Women Fire-Watchers

Oral Answers to Questions — Civil Defence – in the House of Commons on 1st October 1942.

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Photo of Mr Walter Higgs Mr Walter Higgs , Birmingham West

asked the Home Secretary whether he is aware of the difficulties in arranging suitable sleeping accommodation in many factories for women fire-watchers in addition to men; and does he intend to modify the Order so as to relieve the position?

Photo of Mr Herbert Morrison Mr Herbert Morrison , Hackney South

Women will not be required to perform fire-prevention duties at the business premises where they work until adequate amenities have been provided and it is the duty of occupiers to provide these as quickly as possible. A memorandum setting out the minimum standards is being issued for the guidance of occupiers and appropriate authorities.

Photo of Mr Walter Higgs Mr Walter Higgs , Birmingham West

Is my right hon. Friend aware of the great difficulty in getting accommodation modified at the present time owing to the shortage of skilled artisans in the building trade, and will he communicate with his factory inspectors before putting the Order into operation?

Photo of Mr Herbert Morrison Mr Herbert Morrison , Hackney South

The Order is in force. I have said that we will be careful about administration where the amenities are not available. I appreciate the difficulties to which my hon. Friend draws attention, and they are indeed within the experience of Ministers themselves in their own work. I assure my hon. Friend that we will be as reasonable as we can. I will consider the point he has raised, although the factory inspectors are not at the moment under my Department, but are attached to the Ministry of Labour.

Photo of Mr Daniel Lipson Mr Daniel Lipson , Cheltenham

Who is to decide whether the amenities are satisfactory or not?

Photo of Mr Herbert Morrison Mr Herbert Morrison , Hackney South

I presume the appropriate authority, which would be the Government Department dealing with this matter or the Regional Commissioners. I speak from memory. The persons concerned will know who is the appropriate authority, which is a technical term.

Photo of Mr Campbell Stephen Mr Campbell Stephen , Glasgow Camlachie

May we have an assurance that there is no intention of reducing the amenities which are necessary for these people?

Photo of Mr Herbert Morrison Mr Herbert Morrison , Hackney South

We want to keep these amenities at a reasonable standard, but, of course, people must face the fact that we are at war, and they cannot have anything in the nature of luxury amenities. We will do all we can to keep the amenities on a reasonable standard.

Photo of Mr Campbell Stephen Mr Campbell Stephen , Glasgow Camlachie

Did not the Minister say that he intends to modify the Order, or at least to do something that will amount to a modification of it, with regard to the standard required?

Photo of Mr Herbert Morrison Mr Herbert Morrison , Hackney South

We have issued a model code of standard amenities and advised authorities not to impose fire-watching on women unless the amenities are on a reasonable standard. I think I have met the principle of the hon. Member's point.

Miss Rathbone:

Is it not a fact that the great majority of women will do fire-watching without any elaborate arrangements being made for them?