In the course of my speech last Thursday I indicated that this question was under consideration. I should have liked to be able to make an announcement to the House, but consultations, though in an advanced stage, are not quite complete. I hope to be in a position to announce a decision very shortly.
Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that, though strongly supporting any measure which enables women to render service, I object to women being compelled to fire watch unless they are equally compensated with men for injuries received in such service, and further, may I ask the right hon. Gentleman whether I am right in believing that if he brings in these regulations during the Parliamentary Recess they will become the law of the land, although they affect millions of women, without this House having any power whatever to assent to or dissent from the Regulations?
Any question on that should be addressed to the Minister of Pensions, as it is not my Departmental responsibility. With regard to the second point, there has been in existence for a long time a Defence Regulation, which could, of course, have been challenged. Under it this power was granted to me, and it was always known that it was a possibility; the power I am exercising is under a Defence Regulation which was in the form of an Order in Council.
Apart from the question of compensation, will the right hon. Gentleman state that he will not expect young women to go into the City and hang around watching business premises? Women do not object to watching in a home area, but will he be very careful in drafting regulations which would require young women who work all day in the City to go back into the City, in blitzes and in the hours of darkness, to watch banks and insurance offices?
I can assure my hon. Friend that that point will not be overlooked. I think she will find, if this is done—I have not yet decided to do it—that reasonable provisions of that kind will be made. I can assure the House that with all the experience I have had of fire watching, I shall never be other than careful in this matter.