 per cent. over September, while the enrolment figures for November showed an increase of 26 per cent. over September, so that we really are making progress, but we certainly have not got enough yet for what we require. I am afraid I cannot give my noble friend the total figures of women who have undertaken work in munitions and other work since the campaign was first started. I doubt whether anybody knows the exact figures, but I agree with my noble friend that the figures are very large.

On the subject of special work, I want to assure your Lordships that we have done our best to secure entrants for clerical work, cooking, telephony, and teleprinter work, to obtain women drivers—many women are qualified for this service or prefer it to any other form—and also to supply women for detection and other scientific work on gun sites and searchlight stations for which volunteers are welcomed. For the latter highly educated, skilled women are especially suitable, as has already been proved. This work demands brains, delicacy of touch and accuracy of a high order. Our first experiments have been highly successful, but we want far more of these women of education and appliability than have at present offered themselves.

With regard to the other point mentioned by the noble Viscount in connection with the mixing of the sexes, we have tried, wherever possible, to keep the women's units separate from the men's. For instance, we endeavour on every occasion, and we are indeed anxious, to see that the staffing of a unit, as in a kitchen, is wholly carried out by women or wholly by men, but you cannot do that in every branch of the Service. This is not possible in clerical duties in which, as in many other walks of life, both sexes are employed. In that service it is essential to have the sexes mixed, although we do everything in our power to see that only women are employed where that is possible. In the teleprinter offices, for instance, and also in telephony, the women are under their own officers as far as possible. I think I am right in saying that that is so, for I have myself seen the women being trained under their officers and have been very much impressed by the members of the A.T.S. who are employed with these girl trainees and also with those who have completed their training.

The noble Viscount, lastly, urged that women should "run the women" more than is the case at present. Our whole policy is to train the women leaders capable of fulfilling the duties of leadership in this woman's corps. When I say leadership, I include all the leaders corresponding to the Regimental Commanders and field officers and Company Commanders in the Army. I cannot help feeling, however, that we asked, if anything, too much from our first most valued leaders who suddenly had to undertake the whole question of discipline and guidance of many thousands of women. If we had been able to provide a skeleton force of good Staff officers and advisers at the start, perhaps some small errors might have been avoided, but we are giving such help now. I can assure my noble friend that if and when we find that women have trained on after two years to carry out duties for which men only qualify after the best part of their life, we shall not be slow in placing those responsibilities entirely on the shoulders of the women concerned. I would, however, remind him that all the units are in fact commanded by women and all officers are selected by the A.T.S. Selection Board, which is composed of women and is actually under the chairmanship of a woman, and that such advice or assistance as is offered is only similar to that extended by the Adjutant-General or Quartermaster-General to other departments of the Army'. But, since the final responsibility must rest with the Service, to fail to take that responsibility would be wrong from every angle. In all other respects, women are entirely responsible for discipline, welfare—well-being as it is called—and control of the A.T.S., with the only exception that where women specially volunteer for duties in connexion with combatant units such as detection in A.A. Defence, they must come under the combatant leaders of the corps to which they are attached when in action or training for action.

May I, in conclusion, just say a word on the man-power situation upon which this great question hinges? One sees many demands for the active use of the Army in offensive operation which, as always, is the major aim of the Army, and not every one appreciates how widespread are what I may call the bare necessities of defence imposed upon us. Only those who have ignored the lessons of Holland, Belgium, France and Crete and refused to face facts can ignore the defence of this country against invasion as the most vital factor in the promotion of world freedom. Here we have a thousand miles of vulnerable coastline, and no city, town or vital defence point in the interior can be regarded as immune from attack. The same is true of Northern Ireland, where we must keep considerable forces. We have to provide large defence garrisons for all strategic outposts on our lines of communication from Iceland, the Faroes, Shetlands, Orkneys in the North, Gibraltar, Malta, Cyprus in the Mediterranean, Aden, East Africa, West Africa, the eternal defence problem of the North-West Frontier of India and the increasing menace to our whole Eastern position in India from two angles and against all possible contingencies, the defence of Burma, Singapore, the Malay States and the strategic defence of Australasia. We also have to consider the defence of the whole Middle Eastern shield of our vital interests in Africa and the East involving the defence of the African Coast from Libya to Alexandria through Palestine, Syria to Aleppo, thence the frontiers of Iraq and Persia to where we join hands with the Russians.

There is also the static defence of this country demanding a very large proportion of our home troops on A.A. Defence and the defence of aerodromes and vulnerable points. I think it is true to say that never have we been confronted with defence problems on such a scale, and without sea power we could not possibly hope to maintain so great a responsibility. There are some, however, who appear to think that we have unlimited forces and that, however uncongenial it is to the Germans to fight on two fronts, we can easily stage offensives on several fronts simultaneously at a moment's notice. For anyone who knows the spirit of the Army, of the Army Chiefs and of the Prime Minister as Minister of Defence in particular, these incentives to action would, in my opinion, be funny if they were not so misguided. Whilst they goad, we had to keep quiet when all the time we were preparing to spring on the great German and Italian forces in Africa from the moment climatic conditions rendered our offensive possible.

A point which is overlooked by so many critics is that the man at the front has to be fed, clothed, given weapons and ammunition, medical attention, and his letters from home, and transported from one theatre of war to another. All this calls into being a vast network of services which must be manned if the Army is not to starve or crumble away. These services all absorb men. We have cut them to the bone to strengthen the front line, but these services expand with every new front opened up and with every new commitment. We have opened up the second front and whatever the difficulties, and the are great, having closed with the enemy our grip will not relax until we have inflicted a major defeat on the enemy and crushed his "Africa Corps."

What then do we need in the matter of man-power? We realize that nearly 50 per cent. of our people are in reserved occupations, far more than in the last war and that there are the great new claims of Civil Defence. We realize that we must have a vast Air Force. We realize the paramount importance of the British Navy without which all would be lost. Yet it must be clear to anyone that the manpower problem in the Army is also vital if the responsibilities I have enumerated are to be upheld, still more if the nation is to gratify our passionate desire to attack and to go on attacking wherever we can hit our foes. That is why in addition to cur small intakes we must free every soldier to fight, and to do this we can and must absorb 200,000 young and fit women into the Army to release their soldier comrades to fight. I spoke of the early difficulties, but who of those, like myself, who have seen the A.T.S. all over the country is not immensely impressed—I say this deliberately—by the very great improvement in morale, appearance and efficiency of this splendid force of women? We had our growing pains but from now onwards we have ever hope that criticism, perhaps inevitable at the start, will turn to praise in achievement. The A.T.S., I can confidently say, is a force in which this country can take great pride. it is a Service worthy of the best and we intend to see that its conditions are also worthy of the best.


My Lords, I had not intended to intervene in this debate, and I should not have done so but for some observations made by my noble friend in his reply on what I thought was the most important part of the speech of the noble Viscount, Lord Trenchard; that is, the system of training of these women in the A.T.S. I will explain as briefly as I can what I mean. If I venture to differ from my noble friend on a matter which is really of great principle, I am sure he will understand that I and all of us desire to secure the greatest number of recruits—the full 200,000 if that is the number needed.—for this Service which is doing magnificent work and will do still better work in the future. Our sole desire is to get the requisite number of recruits and to make it an efficient and a happy Service.

My noble friend need not be anxious as to whether women are prepared to rough it. I do not know if there are two schools of thought about providing palliasses and the maximum of comfort or the maximum of discomfort, but I do not believe women are in the least concerned about that. I have seen them serving in the middle of winter in the worst of gun emplacements. They will stand any amount of discomfort that is necessary. Nor need my noble friend be anxious about their readiness to face danger. I believe that the majority of women have only one feeling, and that is that they want to take their share in the perils which their menfolk are facing. We need not have any anxiety about that. If you ask whether the women in this Force or outside it are prepared to serve in points of danger, I would say that one hundred per cent. would volunteer for a post of danger and indeed would press to be put in it.

But, quite frankly, I was alarmed at the picture which was drawn by my noble friend of the conception of what should be the training of this Service. My noble friend Viscount Trenchard said, and it was not challenged—I was amazed to hear it—that in these training centres there was a staff of not less than 100 male officers and N.C.O.s to every thousand women. Leaving aside the extraordinary demand on man-power that that makes, I should have thought that that alone was a fairly serious criticism. I differ absolutely from my noble friend in his conception of how this Service should be trained. If you say that Battalion Commanders, Sergeant-Majors, Sergeants and Corporals must train these women in their own image to be an exact reproduction of a male battalion you will not get an efficient Service. I absolutely repudiate that idea. I do not believe that is the way in which you will get an efficient Service. You do not want these women to be made into a sealed pattern service on the lines of a male battalion.

The whole training of men in the Army is admirable. A great deal of nonsense is talked to-day about there being no need for discipline, but anybody who has served in the Army knows that you must have discipline even though there is a great deal in military training which at first sight does not appear necessary. But when you are dealing with women your whole object should be to select them for the jobs for which they are fitted, to train them for the jobs which they are most likely to have to do, and to handle them well. With very few exceptions they will be better and more understandingly handled by women than by men. Men will have to teach the women the routine of the Army, to teach them what the machine is like, but women are quite intelligent people and they learn all that sort of thing in a very short time. Once they have learnt that, for heaven's sake do not try to turn these women into replicas of a male organization, but let them have their own initiative and their own characteristics and let women who understand women run them. Give them the minimum of man-made drill and the maximum of training by women for the jobs which they will have to do. In that way not only will you get more women into the Service but in that way you will get a Service which women will want to go into.


My Lords, there are only one or two points to which I want to refer before asking leave to withdraw my Motion. I should have liked to follow my noble friend who spoke for the Government on the points of strategy and tactics which he mentioned at the end of his speech, but I have always understood that in your Lordships' House we were debarred from talking about strategy. I could say a good deal on the strategical points brought forward—with a great deal of it I was in agreement, but with some of it I was not—but I thought that we were debarred from talking in this House about strategical questions and whether there should be two fronts or three fronts.


I think, if my noble friend had done me the honour to listen carefully to what I said, he would realize that I made no sort of strategical case. I only enumerated a number of places where we had to have garrisons.


May I ask who has said that we are debarred from discussing strategy? It has been discussed for centuries in your Lordships' House with great advantage to the nation.


Perhaps I misunderstood what my noble friend said. I shall read the report of his speech with close attention, but when I heard him discussing two fronts or six fronts I thought that had something to do with strategy. I will pass to another point. The noble Lord who spoke from the Opposition Benches wants everybody to be put into uniform. He wants all munition workers to be in uniform. Soon, I suppose, we shall see the different Parties in your Lordships' House in their respective uniforms. I do not know what those of us who sit on the Cross Benches will wear.




Motley? But that is another matter. And now I have to thank my noble friend very much for his long and full statement. I sometimes wonder, though, whether it is quite a statement that will act on parents and husbands and relations of young women generally in such a way as to induce them to help to persuade the young women to join. up. I hope it will have an effect on the general public in that way because it is absolutely necessary that all women should do all that it is possible for them to do to help the Army in their very difficult situation. I agree very much with what the noble Viscount, Lord Swinton, who sits on the Cross Benches, has said, that the noble Lord did not really refer to the general issue and did not give an assurance that women are going to run these Services. I feel very strongly that this is really the crux of the matter. When the noble Lord says, as I understood him to say, that there were not enough women trained in two years to do that work, I ask: "Are there any men trained to do the work of training women?" I further say that the answer to the question is "No." We do not want to create a man-made Army. The men do not know how to train women. That they can train men I do not doubt, and they do it well enough. As I say, I think my noble friend has missed a most important point. I will not say any more on this subject now, but will conclude by asking leave to withdraw my Motion.

Motion for Papers, by leave, withdrawn.