Oral Answers to Questions — Women in Court (Wearing of Hats)

– in the House of Commons on 9th December 1942.

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Photo of Mr Thomas Burden Mr Thomas Burden , Sheffield Park

asked the Attorney-General whether he has now considered the statement by Mr. Justice Hilbery, in the King's Bench Division, on 16th November, to the effect that women witnesses and litigants should wear hats in court as in the case of women going into church; and whether, in view of the shortage of materials and the recent pronouncements by the Archbishops of Canterbury and York that women need not wear hats in church, he can now make a statement?

Photo of Mr Donald Somervell Mr Donald Somervell , Crewe

It has undoubtedly been the custom in the past for a woman to have her head covered in court, whether she had duties in connection with the proceedings or was present only as a member of the public. In view of a certain change in social habits, it seems to my Noble Friend the Lord Chancellor unnecessary to insist on a strict compliance with this practice either when taking the oath or when giving evidence, or when present in court as litigant or spectator.

Photo of Sir Stanley Reed Sir Stanley Reed , Aylesbury

Will the Attorney-General consult his ecclesiastical colleagues as to why St. Paul allowed this particular injunction to women at that time?

Photo of Commander Sir Archibald Southby Commander Sir Archibald Southby , Epsom

May I ask the right hon. and learned Gentleman whether, since complete liberty is to be given to women as to whether their heads shall be covered or not, the same liberty will be given to men either to wear their hats or not to wear them, whichever they choose?

Photo of Mr Donald Somervell Mr Donald Somervell , Crewe

That is a very different question.

Photo of Commander Sir Archibald Southby Commander Sir Archibald Southby , Epsom

Is it not exactly the same thing?