HC Deb 09 July 1919 vol 117 cc1839-40W

asked the Under-Secretary of State to the Air Ministry if he is aware that two lady shorthand writers were engaged at the Royal Air Force, Yate Depot, in January last, and that, after training in exceedingly technical work, they were informed, about five or six weeks after being engaged, that unless they joined the Women's Royal Air Force they would be discharged; whether, after consideration they informed their officer, Second-Lieutenant Barton, that they would join the Women's Royal Air Force, but heard nothing more until, the last Friday or Saturday in March, without any previous warning, they received a week's notice to go; whether thereupon two other ladies were engaged, one of whom had no previous knowledge of office work and both of them required considerable training to make them efficient; whether he will state what reasons caused this change; and will he insist on an impartial inquiry into the chief section leader's conduct, he being responsible indirectly for the dismissals?

Major-General SEELY

The question apparently refers to two ladies who were engaged at Yate on the 29th January and the 10th February last respectively, the former being a shorthand writer and the latter a general clerk. The work on which they were engaged was ordinary clerical work and was only technical in so far as it involved a certain knowledge of technical terms. Shortly after they were engaged, it was decided that the office at Yate should be staffed entirely by members of the Women's Royal Air Force and consequently all civilian women clerks were asked by the officer responsible whether they were willing to join the Women's Royal Air Force, the question being repeated by a chief section leader of the Women's Royal, Air Force. These two clerks both refused the offer of transfer in the first instance, but, about a fortnight later, applied to be enrolled in the Women's Royal Air Force. Sufficient names, however, had then been put forward to complete the establishment in their particular category, and recruiting for the immobile section of the Women's Royal Air Force was coming to an end, so that they could not be accepted. They were, however, not actually dismissed until the 5th April. The standard form of engagement for civilian subordinates, which both these clerks signed, only prescribes a week's notice, and this they received. They were replaced by two members of the Women's Royal Air Force, one of whom was an expert shorthand writer. The other, after being employed on probation for a month as a general clerk, was confirmed in her appointment, as she proved herself efficient.

A chief section leader of the Women's Royal Air Force has no control over civilian subordinates, and beyond putting to these two clerks the question whether they wished to join the Women's Royal Air Force the chief section leader at Yate was not concerned, directly or indirectly, in their dismissal. I am not satisfied with the action taken in this case and am having the grounds of it further investigated.

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