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The Debate dealt yesterday to a very large extent with the registration of women in the 45 to 50-yearold field. I would like to make some detailed remarks on this matter. It was felt that it would be for the convenience of the House if I made some answer to yesterday's part of the Debate at this stage, so that other problems which the House wished to consider might come on straight away. Many of these who listened to the Debate will agree—it certainly was my impression—that the speeches made by the four Lady Members were, on the whole, much better informed and closer to the facts than those made by the men. The hon. Ladies the Member for Dartford (Mrs. Adamson) and the Member for Anglesey (Miss Lloyd George) and the Noble Ladies the Member for the Sutton Division of Plymouth (Viscountess Astor) and the Member for Hemel Hempstead (Viscountess Davidson), I thought, made notable contributions to the Debate—so much so that the effort seems to have been too much for them, for I notice that none of them is in her place to-day. I would like to pay my tribute to the speech of the hon. Member for Anglesey. If I might humbly suggest it to the House, it will well repay reading by those who were not priviledged to hear it. [Interruption.] I thought the whole of the speech was excellent. I would also thank hon. Members who spoke yesterday for their very kind remarks about the Ministry in general and about the part that the Minister played in the mobilisation of man-power, which were much appreciated.
Before I get down to the question of the mobilisation of the women of 45 to 50, might I make one or two general observations? The Prime Minister on Tuesday gave us ample evidence of the need for even an increased effort by all, if this war is to be brought speedily to a victorious conclusion. Last week there was also a remarkable statement by the President of the United States, in his Message to Congress. I will quote one paragraph, which I think is very apposite to the problem we are considering to-day. He said:
?We are still a long, long way from ultimate victory, and nothing we can do would be more costly in lives than to adopt the attitude that the war has been won, or nearly won. That would mean a let-down in the great tempo of production, and would mean that our men now fighting all over the world will not have that overwhelming superiority and power which have dealt so much death and destruction to the enemy and at the same time have saved so many American lives.
I believe that that is strictly true of our position here. I was a little alarmed yesterday, because I thought that I detected in the speeches of one or two hon. Members a suggestion—it may have been no more than a suggestion—that this country has done so much that we might let up a bit. I can imagine no more dangerous doctrine at the present time. I am sure that that is not felt generally in this House or in the country.
Does the hon. Gentleman's Department at any time consider the sacrifices made by this country by comparison with the sacrifices made by the American people, when the two are fighting side by side?
No, Sir, we do not compare sacrifices. One cannot compare sacrifices. This country, I am confident, is prepared to make every sacrifice in the cause of victory. The House will recollect that the Minister of Labour was specially charged with the task of totally mobilising all our man- and woman-power resources for the prosecution of the war. We are prepared to carry this out without fear or favour, and also without causing undue hardship. It is quite impossible to have an easy war. Hardship, in varying degrees, is bound to fall on every member of the community; we cannot help it. One hon. Member seemed to imply that the Minister was exercising drastic new powers in this call-up. This, of course, is not so. Not only did the House give him the power in 1940 to direct women, including those in this age group, into work necessary to the war effort, but, quite specifically, when the National Service (No. 2) Act, 1941, was passed, all men and women were declared to be liable to undertake some form of national service, and a general obligation to serve was imposed on all men and women up to the age of 51.
I came to the Ministry after the mobilisation plans had been largely developed, and therefore I claim no credit whatever, if credit there be, for the way in which our mobilisation has been carried out, but I have possibly been in a specially advantageous position to see the machine at work. Just as the Prime Minister rightly claimed in his speech that the central direction of the war was being carried on to the satisfaction of the great majority of His Majesty's subjects, so also, I think, it is generally agreed in the country that the handling of our finances—and we all in this House mourn the loss of a personal friend in the Chancellor of the Exchequer —the supply of food to our people and the mobilisation of man-power and woman-power has been, by and large, carried on in a way which has won general approval. None of these, however—and I would like to emphasise this point—could have been successfully carried through without the whole-hearted cooperation of the general public, and I am confident that this co-operation will continue even in this final mobilisation of man-power resources. Indeed, the registration of the 1896 class—the first class in this new group—which was undertaken on 11th September, was carried out with the same smoothness and, as far as we can hear, the same complete absence of friction which had characterised previous registrations.
I myself went at the week-end to a considerable number of employment exchanges specifically to find out whether they had any complaints, and I could hear none. I was assured that it was obvious that the ladies in question in this age group were not one whit behind their younger sisters in their keenness to learn how, if possible, they might still further aid our war effort.
I did not know that any hon. Members registered during that period. It is a remarkable fact—and I do not think that up to now the Debate has brought out this fact—that the 1897 class of women, many of whom are now 46, have been registered and interviewed for some time past, and there has been less friction—and I claim this confidently— less complaint and less unwillingness to listen to advice and take up the job suggested in this age group of women of 46 than there has been in many of the younger ages. This has been due, by and large, I have no doubt, to the fact that our older interviewers have gained experience in this new and difficult job and that the whole machinery is moving more smoothly and more fairly.
With regard to the 1896 group, which are only one year older than those other ladies, we are instructing our interviewers that they must use even more care, if possible, with them. It seemed to me, from the speech notably of the hon. and gallant Member for Epsom (Sir A. Southby) and the speeches of others, that there was some misconception about the whole business. It was stated that we were going to pull all these ladies out of whatever they were doing, running households, voluntary work and other important work, and push them all into war factories immediately. Of course nothing is further from the truth. That is not the way that the machine works, and that is not the way we are going to handle this whole problem. Therefore, if the House will bear with me, I would like to give, for a few minutes, some considerable detail of how we are proposing to deal with women of these ages.
Largely in that we are going to regard them all as immobile, and I think that will be generally approved in the country. When we come to this age group and higher age groups it is naturally more and more hard to persuade people to leave their homes. Otherwise, the only differentiation, if differentiation there be, will be in a general easing-up of the rigorousness of our demends.
Up to 46. The noble Lady the Member for Hemel Hempstead, in what I thought was a very practical speech, voiced what appeared to me to be in the minds of a great number of hon. Members. They do not object, I think I am right in saying, to registration as such, but it appeared to me they were anxious about the way the interviewing and calling-up arrangements would work out in practice; whether there would be full and sympathetic consideration given to domestic responsibilities, health problems and the valuable unpaid work of women in these age groups, and I would like to reassure them by telling them in some detail about our plans. A very great number of women, of course, will not be called for interview at all after they have registered —the very great majority. The information that they have supplied on registration, or later in reply to a letter which will be written to them asking for a little more information, if we have not got sufficient, will probably be quite enough to show that no further steps need be taken in a great number of these cases. In very many cases they will be already doing work of national importance. In other cases they will have domestic responsibilities which clearly prevent them from doing any other work.
A question was raised yesterday by one hon. Lady about looking after children over 14 in the home. If there are several children over 14 in the home, in general, the registrant would not be expected to go out to work at all. She has household responsibilities of a kind which will occupy her all the time. If there are lodgers and war workers in her home, then the lady with the responsibility of looking after them is doing work of national importance not one whit less important than in a factory, and we would not call her and so on for interview. There will also be some—a considerable number, I am afraid—who will be living in areas where their work is out of reach of their homes, and they too will not be troubled any further, because, as I have already said, no women in these age classes will be regarded as mobile.
They may be expected to take work within daily travelling distance. In the case of part-time work, we should regard as reasonable a journey of, say, half-an-hour or a short bus ride. If the woman is available for work, we shall have to find out what work she can do, and this will be done in the first place by interview. Very often it is possible to reach agreement right away, but when it is not so, independent advice will be sought from the women's panel. The women's panels, which have only been fairly recently set up, had to find their feet and gain experience, and are now working, as I know, much more smoothly than they did.
I agree with my hon. Friend about that, but I would also add that apart from the interviewers we will endeavour to get the senior members of the women's panels called to attend when dealing with these people. No woman will be compelled or directed to take employment without her case having been put to the women's panel, and if the woman in question is not in agreement with the panel, she may ask to receive, and should ask to receive, a written direction. Having received the direction, she has the right of appeal to the local appeal board for a review of her case.
We cannot take any action of a punitive character against a woman until a written direction has been given to her. This is our normal procedure, which has been applied to millions of women whose cases have been considered, and on the whole it has operated well, although there have been cases about which hon. Members have written to the Department and which we have endeavoured to put right where possible. I do not think there is any reason to suppose that this procedure will be less satisfactory to these older women, but I realise that apprehension has been expressed on two or three specific grounds with regard to women in these age groups. First, I would mention the question of physical fitness, which assumes a special importance in connection with them. I would like to give the specific assurance that pleas of this kind will be treated most sympathetically in all cases.
Supposing that a woman stated specifically that she was not fit for work, would that be taken as absolute evidence, or would the appeal board be in a position to go against a doctor's certificate?
I am coming to that in a few moments. I would like to mention to the House that 95 per cent. of our interviewers at the present time are over 30 years of age, but we do realise, as the Minister said yesterday, that the older members of our interviewing staff should be used to interview the women in these age groups. We shall try to make our administrative arrangements so that in the vast bulk of these cases our interviewers will certainly not be less than 35 and if possible will be older.
Yes, or answer correctly. Many of the women in the older age groups are already doing very useful work of a voluntary character in the war effort through organisations such as the War Savings Movement and in salvage and the like. The existing instructions to our local officers insist that no differentiation should be made between voluntary and paid work, that the consideration should be based on the value and nature of the work involved. This we shall emphasise again in our instructions. Where women are doing this voluntary work and as much of it as can reasonably be expected of them, they will not normally be asked to undertake other work. The woman with household responsibilities will not be called for interview until the women without such responsibilities and without occupation have been dealt with. If by that time the local need has been satisfied, she will not be called at all. Such women will be expected to undertake part-time work if they can undertake any work at all. Their availability for such work will be assessed and there will be added emphasis on the need for sympathetic treatment and giving a woman the benefit of the doubt in each case. Our women's panels have now considerable experience, and I think we can deal with these cases sympathetically. I would like to remark, in passing, that as a preliminary to the registration of women up to the age of 50 we have undertaken a review of the cases of younger women, and special steps are being taken to follow up cases of failure to register.
Yesterday many speakers called attention to the fact that nurses and cotton workers had been registered up to older ages.
Before my hon. Friend leaves the question of interviewers in the exchanges, will he say something about the question of better manners on their part, about which a good many complaints have been heard? Does he rely entirely on grey hairs?
Most of us are very concerned about these interviews. Has any interviewing of the interviewers been done? We are wondering how these young women, many of whom we know, who have no family and who seem to be very strong, are allowed to continue in their job while other women with more responsibilities are treated not over civilly. Will the Parliamentary Secretary consider two other possible forms of interviewing? First, will the young women who are interviewing be interviewed by some of the people they have to interview? Second, will the women's panels be changed to men's panels, where there is much more reasoned consideration?
I do not believe that some of the feminist interests in this country would approve that the question of the household responsibility of a woman should be left wholly to a man to decide. With regard to the other point raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Twickenham (Mr. Keeling), we endeavour to get the best possible material for our interviewing staff and to give them as much training by means of conferences, schools and lectures as possible. Naturally, in a large staff like this we cannot guarantee that on every occasion every member of a staff will behave like a perfect paragon Indeed, some of the people who go for interview do not behave like paragons either. But if we have complaints of a substantial nature, we shall not hesitate to change the interviewer or, if the charges are substantiated, to put her on to other work where she will not come into contact with the general public.
If several members of the public who have been interviewed by this lady have complained that they have had bad treatment that is prima facie evidence that she is not suitable for the job. It is not always acted upon, because it may be difficult to get a substitute who is better, but we are always endeavouring to improve the staff. It is one of our preoccupations.
Several speakers yesterday mentioned the fact that nurses and cotton workers had been registered in a higher age group than other women. This was countered by the argument that they were going back to a job that they were accustomed to, which was different from going into something that was quite new. That seemed a good argument until I looked at the figures. The Minister told the House that a million women of these age groups were in paid employment at present. Half a million of that million have gone into this work since the war began, and in the bulk of the cases it is new work for them. They are apparently satisfied with it. Therefore the argument that there is no hardship on nurses and cotton workers going back and great hardship for anyone taking up new employment does not hold water.
It seems to me that the only really valid argument that can be levelled against the registration and interviewing of these age groups is whether the nation will get sufficient woman-power out of it. I should like to go into that point in some short detail. It is obvious that, with the information that the Ministry of Labour can get from its 1,400 offices, it must be in as good a position as anyone else to make an estimate as to whether we shall get a substantial increase of our woman-power from this registration, and, after much careful inquiry, we have satisfied ourselves that we are likely to get amply sufficient to justify our action. I should like to give the actual figures of the registration that was carried out on 11th September. There are suggestions as to whether we are going to get the numbers we hope for. We cannot make any firm estimate until these ladies have been interviewed and all the individual circumstances have been considered. I am comparing the 1896 age group with the 1897 group, which we registered some time ago. In the 1897 age group 216,00o women registered. In the 1896 group no fewer than 231,500 registered—16,000 more. In the 1897 group, although fewer registered, many more had household responsibilities or children under 14 living with them. In the 1897 group 174,500 had these responsibilities. In the older age group only 150,000 had these responsibilities. That shows that in the field from which we should prima facie seek those available for full-time employment there are some 81,50o women, the bulk of them probably employed already. In the 1897 group there were only 42,000 in the field—just over half—and yet the 1897 age group was worth while registering them, from the results that we got.
The hon. Gentleman tells us the net balance left in the whole of this group was roughly 80,000. What balance did you get out of the 80,000 women, after allowing for those employed and those who for health reasons were not capable?
I cannot give those figures. We have to interview them. It is a perfectly good argument that I am putting, and, if the hon. Member will listen, I think he cannot refute it. There were 42,000 who have not household responsibilities and have not children under 14 in the 1897 age group, and yet they were worth registering and interviewing. Therefore prima facie the 1897 age group will also be worth interviewing because it is only one year's difference, and obviously it is worth doing in a larger field.
Is it the attitude of the Ministry that the responsibility of a woman ceases when the children reach the age of 14, and is no consideration given in the case of children of 15, 16 and 17?
I think the hon. Lady was not present when I dealt with that point specifically. Of course, we do not assume that the obligation of the parent ceases at 14. We do not interview in any circumstances ladies with children under 14 living with them. Children over 14 are regarded as a household responsibility and are taken into account as such.
The hon. Gentleman used a certain figure and said they were available for full-time employment. I think that is what the hon. Lady means. Are we to assume that, if they have not got children under 14, they are available for whole-time employment?
The figure I was quoting was on those who did not have children under 14 living with them or household responsibilities. In the case that the hon. Lady is quoting they have household responsibilities [Interruption]. Yes. In the case of a woman who is looking after her husband or where there is one other person in the home, she is normally available for part-time. (An HON. MEMBER: The wife of a Member of Parliament, for instance, would you interview her?) Yes, we would.
As I understand it, in a certain age group 230,000 people registered. We eventually got out of that group, after eliminating 150,000 who could not be called up, some 60,000 or 70,000 people. My hon. Friend expected to get 42,000 who might be available. Surely, if he has not the figure, he could give us an estimate of what the Ministry think they will get into national work out of that group of 230,000 people. That is what we want to know.
I could not give that figure, and not even an estimate with any basis of fact, until we have interviewed them and seen what medical certificates there will be. All I can say is that in the age group one year earlier, where we had a smaller field for interview, we regarded the registration as worth while, and I suggest that this registration will be worth while, too. [An HON. MEMBER:?That is an opinion".] I agree that it is an opinion.
I will see whether I can get the figure, but I will not guarantee it without consulting my advisers. I was only offering a few observations on the figures of the registration of 11th September, which suggest to me that we have a prima facie case that this registration will be worth while in the numbers we shall get for employment. I do not want to over-emphasise the point. I would like in passing to remark that an hon. Member told me the other day that he had made special inquiries in his large organisation with regard to the women in the 45–51 age group, and he found they were the best time-keepers and showed the least rate of unexplained absenteeism of all the female workers in the factory.
It would be a cruel and crushing blow to many working women in this country if any suggestion went out from the House that women in these age groups were not suitable for industrial employment, and I was glad that that was emphasised in the Debate yesterday. The same hon. Member told me a story which, with his permission, I will tell the House, with regard to a man who had permission from his firm to go to work at 8 o'clock instead of 7. A new foreman wished to take away this privilege, and he asked the man why he could not come on at 7 o'clock like the others. His answer was that he had to get the baby up and get it to its granny's. The foreman asked why his wife could not do it, and the man replied that she had to get up at 5.30 to go to another factory at 6 o'clock. Then the foreman inquired whether the grandmother could not get up a little earlier to receive the child, only to be told that the grandmother did not come back from her night shift until 7 o'clock.
Remarks were made yesterday about local officials of the Ministry (Interruption). I have endeavoured to give way on every interruption, and I therefore think it is a little unkind of hon. Members to endeavour to make fun of this matter. Remarks were made about officials of the Ministry of Labour which I would like emphatically to deny. It was suggested that some of the exchange officials were a set of bureaucrats whose only idea was to effect the maximum number of labour transfers. Allegations were made that they did not realise that their actions affected the lives of large numbers of individuals in a most fundamental way. I can assure the House that this picture is not correct. The Minister makes it part of his duty to endeavour personally to see all the employment exchange managers in the country every year. In fact, he is just concluding his second tour of the country. He endeavours to give to the managers the background of all the instructions that are issued. The Joint Parliamentary Secretary and I regard it as part of our duty to see as many exchange managers as we can wherever we go in order to keep in touch with them and form our own opinion about them.
I can assure the House that they are a hard-worked, conscientious lot of men and women, as good as ever I saw in my industrial experience, which is quite extensive. Their job has given them an unusually wide experience and understanding of the daily lives and difficulties of their fellow citizens. I can assure the House that they do not have a chance to forget for a moment the many difficult decisions they have to make every day and that they affect personally the lives of the people concerned. They are perhaps, less than any others in the Civil Service, what could be called remote from real life. Their job brings them in touch with all sorts and conditions of men. It is a difficult and a thankless one, and I suggest in all seriousness that they do it on the whole extraordinarily well. I would like to pay my tribute to these men, whom I regard as being in the front line of the Ministry of Labour's mobilisation plans. It would be ridiculous for me to suggest that everything has gone completely smoothly, but the Minister and both of us are always prepared when hon. Members bring us any case to go into it. In many cases adjustments have been made, and they will continue to be made where it appears that some injustice or mistake has occurred. I would like to encourage hon. Members—although I do not think they need much encouragement—to continue to send cases where they think real difficulty is being caused for further con- sideration. I cannot promise that in all cases their desires will be met.
I would like to have notice of that question. With regard to the need of transfers, it would be criminally foolish and irresponsible to transfer people about the country merely for the sake of doing it. The object is to bring the job to the worker wherever practicable, but the fact remains that some districts have relatively little work while other districts are hard pressed for workers. We have, therefore, no other alternative but to transfer the mobile workers away. The way in which labour demands are unfortunately distributed over the country gives rise to the problem, which my hon. Friend the Member for Spennymoor (Mr. Murray) put in such a moving way yesterday, of unemployment even at this time of partially disabled men or men with some physical disability. The number of these men, taking the country by and large, is small, but I know that the problem occurs in certain places, notably in parts of South Wales. I went there the other day especially to deal with this problem in connection with the Royal Ordnance factories. If the hon. Member would like me to go to Spennymoor and go into the problem personally with the factories there and with himself, I shall be only too willing to do so.
The hon. Member for Grantham (Mr. Kendall) spoke about the need for inquiring carefully into the way establishments are using their labour. I would remind the House that we have a special staff of labour supply inspectors with technical qualifications, who are attached to the district manpower boards and this is their job. They go into demands for additional labour and turn them down whenever they can. Where necessary, in co-operation with the Ministry of Aircraft Production or the Ministry of Supply or whatever Government Department is concerned, they carry out thorough inspections and try to avoid waste or misuse of labour in the factories. I am glad to say that these labour inspec- tors have largely become trusted by industrialists, and I have had quoted many cases of their advice being asked. by managements about the lay-out or the use of labour in their factories. They do not regard them in any way as inquisitors but as real helpers in the national problem. But I think hon. Members will agree that ultimately no amount of inspection alone can determine efficiency. The responsibility must rest with managers and executives, and I cannot emphasise too strongly that it is nothing less than a criminal act on the part of any undertaking or Department to ask for labour at the present time if there is not a really urgent need for it which cannot possibly be met in any other way, such as by reorganisation and upgrading. Everyone who has charge of labour should have continually in his mind that he must not waste the labour entrusted to him.
I should like to pay my tribute to the way in which the young girls who had been training to go into the Auxiliary Services by joining the G.T.C. and the like have so cheerfully accepted the frustration of their hopes and are going into the factories. It is one of the hardest sacrifices we have had to ask from people, and the fact that these young people of 17 and 18 have so cheerfully accepted what the Government asked them to do, shows once more, if proof were needed, that the young people of this country are quite all right. I would assure them that in the present war situation their best contribution to the national effort is to go into the factories. The Minister of Labour said yesterday that in our small country, with its limited population, with the steps we are now taking the limit of mobilisation of our man and woman power will have been pretty well reached, and indeed it is right that our maximum man-power mobilisation should arrive at the time when we are collecting all our power to hurl against the enemy.
I have talked in the pain about the mobilisation of women between the ages of 45 and 50, and the Debate has been largely on this topic. Nobody likes to have to take this step. The Ministry of Labour certainly would not have undertaken it if the Cabinet had not asked for it and if it had not been considered necessary. But I have no doubt myself, and I am sure the House will agree with me, that it has been very largely the mobilisa- tion of women and the work they have done in this war which has tipped in our favour the scales which otherwise were heavily weighted against us. I apologise for keeping the House for so long, and in my last words—
The hon. Gentleman says these are to be his last words. I have listened to him for nearly an hour, and I hope that before he ends he will say something in reply to the very serious arguments which I addressed to the House yesterday and the proposals I made.
I was thinking I had kept the House far too long, and I will finish my peroration in one sentence and then deal with one of his points. I only hope that when peace comes we men in this country will not forget what the women have done. With regard to the point which the hon. Member made yesterday, I do not propose to deal with his remarks on the Civil Service. The Financial Secretary to the Treasury spoke directly afterwards.
The Financial Secretary to the Treasury is responsible. The hon. Member did make a pertinent remark about the use of women in the Auxiliary Services. From such inquiries as we have from time to time made, which have been of a pretty searching nature, perhaps more searching than the military Departments actually knew, I do not think there is a prima facie case for an inquiry into the Women's Services, but all voluntary recruitment into those Services is now stopped. They are not getting any more girls and will have to go on with what they have. As their needs are expanding there will be no room for any waste in future in the A.T.S., the W.A.A.F. and the W.R.N.S., if, indeed, which I do not think, there has been waste in the past.
The Minister gave us yesterday some striking figures about the great contribution made by the British people to the United Nations' war effort. In view of some of the speeches which were made yesterday, I feel it is necessary to remind the House and to have placed on record some of the outstanding events in the lives of the people of this country during the past few years. In 1938, as the result of the worsening international situation, our engineers began to work overtime every night and every week-end. In 1939, before the war broke out, the engineering trade unions agreed to the relaxation of the customs agreement, because they felt concerned about the worsening international situation. In 1940 this country stood alone fighting the world battle for freedom, with it's inevitable terrible strain upon our people. Again, after the dark days of Dunkirk the engineers worked 70, 80 and 90 hours a week for month after month in order to re-equip our Armed Forces with the equipment and the supplies which we had lost during that retreat in Belgium and in France. Since the organised workers of the country realised the worsening international situation and all that it meant to all that was worth while in life, there has been no quibbling worth talking about.in our country in regard to the war situation.
It was against that background, that our people in 1940 and in 1941 would agree almost to anything in order to save this country, that we built up a powerful Navy, a great Air Force and an ever-increasingly mechanised Army, and at the same time manufactured equipment and supplies for our Armed Forces and our Allies. Well might President Roosevelt pay the tribute he did to the British people in his last Message to Congress. Our people have a great war record, and to-day, speaking for the people whom we represent, we want to remind the Government of that great war record. We also remind the United States Government of that record, and we remind the American people of it, in particular those American public people who are quibbling about their attitude.
On top of all this, 4,500,000 of our people are being transferred from their homes to other parts of the country. We have gone through five winter black-outs and have for four years suffered restricted food rationing. There has been the effect of nightly air raids upon industrial centres and of the years of uncertainty through which we have passed. It is necessary to remind the House of these things in order that we may consider the issues to-day in correct perspective. Our people have strained themselves in the war effort to an extent which is very little appreciated by those who have not lived and moved among them. After a few years in the last war, industrial unrest began to develop, and the Government of the day appointed a Commission to investigate it. The Report of 1917 stated that one of the outstanding grievances of the workers was the position of the injured worker. That Report was 26 years ago, but our grievances about workmen's compensation are the same today as they were then. The Government should grasp this nettle of irritability which is finding expression in the country before the workers become too nettled by the Government's failure.
The Government should take the initiative. Our people are as sound to-day on the war as they were on the first day the war broke out, but, owing to war strain, and other changes which I shall mention before I sit down, there is a change of mood in the people in regard to their present conditions. I have no hesitation in saying that never—may I emphasise the word?never"—particularly in a war of this kind, will men strike unless they have reasonable and justifiable grievances. The Government, and every Member of this House, should let that fact ring in their cars from now onwards. There is no war weariness among our people, but there are war strain and irritability, produced by what they have been putting up with during the last 12 months.
The North African campaign, the Sicilian campaign and our move into Italy were well planned and well executed. As a result of those successes it has been possible, as the Prime Minister agreed on Tuesday, to modify the military plan. As a result of the changed strategical situation in which we find ourselves, we are asking to-day for a modification of our man-power plans. In our view, a re-examination should be made of the relations of our man-power supply to the Armed Forces, Civil Defence and supply industries and the essential services of this country. We unhesitatingly give all the credit that is due to the Minister and the Ministry for the efficient mobilisation of the man-power of our country, but, in view of the fact that those plans were prepared in a different strategical situation from that in which we find ourselves, we are asking for a modification. We are content that we have stretched our man-power to the maximum extent. The best course that this country could take now is to improve the organisation of industry and increase its efficiency, thereby increasing the productivity per person engaged in industry and effecting a more efficient utilisation of man-power in the factories.
Certain changes have been carried out now, and as a result of those changes thousands of highly skilled engineers and others are working only 47 hours per week. Many others are merely marking time. All this is increasing their irritation. They want to contribute to the war effort. It is no use the Minister of Aircraft Production making such speeches as he did yesterday. The workers, and the people in general, know the dangers at stake as much as does any member of the Government. They think about the lives of our lads in the Armed Forces because those lads come from their own homes, and they value those lives and appreciate the work that the lads are doing every night. Therefore, when a change takes place in the mood of our people it is not for anybody to be too critical. They should seek to investigate the conditions that are giving rise to the change. To make provocative speeches will not help us in the supply industries. We realise that changes and modifications have to be made in output, but we say that they should be speeded up in order that our men may apply their maximum energy to producing the maximum output, so that our lads can continue to have the overwhelming superiority which they had in Sicily, Africa and Italy, in regard to equipment.
Concentration is taking place in certain areas, and it is having an effect on the essential services to an extent that does not seem to be realised by the authorities. It is affecting the gas supply, electricity, transport and other essential services. Let me give a typical example of the effect upon one important essential service, a municipal one run by an hon. Friend on this side of the House. In 1943, this service employed one man fewer than in 1939. The increase of output over 1939 is 24 per cent., with one man less, and with an increasing average age of the labour power. That is typical of what is taking place. In the big industrial centres the essential services must be maintained if we are to guarantee production. We welcome the statement made by the Minister yesterday that it was proposed to improve transport facilities in the industrial areas and to provide more vehicles. I would like to ask for a guarantee that the increase in vehicles and services will be provided before we enter the winter period. A few weeks ago I spent a day or two on business in the South of England, and I was surprised at the relatively large number of new vehicles which had been put into that centre, where there was hardly any production taking place. I should have thought that new vehicles should have been put in the industrial centres so as to ease the strain on our people.
We have no hesitation in asking, because we are confident we are right, for more men and women to be released from the Civil Defence organisation and the essential services of the country and for an investigation—I shall refer to this again later on—into the Civil Service and the municipal services in particular. On Tuesday the Prime Minister said that invasion is now only a remote possibility. We have been prepared to face the risks in the past, but if what the Prime Minister said is correct—and we accept it as correct—then we are asking that engineers and miners should be released from Home Guard and fire-watching duties. The Civil Service of this country is, in the main, a very fine section of our community, and we should be most careful in what we say regarding it. The Nazis began by undermining the Civil Service in Germany, and then undermined the judiciary, and so the rot spread in that country. All we are asking to-day is for an investigation so that the public can know the facts as regards the Civil Service. If I understood the House aright yesterday, they were most dissatisfied with the statement of the Financial Secretary to the Treasury on this matter.
Can we be told before we separate the facts concerning the Civil Service? For example, what are the average hours which civil servants are working? Can we be given an answer for each separate Ministry and some typical examples? The same applies to the municipal service. I have seen some of them walking to business in the old way as though there was no war, with their rolled-up umbrellas and striped trousers and the rest of the uniform, at 9 or 10 o'clock in the morning, and going home again at 5 o'clock in the evening. I wish to make it clear that I do not make a wholesale indictment, but seeing that we are calling on the men and women of the country to make a mighty effort, and mobilising them as we are doing now, we have a right to expect that other people who have not yet made their contribution to the war effort shall be subjected to investigation in order that we may know the facts. The Prime Minister on Tuesday, said:
"The German air force has been driven increasingly on to the defensive … The enemy is increasingly compelled to concentrate on building fighter aircraft and night fighter aircraft for home defence at the expense of bomber production. He is also forced to save his strength as far as possible on all the fighting fronts, and is, therefore, restricted to a far lower rate of activity than we and our Allies maintain."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 21st September, 1943, Col. 72, Vol. 392.] The logic of that statement is that, within reason, we should adapt ourselves to the changed situation. Therefore—and this is one of my strongest points— as far as fire-watching duties are concerned, now that the country has been efficiently organised in this respect, I submit that in certain areas, and within reason, engineers and miners in particular should be released from those duties in order that the strain of their war effort may be eased, and that they may have a little more time to themselves, which they deserve in view of that effort. On behalf of our people this morning we ask the Cabinet to give consideration to that plea as soon as possible.
Yes, and I apologise if I did not make it clear. I should have said Home Guard duties as well, and I thank my hon. Friend for his interjection. Already there has been a certain amount of easement as regards Home Guard duties, but it is not enough. The question is still there, and, in view of the Prime Minister's statement on Tuesday, which will by now have been read by milions of men and women in this country, this matter should be considered. I have in my pocket a letter written by a miner setting out the grievances with which the men have to contend at present. He says that he is uneducated, but, like thousands of others who are working in the mines and workshops of the country to-day— and this is one of the reasons for the present difficulty—he could come into this Hones to-morrow and hold his own with most Members here. The reason is that education is now beginning to produce young men and women who have benefited by it, and you cannot treat them as their predecessors were treated 40 or 50 years ago. They know what is wrong in industry. They know how soon the country should be able to adapt itself to changed circumstances, and when the Government do not move in home affairs with the speed at which they move in military affairs, then these men and women begin to talk.
As far as we on these benches are concerned, our position on this issue is expressed in a very frank manner in the following letter from the Standing Joint Committee representing the Women's Co-operative Guild, women's trade unions and the women's Labour movement of this country:
Dear Mr. Scott-Lindsay: The Standing Committee at their meeting last week discussed the decision to register women in the 46–50 age groups and the campaign being carried on against it.
I have been asked to write you to say that the Standing joint Committee, while agreeing to the need for seeing that the labour of all those already registered should be utilised in the best possible way, support the decision to register women in the 46–50 age groups if the war effort requires it. They are unable to endorse the arguments generally advanced against their registration, and believe that men and women in these age groups would welcome the opportunity of taking a greater part in the war effort and would certainly prefer to see registration extended to the older age groups of women than have any further calls made on young people under 18.
In discussing this matter the members of the Committee expressed the view that more attention should be called to the fact that thousands of women in the age groups about to be registered, both married and unmarried, had always been in industrial employment, very often through pressure of economic circumstances, having to combine their industrial job with domestic work. We had not noted in the past any widespread criticism of the employment of these women, often in hard, comparatively low-paid jobs, on the part of those who are now agitating against the registration of women over 45.
The Committee also have in mind that women up to 65 with nursing qualifications have already been required to register and that many nurses in the older age groups who had given up professional work on marriage or for other reasons, have returned to full-time nursing work. Yours, etc. Mary E. Sutherland.
The Minister yesterday and the Parliamentary Secretary to-day spoke in such a way as to give us confidence that they intend to administer this registration in a sympathetic manner. We are bound to be impressed by the spirit in which they spoke, but what we ask for, arising out of our experience, is an assurance that that spirit and that sympathetic approach to the question will be reflected in the actual administration. A Motion has been put upon the Order Paper regarding this issue by 83 Members of the House. I wonder, if that had been done by us during the past four years, what would have become of national unity? These Members acquiesced in the payment, before the war, of 10s. a week old age pensions to our mothers and grandparents and so forced thousands of old people out to do charing, washing, cleaning and scrubbing in order to make ends meet.
Now these same people, many of whom opposed us, year after year, when we pleaded for some relief for these old people, have the audacity to put down a Motion of this kind at a time when we are fighting for our very lives and for all that is worth while in life, and although we do not want to dwell upon that, it is very significant also that a name on that Order Paper is that of a certain well-known person representing a. constituency in this House. So far as our area is concerned, our women have always had to work in the cotton industry; they have' worked all their lives. This is the way Britain has been made great. It is true that they are beginning to think now about where all the wealth has gone, but now they are being registered up to 55 years of age. When I sat listening yesterday to the speeches being made I thought about Hammond's "Town Labourer," about the Royal Commission Reports made into the conditions of our people 50 years ago. Listening to the speeches which were made yesterday, and to the attitude of some Members of this House to-day, one would not have thought that we were fighting for our very lives in the way we are.
We have taken no objection to the full mobilisation of the men and women of this country. We take no objection to the efficient mobilisation of the industries of this country, because we have realised, since 1938 in particular, what has been at stake in regard to the international situation. In the last war I lay on my bed in France and Germany many, many times wondering what the future had in store for me. My generation suffered after the last war 20 years of frustration and disillusionment, and, so far as I am concerned, no matter what it may mean, I am not prepared to be a party to the generation, that is now fighting to save every one of us, suffering that frustration and disillusionment after this war. Just as I lay there in France and Germany as a mere boy so there will be thousands of our lads lying in the same way now, wondering what the future has in store for them, and they will be thinking of the Barlow, the Scott, the Uthwatt and the Beveridge Reports, and the attitude of certain people in the community towards those Reports. All this is involved in the mood of our people; all this is affecting industrial relations. In many cases the attitude of the employers towards the workpeople has considerably changed from what it was in 1941 and 1942. Our people contrast the sentences on miners and engineers with the treatment of other people. They contrast the way they have worked for three, four and five years in some cases with the irresponsible attitude which some people are now taking up to proposals to mobilise still further our man-and woman-power. They contrast the change since 1940 in the Conservative Party and how it reflects itself in this House. Our people up to now have responded nobly and loyally to every call of the Government and it is time that the Government responded to the needs and ideas of the people in order that we can proceed in the same way, with the same national unanimity that we have had up to the present time, so that we can continue to make our contribution of a mighty character in the United Nations effort to save this world from all that we know is at stake at the present time.
I have one very short point to make. I think it will be generally agreed that the arrangements to safeguard the individual's interests in connection with call-up for the Services have worked extremely smoothly. Where questions of hardship or of man-power have existed hardship committees have been a very adequate filter. Now, at the beginning of the fifth year of war, I wish to ask the Minister whether some analogous arrangement could not be made whereby men and women can be got out of the Services where actual need exists, for experience has shown that once men or women are in the Services it is, for all practical purposes, impossible to get them out.
There are two categories of circumstances arising of real hardship in the case of individuals, such hardship that had it occurred before the person was taken into the Service he or she would not have been taken in. Yet there is no effective means of getting them out. In the case of essential services I have in mind particularly two vital services—water supply and plumbing. All over the countryside these little local firms on whom we depend have been so denuded by subsequent wastage that in many cases men who were taken, quite legitimately, two, three or four years ago cannot be replaced, and yet cannot be got out. We were extraordinarily lucky last year to have a very mild winter. If we have a very hard winter this year, with severe frosts, there is going to be in city and countryside very serious and irreparable damage done.
These man-power hardship committees might perhaps be adapted to work in reverse. I do not know. It is undesirable, I am convinced, that Members of Parliament should have to take up individual cases and put them before the Department concerned. I had a case only last week in my Constituency, a case of real hardship. It was thoroughly well investigated, and I sent it forward. The commanding officer of the battalion, a very famous battalion, at once granted three months' compassionate leave. This was turned down flat by the War Office. I cannot help thinking that had there been, say, a local committee analogous to the hardship committee to filter such a case, we should not get this continual turning down of cases by Service Departments. Their machinery is not adapted to meet this need, and I do ask, in view of the circumstances at the beginning of the fifth year of war, for an urgent looking into the possibility of getting men and women out of the Services on the grounds of their being urgently needed for essential services or because of hardship.
I would like first of all to congratulate my hon. Friend who opened the Debate to-day upon his gentle handling of the House and the very courteous manner in which he gave way to so Many interjections and interruptions. He had on that account a very difficult task. I think he put his finger on the whole matter which we have been discussing in these two days when he said that the point is: Will these proposals of the Government give us a larger number of people for the national effort than we should get by any other means; and, secondly, is it essential that we should get them in this particular way? He was referring particularly to the new call-up of women between 46 and 51 years of age. I do not want to traverse the arguments of yesterday, with most of which I agree, as to the undesirability, if it can be avoided, of calling up women of those ages, but I went to confine myself to the point as to whether it is really necessary and whether we shall get the results only in this way.
Firstly, there has been no suggestion made from the Front Bench that it is not possible that we could get quite as many people by a voluntary call-up as by means of conscription. Hon. Members will remember that the Government prepared an extremely elaborate scheme for the purpose of controlling the use of coal, coke and other fuels, and a large number of people were employed with a view to putting that scheme into operation. Yet when, under pressure, a campaign was started for voluntary economies in consumption it proved a success, and we have been told since that greater saving was obtained in that way than would have resulted from the compulsory scheme. I suggest that that is an argument to show that voluntary efforts might produce quite as good results in this case. The further special point I want to make is that the Government could make a case for conscription if they could satisfy the House that everything was being done to employ fully the people already called up, but I am afraid I must complain in one respect of the attitude of the Ministry of Labour. I may say that I have great admiration for the work the Ministry have done. They have had a most difficult and very thankless task, and they have achieved very fine results with the minimum of trouble and a great deal of good will. But my complaint is that they take too narrow a view of this man-power question. They are far too apt to say that some matter is not their business but the business of another Department. If the Ministry of Labour want to convince us that there is nothing else to be done but to call up women, with all the upset of the economic life of the country, then that will mean they must take a wider view.
The hon. Gentleman who spoke a few minutes ago with almost the royal "We" for the Labour Party made one statement at any rate with which I was very much in agreement. He pointed out the necessity for readjustment of the numbers of people employed in the Civil Defence services. I want to deal with that point. Before the attentions of Hitler I resided for a time in the Maryle bone Division of London, and I have been able therefore to get some information about that division. I am told that it is probable that similar figures could be obtained all over the country. In September of this year—that is, this month—there were 19 manned A.R.P. posts in the Marylebone district alone. I wish the House to note that figure to start with. In one typical post there are six full-time paid wardens, receiving, with allowances, roughly £4 a week, In each post there are about 20 part-time wardens. You have to repeat that figure of 26, 19 times in one division in London. Of the six full-time paid men working, two are under 45 and one is under 48. Two of the men are qualified in engineering work. Of the 20 part-time wardens most are women, and these women are all between the ages of 25 and 48. In one post part-time wardens are being given less work and fewer hours of duty, while those who are nominally doing full-time have actually very little to do except arrange for sports and fire-guard training.
Multiply that 19 times in one district, multiply it all over London, multiply it all over the country, and then ask yourselves what justification there is for any member of the Government coming here in the fifth year of the war with proposals for a complete upset in the life of the people of the country, involving the destruction to some extent of family life and possible serious interference with the work of men engaged in industry who are dependent on these women for their food and comfort. What justification can there be unless it can be shown that the Government have gone into all these matters and have combed the various services and are satisfied that staffs cannot be further reduced? People who know anything about it take the view that the A.R.P. services are almost scandalously over-staffed, and over-staffed by people who themselves in many cases want to get out and are in many cases very upset about it.
There is only one other matter to which I want to refer. Members of the Select Committee on National Expenditure do not usually speak in the House publicly about their efforts to carry out the duties which the House has laid upon them, but it is right that I should on occasion refer to what they have said and done. This matter of staffing, not only of Government Departments but of sections of industry engaged on national work, has been before the Select Committee on several occasions. It would take far too long to give extracts from all the Reports dealing with the subject, but I wish to give just a few, and then hon. Members can themselves look up the Reports. As far back as 7th May, 1940, the Select Committee recommended a staff audit of certain Departments, but, so far as I know, such audits have never taken place in the full sense that the Committee desired. Another recommendation which they made on 14th May, 1941, nearly two and a half years ago, referred to air-raid wardens. It was suggested that the wardens' service should revert to its original part-time basis. It is for the House itself to say to what extent the recommendations of the Committee should be approved, but I would point out that that recommendation was made nearly two and a half years ago, and as far as I know no substantial reduction has ever taken place.
In the last few weeks, but not until then. On 16th July, 1942, more than a year ago, the Committee was seriously concerned at the amount of surplus labour in filling factories. I do not disagree with the hon. Member for Stoke (Mr. Ellis-Smith) when he says that many engineers are only working 47 hours a week and some are only marking time. His information seems to coincide with mine. The Committee recommended that the Ministry of Supply should stop recruiting men and that the staff employed for that purpose should be discharged.
The Committee referred also to one factory where the programme had been altered, with the result that there was a redundancy of some hundreds of people which it took several months to deal with. The Committee also reported that cases where the Ministry of Labour withdrew men for service in the Forces and employers only asked for substitutes for half the number withdrawn. These extracts with which I have ventured to trouble the House show clearly that there has not been a wide enough survey by the Ministry of Labour of the whole situation. I am not criticising the actual carrying out of work done by the Ministry, although I agree entirely with the hon. Member who suggested that in these exchanges it would be better to put the elderly women in the chair, and the young girls who are interviewing them in front of the table. There is no co-ordination of man-power as a whole. There is much too narrow an approach of the whole problem. I ask my right hon. Friend very seriously whether, before the Government put the proposal into operation, there should not be a complete survey, carried out, if you like, by the Ministry of Labour's own officials, forcing the Departments to show what they can render up in the way of available manpower. If it is then decided that you must have these women, I believe that you would get more by voluntary effort than by conscription. In one age group you are going to put 240,000 women to the trouble of registration, when those women already have enough to do standing in queues. By that means it is expected to get 42,000. We all know the doctors' certificates there will be, and we can form an idea of how many women in the end will be available. I doubt whether it will produce 10,000. Let us have that full survey; and if you have to make use of these women, apply the voluntary system.
I do not question the wisdom of the Government when they decide how many men and women they need for the three Fighting Services. I do not ask them for numbers, for that is just what the enemy would like to know. I do not ask them how many guns, shells, tanks, fighter and bomber aeroplanes, or ships, or how much of any other equipment, they need for the Forces. But we know that it would be criminal folly to send highly-trained forces to the various battle fronts without ample supplies of the best equipment. The Government are the sole judges of these matters, and they are solely responsible for getting the required number of men and providing them with the required equipment. They alone are in possession of the facts, and they have all the technical experts and advisers at their disposal. They also know that there must be left in our factories a certain minimum of men and women to produce all that is called for by the Forces. That is the problem which the Minister now has to face. He has a double function. He has to provide the men for the Forces and the requisite number of factory workers to produce their equipment: He ought to know what he wants in men for the factories, and he certainly knows from the Forces how many men are required for them. He has his estimates, I have no doubt, of the production which can be expected with the present man- and woman-power. I have no doubt that he is conscious, too, of the weaknesses of human nature, and does not expect 100 per cent. perfection in any works.
We have heard of absenteeism and sickness, due to war strain, resulting in lethargy. Only yesterday we had the Report of the Ministry of Health, which emphasises one very distinctive feature in the health of the country now. That is, the increase in minor and short-term illnesses. Everyone who knows anything about the administration of a factory in a large way knows that those illnesses, occurring frequently, cause far more dislocation in production than a long period of illness by one or two individuals. They raise very serious problems of organisation. The Minister has the advantage of information from the Service Departments, and he knows what the works management often does not know—what is in short supply at any given moment. Often it is necessary to switch production from one thing to another without any warning. I have had some experience in industry, and I know that it is no easy problem when you have suddenly to reduce workers from three shifts to one, because the call for particular forms of equipment has changed suddenly. The question arises, whether there is any way of utilising the workers who have been stopped. It may not be possible to disperse them, and as a result a number of people have to be kept idle for the time being. There must be flexibility and transference of labour. Everybody concerned knows the difficult problems which arise, and which inevitably result in decreased production.
I want to emphasise one thing affecting the use of man-power, which must be entirely outside the Minister's calculations, for which he is not responsible, and for which he has never bargained: that is, the mass strikes of the last few weeks. Many more of these strikes would completely upset the whole programme of the Ministry of Labour and of the Services. The House will be greatly relieved at the news of the end of the shipwrights' strike on the Clyde and of the miners strike in Nottingham. Production is interrupted not only during the strike but for a period leading up to the strike, and then there is the difficulty of restarting at high speed afterwards. Production is decreased for weeks before the strike, because you cannot have efficient production where there is bad feeling between the management and the workers. It is useless to discuss plans for making the most use of available manpower if the best schemes that can be devised are upset by large-scale stoppages in vital industries.
I think the majority of the House were in entire agreement with the Minister when he said yesterday that the law needs strengthening to deal with those who supersede the executive and disregard instructions. I do not want to introduce any prejudice into the matter: I do not know who is to blame for the lamentable disputes which seriously impede the war effort. But I know that in this House there is always a readiness to attribute all the blame to the management. The Select Committee in their Reports from time to time cast reflections on the efficiency of the management in the factories. It is difficult to understand how they can come to such definite conclusions as a result of an occasional visit to a factory. An hon. Member asked yesterday whether the Minister would investigate how for management is responsible for these strikes which are occurring now. If there is any foundation for that suggestion, the conclusion I come to is that generally management must be overwhelmingly good, because there are very large and powerful industries and very big organisations in this country where there have been no strikes at all.
Mention has been made in the Debate of labour personnel management. I do not understand where it fits in altogether, what are the scope and the duties of a manager of personnel, and how far he is able to effect the prospect of strikes in any industry. We have labour-personnel managements in many works with which I am connected. This system of appointing a special man to look after labour, to study their interests and listen to their grievances has already made a very great contribution to the control and administration of industry, but only the fringe of the field has been touched, and there is much more yet to do.
I said in this House a little while ago that this war is largely a metal war; it is a war of alloys. There are for some reason widespread strikes all over the country, from Scotland down to South Wales, and yet in the industry with which I have the honour to be connected I have not heard even the murmur of the spirit of strife during the war, certainly not the threat of a strike. I remember the last war, when the men struck in a factory in South Wales and went out without any warning at all, and I had to go down and try to settle the strike. They told me that they were not striking against the Government but against the company because they were withholding the increase of wages which they thought they ought to get. There are matters in connection with these strikes which could be settled if somebody sat down to do it rapidly instead of leaving things and letting them go on unsettled. I urge the Minister to take very firm action against anyone causing such stoppages during war-time, no matter who they are, whether they belong to the management or to the workers. I have a quotation from a remarkable speech by the Minister of Aircraft Production. It is a very serious thing when he says:
?A strike now in progress is holding up the production of two of the most important types of aircraft engines.
It was a very serious warning speech to the men. I have an extract here from a well-known paper called the "Tribune." a weekly paper which I have had the pleasure of reading for many years, and in this week's issue there is an article under the title "Industrial Controversies."
There is a long list of strikes throughout the country, not in South Wales, but in Scotland, Barrow-in-Furness and on the North East coast, where thousands of men are involved in strikes. May I tell the Minister that this paper says that the situation calls for bold and national handling? I entirely agree. We must learn that somehow these things happen when the war seems to be going well and when the prospects are getting brighter. We should do well to remind ourselves that, although our Forces are obviously on top everywhere now, on land, on sea, and in the air, the war may be prolonged, involving the loss of many more lives and more misery, and that it may be lost even now in the factories and shipyards or mines of this country. I hope, therefore, that some machinery will be devised by which stoppages of this kind shall be effectively prevented throughout the war.
I do not propose to say more than a word about the controversy regarding the call-up and registration of women between 45 and 50. I endorse what the hon. Member for Kidderminster (Sir J. Wardlaw Milne) said and wish that it - had been possible for the Minister to organise this on a voluntary basis before he took compulsory measures. I also endorse what has been said during the Debate—and when these charges are made they are worth investigating—that the Civil Service is over-staffed. This charge has been made repeatedly up and down the country, and there is an impression abroad that the Civil Service is over-staffed, but the remark made in the course of the Debate yesterday that 50 per cent. of the civil servants could be combed out is a preposterous suggestion. I am very glad to hear from the Minister to-day that the women who act as interviewers and on panels of appeals in this matter will be women of experience and of an age similar to that of those whom they are interviewing. There is an old saying in the Welsh language which I will quote and explain to the Minister what it means. It is:
Yr oen yn dysgw'r ddafad i bori.
It means "The lamb teaching the mother sheep to graze." We do not want younger women here to teach the older women how to behave in the country's state of war. I am very glad to have the assurance of the Minister to-day that the women who will be doing the interviewing will be even of a higher age than the group of women whom they interview.
I said at the outset that I did not question the number of men that are being asked for in this war. That is the Government's responsibility, but it is our function to watch how these men are being used in the Services, and it is our duty to draw attention to certain matters when they come before us. I have received many complaints from officers who are in charge of units and camps throughout the country. I am told that in many cases there are men physically fit doing jobs in these camps who would be better occupied elsewhere. I will give an example, and there may be an answer to it. I cannot investigate the complaint, but there should be a periodical investigation into all these matters in the Services. This is an example given me the other day by a responsible officer. He said: "I know that things can be done, and men should be utilised in doing some other work than that which they are doing in our camp. We have medical orderlies in our camp, strong, burly men, who are doing the work of bandaging wounds or cleaning up the orderly room which could easily be done by women or older people." It is the duty of the Ministry and the Government and the Services from time to time to reconsider these matters and see how far men are being properly utilised in the Services.
I would like to congratulate the Minister and pay a sincere tribute to him for his work in his Department and especially congratulate him upon the very illuminating and remarkable speech which he delivered yesterday. It set out vividly the immense scope of the work the country has done, and I think his speech will do a great deal of good, not only in this country, but among the United Nations.
I listened to the Minister of Labour yesterday, and I want to compliment him upon the very clear statement he made to the House. I think it went a long way towards convincing the country of the necessity of what he is proposing. He amused me, however, when he said that it was a Cabinet decision and that he had the job to do. He had to examine the position and present it to the Cabinet, and then they decided to act. I rather thought it was putting too much on the Cabinet in that respect. From what I know of the Minister of Labour, if he decided on a certain course which be believed to be right, it would require a very strong Cabinet to overrule him. I think he would say, "This is my decision. I advise the Cabinet to accept it, and it has to go forward." It is very seldom that he excuses himself behind anyone, and I was rather amused, knowing him as I do. Everybody is bound to agree that the proposition must be accepted if he can satisfy us that use is being made of all available man-power. I do not think that any Member of the House will object to the registration and conscription of these women if he is satisfied that every other source has been examined and exhausted. That has been the appeal made in various ways from all sides of the House, and I have not heard anyone take strong objection to its being done if he is satisfied that use is being made of all the available manpower. That is why this Debate is taking place.
I want to examine the matter from an aspect which concerned me very much during my investigation during the Recess. This point was mentioned by my hon. Friend the Member for Spennymoor (Mr. Murray). After the Minister of Labour had said that he was going to register women between 45 and 50 I received a number of letters from my constituency asking whether the Minister of Labour was aware that the men who were unemployed ought to be made use of before he registered these women. This struck me as being rather forcible, so I spent a large portion of my holidays investigating this particular aspect in my constituency. I wrote to the managers of the employment exchanges asking whether there were men on the books of the employment exchanges who were unemployed and for how long. As the Parliamentary Secretary said to-day, these officials are very courteous, and they try to help one all they can. I interviewed them, and it was arranged that I should meet the unemployed men when they signed on at the employment exchanges in my Division. I addressed them. I said, "I want to have a talk with you on this man-power business. Mr. Bevin is going to call-up these women, and I think it is rather hard that, as you are unemployed and willing to work, women should be called up and you not being able to do something." I asked, "Are you men prepared to work if suitable jobs are found for you?" Without hesitation, every one of them said, "Yes, if you can find us suitable work, we are prepared to take it." I must admit here that they are not 100 per cent. efficient. They are what you might call the derelicts of industry. They are, from the mines and various works, and some of them have lost an eye or a finger. They cannot get employment but ought to be made use of in some direction. I asked the manager of an employment exchange, "Have you tried to get these men employment?", and he said "We have." He said that they sent them down to a private firm to see if they would take them on, but invariably they refused to take them. I have here the written statement of the manager of an employment exchange which says,
You may be interested to know that some time ago I felt concerned at the greatly increasing number of men registering as unemployed and sent a circular letter to the majority of local employers asking them if they could see their way to engage some of these men if only on a part-time basis, but, unfortunately, there was no response from the employers even to examine the question.
That was in Leigh. I went to Tyldesley, interviewed men there and found the same thing. I knew a lot of them; they were men with whom I had worked in the mines, men whom I had known from boyhood. They were genuine, honest workmen, and they appealed to me to see whether anything could be found for them. I want to give a personal illustration of my point. One man, a good workman, was sent to a local firm. He passed the doctor and was taken on as a bus cleaner in a large garage. He was put on the night shift, but his eyesight was not too good, he did not do very well and he was put on
the day shift. His employers were still not satisfied and asked for his release. The local employment officer objected, but they took the matter to a board of appeal, and the man was released. He came to see me, I made inquiries, and I found that he had not had time to state his case. I felt strongly on the matter. I appealed to the National Service officer to allow a re-hearing so that I could be present and state the man's case for
him, and this was granted. I went before the appeal board and in the course of my remarks got rather heated. I said to the other side, "Why are you not
prepared to take a man who is not fully efficient? Do you not know that there is a war on and that we are trying to find work for all who want it?" As the case went on I could see that I might win. The chairman was a woman—the first time I have seen a woman in this position. When we retired I went to shake hands with the other side, but I was told, "We do not intend to shake hands with you because of the way you have treated us." The man has been employed since and is doing a good day's work.
Now, I want to ask hon. Members opposite who are concerned so much with the voluntary effort what they intend to do in cases like this when private employers will not take their share of responsibility. The other side of the House largely represents private employers; we on this side largely represent working men and the trade unions. If we cannot get employers to take their share of these men, what are we to do? I am pleading with the Minister of Labour to take greater powers to see that the private employer in any district such as mine, where there are unemployed men, shall employ those men. These employers must be told that they cannot have 100 per cent. efficient men while the war is on. The Minister should insist on their taking their share. After all, public employers have to take them. The Leigh and Tyldesley Town Councils are saturated with men who are not 100 per cent. efficient. They take as many as they can. There are 200 men in my Division who have been unemployed for more than six months. The same sort of thing can be found in the Division represented by my hon. Friend the Member for Spennymoor (Mr. Murray). Yesterday, I put a Question to the Minister on this matter as follows:
?To ask the Minister of Labour how many male adults are signing on at employment exchanges; and how many have been unemployed for over six months??
The Minister replied as follows:
At 19th July, 1943, the latest date for which statistics have been collected, there were 39,735 men aged 18 and over registered at Employment Exchanges in Great Britain as wholly unemployed (exclusive of 19,349 men classified by interviewing panels as unsuitable for ordinary industrial employment), 726 registered as temporarily stopped and 975 registered as unemployed casual workers. Particulars are not available as to the numbers of these men who had been unemployed for over six months.—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 23rd September, 1943; col. 423, Vol. 392.]
I am not saying that every one of these men could be used, but at least 50 per cent. of them could be used in some way or other. How do these men feel, when they have been unemployed for so long, when they hear that these elderly women are to be called up? I am asking for a thorough examination of this matter and some explanation as to why these men are not being used. In a war like this private employers have no right to stand aside when such men could be used, as in the case of the example I have given. At present there is no power to make them take on anybody. If a man is sent to a private firm and they say they do not want him, he has to go back to the employment exchange. I have the utmost confidence in the Minister of Labour. No one objects to the registration of these women if it is necessary. I want to compliment the Parliamentary Secretary on the able statement he made to-day and to thank him for the courtesy he showed in giving way and enabling us to clear up a number of points. It may be hard for a Minister to give way, but he wins the confidence of the House if he respects what Members have to say. The Parliamentary Secretary did that and came through with honour because of it.
Finally, I want to say a word about the examination of people who are called up. I have heard many complaints about young women examining elderly people. These older women say that they are not prepared to tell all their business to someone much younger than themselves. I can understand that point of view. On some matters I would not like to be interviewed by a young man. The Parliamentary Secretary promised us that this aspect of the question would be thoroughly examined, and if the Minister of Labour will see that the private employer does his duty in this matter as in others, he will be able to go ahead.
I, like the hon. Gentleman the Member for Leigh (Mr. Tinker) and my hon. Friend the Member for Kidderminster (Sir J. Wardlaw-Milne), would like to pay a tribute to the Parliamentary Secretary for the courteous manner in which he gave way to Members during his speech to-day. When I intervened he suggested that I was not possibly treating the subject with a seriousness which it deserves. I was, however, concerned not with the subject but his particular presentation of the case at that moment and if I hurt his feelings in the matter I humbly ask him to forgive me, as I am sure he will. I have always had some wonderment in my mind at the great—I doubt whether "great" is a proper adjective in this connection—demagogic capacity of the Cleon-like Minister who' is now directing the lives and destinies of the men and women of this country. He has told us that a certain proportion of women of 45–50 may be compelled, possibly, to undertake war service. I quite agree that there are objections to voluntary methods but we must realise that behind the interviews and directions are sanctions which the Minister can apply. They vary from threats or fines, right up to imprisonment and that has a bad effect on the minds of these people. Let us keep that constantly in our minds. It is not merely a question of registration but of the attitude of mind that may be produced in these people by the knowledge that there is the threat, that the screw can be turned, if need be, by the Minister of Labour.
I am sorry that the Minister is not here because I wish to say something about him which is not in line with what has been said by some others during this Debate. I regret the way in which he presented his case yesterday. I agree that he did it in an interesting manner and gave us many facts but throughout his speech he did, in my opinion, endeavour to engender class feeling, both by his manner of presentation of his case and his language, to which some hon. Members opposite, to some extent, responded for a time. That was most unfortunate. That feeling was fanned by the hon. Member for Dartford (Mrs. Adamson) but the excellent speeches, full of commonsense, by the hon. Member for Spennymoor (Mr. Murray) and the hon. Member for Gorbals (Mr. Buchanan), between them, quenched in some degrees the flames. Unfortunately, the hon. Member for Stoke (Mr. E. Smith) vigorously applied the bellows again to-day. Again, one or two Members congratulated the right hon. Gentleman on the improvement in his Parliamentary manner. About this I, personally, am not deeply concerned, but I would like to draw attention to the right hon. Gentleman's interruption, made during the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Weston- super-Mare (Mr. Orr-Ewing). My hon. Friend implied that he had been to cottages and found fear and confusion in the hearts of country people in regard to this Registration Order. The right hon. Gentleman said these people had been deliberately misled by those who opposed this Regulation. I do not know what is in the OFFICIAL REPORT but I wrote these words down at the time. I do not think those things should be said in this House by a Minister.
It has been constantly asserted that there there is no grumbling about this registration. There has been an enormous amount of grumbling. I have frequently been told by my constituents, of the fear in people's minds in regard to registration. Because it is not expressed definitely to the Department, I do not think it can be dismissed so easily as the right hon. Gentleman says. May I again point out the complete lack of any reply made by the Financial Secretary to the hon. Member for Rugby (Mr. W. Brown), who made a very striking statement, produced many facts and figures and has particular knowledge of this sort of thing. I think it a pity that the Financial Secretary—much as I respect him—was put up to reply to the hon. Member. He did not reply to him at all. It looked as if he was trying to draw a red herring across the track and as if it was a piece of tactics on the part of the Government—I sincerely hope not —to put him up in order to create confusion in our minds.
He said there was bound to be wastage in time of war but, if that is the case, it is essential that the Government should look into the source of wastage as far as possible before they make demands on women of 45 to 51. The right hon. Gentleman says he will stop at nothing in order to win the war. We all agree with that spirit but we must be careful that those in executive authority take the right course and do not use the great powers given them to take action which might have the very reverse effect on the morale of the country. There was a strike at Nottingham. I have every sympathy with the boy who feared to go down a pit. The simile of the hon. Member for South Croydon (Sir H. Williams) yesterday was apt. I felt that that was an example of how the executive made orders and regulations and applied them somewhat stupidly. They should be more elastic. There should have been a way which that boy could get out of it in all the circumstances. I do not sympathise with the strikers, but I can see their point of view and, if you want to get rid of these things, you should administer these Rules and Orders with greater elasticity and sympathy.
Earlier, the Minister condemned the magistrates who commented on his officials a short time ago. He said he does not accept the point of view of the magistrates. But when it comes to the point of enforcement, the Orders and Regulations are in the hands of magistrates. The right hon. Gentleman is quite willing for the law to be enforced by them but, when it comes to criticism of his own Department, he throws them on one side. I really think we should look into the administration of these things so as to adopt a course which will benefit the war effort instead of being, perhaps, positively dangerous. This is the fifth year of the war and irritability has been engendered in us and we must bear these things in mind.
Now I come to the point as to why I myself supported the original Motion. The Minister said he was not impressed by the medical point of view. The whole atmosphere of the Debate has tended to keep away from that point of view. Everyone has put it into the background the whole time, but it should not be put into the background. The Minister and the Department should constantly bear in mind the changed physiological condition of these women. I have known women of 70 who are working hard for the war effort and I have seen women of 55 doing all they can. I agree that these women can do these things as far as they are able but the particular class of women between 45 and 50 are undergoing a tremendous change in their lives. Great changes are occurring within their bodies. They are passing from one phase of life to another and it is a dangerous time. Let us bear that in mind. It occurs between 45 and 51 and it is not got over in a day. They fluctuate in health month in, month out. One day they are all right, and another day they are not, and so on. I think a few salient points should be brought to the notice of the House go that these Regulations should be administered with the greatest care and generosity. The female body undergoes physiological and anatomical changes which manifest themselves by symptoms of various kinds. There is tremendous lack of control of the arterial system. The "hot flushes," about which so many are probably aware, are but indications of the great changes within. The whole being is subjected to great internal stress.
I hope, if I have time, to come to that in due course. I am putting the case as I see it myself. Enormous changes are taking place. Gastric disturbances are frequent. Headaches, giddiness and noises in the head accompany the condition. You frequently get enlargement of the thyroid gland, with palpitations, high blood pressure and so on. This excess in blood pressure due to physiological changes can be permanent and we have to be very careful of the attitude that we take to these people. These physical changes are not all, and they are not the most marked. Other changes occur. Owing to lack of balance of the secretions of the body the whole metabolism of the body is put out of gear. This time of life is accompanied by a considerable change in the mental condition. A woman who was bright, may become depressed and irritable. She almost changes her character for the time being. She does not look upon life in the same way that she used to. She fluctuates from day to day and she suffers, as I have said, from all the other smaller matters that go with the condition.
It is not a question of getting a medical certificate for two or three weeks. If she left work, she might be accused of absenteeism, a word which has been grossly abused. If we could discover the causes of absenteeism, we should be very much surprised. There are very often substantial reasons for it. I always think there is too much loose talk on both sides of the House on this matter. The symptoms that I have spoken of might lead to a far graver condition. In some people they are mild, in others they are very severe and, sometimes, there is even a danger of insanity. There are thousands of cases of women at that time of life in asylums and if the right hon. Gentleman goes the wrong way about it, he will fill the asylums still more. Exhaustion psychoses from anaemia are common. The proneness to accidents at this time of life is also increased owing to the mental changes that go on. The tendency to suicide is greater at that time of life than at any other. The late Sir Maurice Craig took considerable note of this point.
If the country were really on its beam ends, if it had its back to the wall, I should say let the old men of 80 and go, if they can do anything, be told what to do and be compelled to do it. But so long as there are reservoirs of labour which have been improperly used or wasted, let the Government call on them first before it humbugs these people. They undergo a great inward and emotional strain, and at the same time they are suffering from the stresses that we are all suffering from and it is at that time that the right hon. Gentleman is taking them. Perhaps an unmarried daughter is taken from home to work at a factory. If I had a daughter in that position I should not have an easy day as long as she was out of my sight under these conditions, knowing the evils of this world and the danger that would encompass her. It would take a great deal to reassure me that she would be completely safe. Again the sons of these women are away on service. These, and others are the stresses that are added to this highly critical time of life. Do not increase the emotional stresses more than is necessary.
Of course there are people in all classes of society who dodge the call-up. I am not talking about these people but about the matrons and mothers of England. Every care and tact should be used with them and their hands should not be forced. Do not send directions to the exchanges which are not properly carried out and everything possible should be done to ease the way for these women. If a woman says that she is not up to it, give her the benefit of the doubt for she can judge her condition better than anyone else. It is not a question of constant medical attention.
This subject has been kept in the background possibly for a reason which was told me yesterday, that the feminist movement is not anxious for this matter to be brought out, because in their work for equality of pay between men and women they are afraid that it will weaken their case. Behind this movement are some women who have not perhaps fulfilled their natural functions in life and sometimes they behave somewhat viciously to their sisters: indeed, they are often very vocal. The whole of British polity tends to go against this—I will not say tyranny because that is not the right word to use—but shall I say, this harsh way of treating women. It is against humane law and I beg the Minister to keep these things well in mind, and do nothing which can possibly injure the war effort and possibly, too, make the women of this country the enemies of the Minister himself.
In view of the number of speeches devoted in this Debate on manpower to the registration of women over 45, I think that it might be called a woman-power debate, but it shows the interest which this subject attracts. I do not want to go over ground that has been traversed over and over again, but there are two or three points Which have not been sufficiently met. I begin with the medical point with which the hon. Member for Southampton (Dr. Thomas) has dealt. I am going to be very frank about it. He greatly over-stated his case. It is perfectly true that there is a period in a woman's life which is well known to be a difficult period, when she is changing from the reproductive period to the nonproductive period. That by no means necessarily coincides with the years from 47 to 51. Sometimes it begins earlier and sometimes it continues later. Very frequently—and I really do know something about women—it does not have anything like the serious repercussions which the hon. Member has represented.
I have had some considerable experience in these matters, and I have consulted practically the whole of the great authorities in this country during the last two or three days, both in their works and otherwise. They have all stated definitely that there is a very small percentage of women who go through the period of life corresponding to 45–51 without suffering considerable internal stresses and strains which manifest themselves in one way or another. I put this statement against that of the hon. Lady who has not had the experience.
And yet these women who are in such an abnormal mental and physical condition invariably continue their work as teachers, as doctors, as nurses, as factory workers and as hard-worked housewives, with occasionally a good deal of discomfort to themselves and sometimes serious physical injury, but in far more than nine cases out of ten without permanent evil results. If these women are not called up to do work, it means that they will continue working in their own homes. To exempt a whole age class for that rather exceptional reason is to ignore the fact that if the woman has a sensible doctor to whom she can go many of these cases can be exempted. I will make this admission. I believe that if the Minister could be strictly and scientifically careful on the medical point he would exempt those from 47 to 51 and begin the registration at 50 or 51 and take it as late as 60 or 65. I believe that, broadly speaking, some of the healthiest years in a woman's life are just those years, sometimes beginning as early as 45 and going up to 65 or so. She has then done with the discomforts and disturbances relating to the reproductive period, and she settles down free from the headaches and fainting turns and the uncomfortable feelings associated with that period. I defy anyone who really knows women to say that that is not true. The Minister gave instances to show that the least number of complaints came from the employers' elderly women. That is because their constitution has settled down and they are able to work without their physical constitution urging them all the tithe to something besides work. I hope that one lesson which the Minister will draw is not to stop at 50 and 51 but to continue with his registration of that group and push on to what I think he will find is the more fruitful field of women of 50 to 55, and 55 to 60, and perhaps even to 65.lb/> Nearly all the speakers who are opponents of the higher registration have made out a good case to show that great hardship is inflicted upon a woman who has to do all the work of carrying on a household and has at the same time to do even part-time paid work. Many of them are forced to do it for economic reasons, and some of them do it voluntarily for patriotic reasons, but they should not be forced to do it if they are whole-time housewives. I will make a claim for the Minister which curiously he has not made himself. The release of these hard-worked housewives will be considerably facilitated by raising the registration age, because it will enable the Minister to rope in all the women who are not engaged in household tasks and who are perfectly well able to do more work than they are doing. Who are these women? There are a large number of spinsters who are living alone or with one or two people in a room or two, and their household work does not take up all their time. There are others in the same sort of position, married women whose husbands are absent and married couples who are living in hotels, boarding houses and furnished apartments where service is provided. What about all these? It is the fashion to say nowadays how wonderful women are. One is reminded of Mrs. Poyser, in George Eliot's famous novel, who said that it was a pity the Lord Almighty had made women mostly fools, but no doubt He did it so they might match the men. That perhaps is going a little too far. But there are quite a number who are born lazy or are very selfish, and there are a certain number of women over 45 who are merely flitting about from boarding house to boarding house and doing all they can to avoid paid employment. These women may be in a minority, but when, we are dealing with a population of 45,000,000 they may amount to considerable numbers. Calling up these women and making them do their job will make it easier for the Minister to deal more leniently, as I think he should, with the genuine house-occupied woman, whatever her age. The woman under 45 is perhaps more likely to have a husband and older children who have not yet gone out into the world, and the Minister ought to permit her to be exempted. I think that in that way he will get very substantial numbers.
I will make a concession to the Opposition by saying that there is a good deal in the point about insufficiently employed civil servants. In spite of what the Financial Secretary said yesterday about the relative numbers of pre-war and present-day employees in Government Departments. I am sure that there are a considerable number of both young women and men in the Civil Service who are insufficiently employed. To sum up: My advice to the Minister is this: Stick to raising the age. Raise it as quickly as possible to the still more fruitful field above 51. Give instructions to the interviewing bodies to deal very leniently with women, whatever their age, who can prove that they are genuinely occupied in necessary household work and are not able to obtain paid assistance. Call up ruthlessly all able-bodied women who cannot show they they are so occupied or occupied in valuable unpaid war service. Where there is a good reason which is likely to be permanent for a woman not taking paid employment and who is yet in the calling-up age, give her deferment for a longer period than the usual three months. There is a lot of unnecessary anxiety among people who have to appear before hardship committees, because when their case for deferment is up they are told they again have to go back in three months. And such frequent interviewing means much unnecessary work for the hardship committees.
There is another class of people the Minister will get by raising the age, and that is the superfluous women in domestic service. I will give an instance. I know personally a lady in a large Victorian house who lives alone and employs four full-time resident servants and a daily "char." She gets away with it because all her five domestics are above registration age. Within a mile there are half-adozen housewives who do their own housework and have to give up valuable unpaid work because they cannot get even one domestic servant. The servants in the other household prefer to stay on where they have always been and to do the light work of cleaning silver and polishing unnecessary furniture rather than to go into harder jobs. If they were dislodged from their present employment on the ground that they were superfluous, they could choose between factory work or domestic service of a necessary kind.
I want to say a word on a point that has not been dealt with—the employment of aliens. The Minister gave a reply yesterday showing an improved position with regard to the employment of aliens in this country. He said that the number who now remain unemployed was negligible, and that the great majority of the aliens in this country are anxious to play their part in the war effort. Neverthless, I think a certain number of aliens in the country are being wasted. Men and women with high degrees of skill are being employed in jobs that are not worthy of them. My main point, however, does not really concern the Minister of Labour, but if he could use his influence with the Home Secretary he would be able to lay his hands on if not a vast number at any rate a valuable body of workers, namely, refugees unable to secure permission to enter this country. At present these men and women are in danger of their lives where they are living and are longing to rejoin their families here, but they are kept out of this country by the cruelly rigid regulatiops of the Home Secretary regarding visas. If the country really understood how cruel some of the cases are pretty strong feeling would be aroused. Is it really sensible that the only chance any alien has of getting into this country is to prove that he is wanted by the Armed Forces of ourselves or our Allies, or is the wife or parent or child of a person so wanted? The people excluded, who have no chance of getting a visa, include highly skilled engineers, chemists, agricultural workers, secretarial workers, business men who have been doing valuable work in their own countries. They are not available for the Armed Forces, because they are slightly too old, not because they would not be willing to serve. If we could relax our regulations in this respect we could lay our hands on a few thousands of really valuable workers; we should be doing a great service to humanity, and we should be better able to ask other countries to show more generosity in their treatment of refugees.
I did not intend to intervene in this Debate to-day, because I thought the case against the calling-up of women of 46 to 51 was put so well yesterday. I sat through the whole of the Debate and heard only one speech against the Motion which had been put down by my hon. Friend and myself and other Members. But the intervention of the hon. Member for Stoke (Mr. Ellis Smith) compels me to reply, because in the concluding passages of a very good speech he found it necessary to make an attack on my hon. Friends and myself. He said that 83 of us had signed the Motion. Actually almost 200 have signed the Motion against the calling-up of these women. As he so signally failed to understand our case, I intend to put it as I see it. Ever since the war broke out, and in fact before, demands have been made for labour, for ships, guns, muni- tions, and everything that we required for total war, and the nation has met those demands, as the nation will meet any further demands so long as they are necessary, but my hon. Friends and I feel that we ought to call a halt and draw the attention of the Minister to the undoubted fact, which has come out in almost every speech, that so many people who have already been called up are not being fully employed. That is not so in the Fighting Services alone or in the Civil Service or the municipal service. That is the state of affairs which we find throughout the whole Government machine.
I dare say that is so. A few weeks ago I visited a small firm of chemical manufacturers in Acton employing 200 or 300 workers. I found there representatives from four firms of chartered accountants, eminent firms, among the greatest in the land, whose certificates any business man would be pleased to take. Three of those firms were making costs investigations—at a time when we have 100 per cent. Excess Profits Tax, Income Tax at 10s. in the pound, and Surtax. These cost investigations were being carried out by staffs from three different firms sent from offices in London, Birmingham or Glasgow to these works to harass and disturb a heavily overworked staff. I say that is a waste of labour which the country cannot afford, and a waste of money, and the sooner the Minister of Labour investigates that aspect of the matter the better it will be for the country. We have heard a good deal about the Services. Let me give one or two examples within my own limited experience.
It certainly will be sent to them and to the Secretary of each of the Government Departments concerned. I was in London a few nights ago, staying away from home, and when I opened my bedroom door in the morning to bring in my shoes I found a full-sized guardsman cleaning the buttons of a junior officer's tunic. I had just come from a home where there are no domestics and where they have been doing their own cooking and dish-washing for a long time. That is happening all up and down the country in almost every home, and yet I saw what I have described. It was not a pleasant sight, and I reported it to the Secretary of State for War—it was a little over three weeks ago—and I have not yet received his reply.
On another occasion I was on a golf course at Troon and saw a naval rating carrying a port commander's Clubs, and the same man had been driving the admiral back for lunch every day. Is not that a waste of labour? Does the Minister of Labour investigate these cases? In the same place I discovered a hotel one floor of which was reserved for junior Army officers. Those young men, or many of them, had been having breakfast in bed. To enable this service to go on, as the hotel could no longer provide it, batmen were brought every morning from a village a mile and a half away by motor car, using petrol and tyres. Is not that a waste of labour? These things are going on all over the country.
What I have described are instances which have come within my own limited experience. I reported them and I got the usual answer—that the matter had been investigated, that it was deeply regretted and should not occur again, in that unit. But that is not good enough, because this great organisation that has been taking men and women of all ages from their homes has a greater duty to do than merely to call them up, especially at this stage of the war. The hon. Member for Stoke said with truth that conditions are changing, and so they are. We never could afford such a waste of labour and we certainly cannot afford it now. Inquiries made into industry and commerce not directly engaged on war work will reveal all over the country businesses with a few harassed, overworked individuals attempting to carry on. That is the result of the severe call-up. I think the country is over called-up. The effects of persisting in this call-up of women who have reached a delicate stage of life have been made apparent by many speakers, not least by the hon. Member for Southampton (Dr. R. Thomas) in his powerful speech a short time ago. These women are doing the residue of all the domestic work for all the other women who have been called up during the last three years. Who has taken over their duties in the home? These older women, of course, the aunt Janes, have come to the rescue. The case cited by the hon. Member for the Combined English Universities (Miss Rathbone) of one lonely, miserable woman who sits with five servants surrounding her must be an extreme case. I could hardly credit it, it is so much the reverse of what we find in the country.
By the calling-up of those women who are doing the domestic work of the country and doing it so well and uncomplainingly we are not going to assist the war effort, we are not going to increase production but to interfere with production. We shall make the sons and the husbands in the factories and the forces most dissatisfied and most unhappy. I hope the Parliamentary Secretary will take great heed of the speeches delivered yesterday and that he will drop this proposal and endeavour to get the people needed from the Departments and other walks of life in which there is so much waste labour.
Let me give hon. Members an example of one case that comes to my mind. They will recall the time when the introduction of fuel rationing was on the carpet. At the moment when fuel rationing was to come in we heard how 10,000 young women were to fall "out of the blue"—from the Ministry of Food actually—to fill places on the huge staff required to administer fuel rationing. Those 10,000 young women happened to become idle at the same moment as the nation's need for coal had become so great that fuel rationing had to be brought in. Does not that strike hon. Members as an amazing state of affairs, that this army of young women should be available for that work? Was it not an unusual coincidence that the work of national importance which those young women were engaged upon should have dried up at that very moment and left them free for this new work? I have been 40 years in business, and have as much experience of it as most men in this House, and I have never known anything like it. What has happened to the 10,000?
If that number were divided up among all the food offices in the towns and villages throughout the country, it would mean less than half-a-dozen taken away per town or village.
If that is so, I still think it is a most extraordinary state of affairs that 10,000 young women should have been available. A few days ago I was talking to a friend of mine who is in the Ministry of Information. He told me, "We have 1,000 young women in this building, and none of us knows what they do. We see them running up and down in the lifts with tea in the morning and afternoon and see them powdering their noses, but no Pressman in this building could tell you what those women do." I accept that statement because my informant is a man to whose opinion I would pay a great deal of attention. I wonder whether hon. Members in visiting the various Departments have noticed the debating societies carried on in the messengers' rooms and the number of men smoking pipes. If you are calling at a commercial building anywhere and you have to go up to room 484 on the fourth floor, you find your way up there under your own power and without guidance, but if you go to one of these Government Departments someone has to take you to the room and bring you back. I do not think we can afford such things in wartime. They seem entirely wrong.
I wonder, again, whether hon. Members have looked into the operations of N.A.A.F.I. In my own constituency we have a first-class Forces Club, manned mainly by women of 40 to 50, who are also doing the work of getting their children off to school every day and their husbands off to work. They staff this club according to a duty roster covering seven days a week. But that is not enough. The War Office has to come down and put in a N.A.A.F.I. Institute. I take second place to no one in my desire for Army welfare, but if ever there was a waste of effort you will find it at Tooting Bec Common in my constituency.
Certainly they are in competition, but that is not the chief point, which is the waste of man-power and woman-power. Again, although there are plenty of ordinary shops selling cigarettes which are available for soldiers and others, a mobile van from the Y.M.C.A. had to come down every day to sell cigarettes to them. When I complained about it the visits of the van were brought down to two days a week, but even so it means a waste of tyres and petrol and labour for a van to come to sell cigarettes in a London suburb where there is no shortage and no difficulty in getting them. I say that the Minister of Labour must address himself to this problem of the waste of labour. We are getting to the end of our resources. In the Sunday night broadcast on the Four Year Plan which the Prime Minister made he referred to the Minister of Labour. The only Minister in that galaxy of talent singled out for notice by the Prime Minister was the Minister of Labour. He is the man who has brought into existence all the vast Armies. I think he has done his job magnificently. He has done well. The fault lies in other directions, in the Service Departments and Civil Departments. That is my experience, which is limited, but I am telling hon. Members things within my actual experience.
I say that it has got to come to a stop, and if the Minister is not able to do it, he must get Cabinet direction. There are plenty of Members, sitting on back benches, who will gladly assist him. Are there not many camps and Government Departments that any Member feels he could go through and clean up 10 per cent. in the first week? Of course he could. We have a great deal of sympathy with workpeople and with the plea made by the hon. Member for Stoke for a better understanding in regard to strikes and labour troubles. We realise that people have worked magnificently and have put up with black-out and transport difficulties, shortage of food, etc. We feel that before the Government take any more people at all they must make this investigation. I hope that hon. Members opposite will now have a different picture of the Motives actuating my hon. Friends on these benches. We represent a great national party. We represent no class point.of view whatever. As has already been said, this matter affects the cottager equally with the man in the castle. It is the whole people who are affected, and the Government have no right to take this penultimate reservoir of labour away from the homes in this drastic fashion without taking every other possible means to find the labour where it lies in those overstaffed services and Departments.
I am sorry that the Parliamentary Secretary is not at the moment in his place. He made great play with the gentle steps that will be taken in interviewing and calling up these women. A case happened a day or two ago to a woman of 44. She will be 45 in a month or two's time. She is the wife of an old friend of mine who carries on a very large business in the fishing industry. He is adviser on fish to the Government, and he gives hours of service every week to those who administer that Department. The family live in a house in South London. Before the war they had four indoor maids and two gardeners. They have four of a family. One boy is now a flight-lieutenant in the Royal Air Force and another is a lieutenant in the Royal Marines. One girl of 19 is at University College Hospital training to be a nurse, and the younger girl is at school. The indoor staff have gone to the factories or services. The only gardener left is a man of 65, while an occasional tubercular daily help comes when she is able. The woman has kept the house going, washing dishes, entertaining soldier friends of her sons and keeping open house in every possible way, as well as looking after the husband, who is giving such valuable services to the State. She has been called up. She has been told that she has to go to war work. I think that is wrong, and I do not think that the flight-lieutenant will feel very happy about his mother, who has undergone two major operations in the last 10 years. A chit of a girl told her most rudely that she must go, but I am going to use all my endeavours on this lady's behalf. If the nation needed her labour, there is nothing I and my hon. Friends would not do, but we are a long way yet from the stage of having to call up these women. It will be a crime, in my view, if we do it before we have rooted out and combed out the wastage which now exists.
Mr. Austin Hopkinso:
So far, this two-day Debate seems to have been almost entirely confined to the question of the call-up of a certain class of woman. In view of the strong feeling in the country, such an expenditure of our time is justifiable, but it might be to the advantage of the country and the House if we now take a rather wider outlook on the subject before us. The last speaker has presented what I am afraid is a somewhat contradictory argument. He said that the fault was that of the Forces and the responsibility that of the Minister of Labour. I do not think he meant to put it in that way, but that was the effect of the argument which he put before us. I want to put it before the House that the fault is that of the Minister of Labour, and the responsibility is that of the Minister himself, for the wastage of labour not in the Army, Navy and Air Force, but where it is far greater —in the munition works of this country. This waste is the definite creation of the policy of the Minister and of no one else.
Let me recall the history of labour on munitions during the current war. Everybody who is concerned with labour, as I am, knows that during the first period of the war, the quiescent period, the efficiency of labour in the munition works was, very poor indeed. There was no enthusiasm at all, and, on the whole, less work was done in the working day than in the period before the war, though the difference was not very great. A series of disasters occurred, beginning in Norway, and at once, throughout the length and breadth of the land, labour began to put its back into the job. The change was very marked all over the place. Suddenly, people woke up and realised that their own country and everything they held dear were in real danger. It was perfectly marvellous to see the enthusiasm with which they buckled to and got to work.
Mark what happened then. There was a change in Government, and a new Labour Minister was appointed in the place of a Minister who had done his work better than any other Labour Minister we had had. A new Minister was appointed who knows precious little about work. [Interruption.] I can assure the House that I am not mistaken when I say that he knows very little about work. If he had known anything about work he would have known that it was preposterous and ridiculous to expect men to work the long hours which he laid down. In the engineering trade we all knew how long to work in order to get the maximum production for any class of man in any district in the country, but the hours which he imposed upon us were so ridiculous that they broke the spirit of our men, and they have never recovered from it. That was the first mistake that was made.
Then the whole discipline of industry was, seemingly deliberately, destroyed. I say that advisedly. It was done by the Essential Work Order. There is one sanction alone by which the discipline of industry can be maintained and that is the right of dismissal. What is the present position? Let me take an example from the collieries. It has occurred within the last two weeks. A young fellow was charged with having used violence in the pit. I do not know the circumstances. All I say is that he was charged before a court, convicted and fined ten shillings. This conviction was resented by his fellow haulage hands, who came out, and the pit was laid idle.
The fact is that this lad was brought before a court and that in the opinion of the court he was guilty of violence in the pit and was fined the trivial sum of ten shillings. The other haulage hands came out and stopped the pit. What would have happened if there had been no Essential Work Order? That boy would have been sacked, and not a word would have been said about it. But instead of that sanction of the fear of dismissal, which has worked admirably for the last 150 years, the criminal law has to be introduced now on every occasion, no matter how trifling the offence, before any sort of discipline can be introduced into a pit. That is one of the main points causing unrest in the coalfields. There is probably no man in this House who has worked in so many pits in this country as I have.
I am saying nothing of the sort. But I say there is now no sanction of any sort to maintain discipline in the pit except the criminal law, which has to be invoked whatever the offence is and that in the old days the possibility of dismissal was sufficient, in 99 cases out of 100, to maintain discipline. I ask hon. Members to give their attention and sympathy to this point, which explains the root of the present trouble in the collieries. There is no means of maintaining discipline and safety in the pit except by invoking the criminal law. I do not think hon. Members or the public have understood that, and I doubt whether the Minister of Labour has understood it. It is impossible to conduct pit work under those conditions.
On a point of Order. I feel that the hon. Member is taking an undue advantage of this House. We were asked to keep clear entirely of mining questions until we came back, but he is not doing so.
I do not think that that is really a point of Order. This is a very wide Debate. It is understood that it should be on questions on labour, but that does not necessarily bind hon. Members or restrict them in this matter.
In thanking you, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, for that Ruling, I would suggest that I am entitled to devote the whole of my remarks to anything whatsoever, to labour, or to anything else on God's earth on a Motion for the Adjournment. That is the position. I was referring to what happened in the collieries in peace time when there was no Essential Works Order. If there were a stoppage in the pit then which constituted a breach of contract, it was the rarest thing in the world for complaints to be made to the court in the case of a stoppage of that kind.
For generations in the coalfields of this country there has grown up a technique in the relations between labour, management and capital. Everybody knows that, particularly in the past, colliery owners were a pretty stiff lot of fellows with whom to have to deal. Everyone knows equally well that miners were too. Some districts were worse than others. At the present day I venture to say that owing to the death in recent years of two colliery owners there are very few of the old sort left, and obviously the miners are more reasonable. As I say, a modus vivendi was found long ago. Owners are awkward people, equally miners are too—they respect one another—and the management is a very useful buffer between the two, and the thing works out without undue ill-feeling. Members of this House are apt to think that in the coalmining industry there is bitter feeling between the two sides concerned. I venture to say after an experience extending over 40 years, that there is less ill-feeling in the mining industry than in many others, particularly between the managements and the workers themselves. But look what the Minister of Labour has done by putting the industry under the Essential Work Order. The miner loathes being brought into court, whether he is guilty or not. I respect him for it. I have only been in court once. [Interruption.] It was in connection with the Restoration of Pre-war Practices Act, and I was convicted of the crime of employing disabled soldiers. That is the situation, and I cannot help feeling that we shall never get our coal output anything like what it ought to be, considering the number of men engaged in the pits, until we have got rid of that particular grievance that a man must be made a criminal before any discipline can be imposed on a pit.
We get the same thing, in a lesser degree, in the engineering trade as well. With us it is not so important because. a certain degree of indiscipline does not endanger the lives of our men, as in the pit, and if we get obstreperous people whom we cannot get rid of, then the worst it may mean is a falling-off of output and the rest of the shop being made uncomfortable. In peace-time one of the chief businesses of the management and employers in engineering works is to keep their eyes open to see which men in their employment are making things uncomfortable for the others. There is a small percentage of people in all walks of life who are just rank malicious and wicked, and one such man in a machine shop of 100 can make the whole place miserable in sheer malice. [An HON. MEMBER: "And management too."] I do not think I have contributed much to the malice in industry. Everybody in the place is immensely relieved when these people go, which is the way they have to be dealt with, as the men themselves do not and cannot deal with them on their own. Such a man can upset everyone in the shop, can make their lives miserable and can bring down output. There is now only one way to get rid of him—criminal prosecution; that is all. You have to bring him before a tribunal and prove his misconduct.
It is mere quibbling to say that; it is in essence exactly the same thing. A tribunal decides whether this man has been guilty of some kind of misconduct, and until then he cannot be got rid of.
My point is that you must prove it as you would have to do in a court of law. You have to get men to give the necessary evidence. You have to bring them into the open and they dare not give evidence.
There is no question of calling evidence before these tribunals. The man is represented at the tribunal, and the employer is represented. It is not a question of calling evidence, as is the case in a law court.
The tribunal finds against the man or the employer on evidence just as a court of law does. If the employer says, or his representative says, "This man was sacked for such and such misconduct," and the man says, "No, I am not guilty," the tribunal have to find out what the circumstances were, which is evidence. But that is a side point to the whole issue. The issue is this: Is it possible to conduct any industry, let alone mining, without any sanction of any sort covering the maintenance of the discipline of that industry, because that is what we have been reduced to? I have said first of all how the policy of the Minister himself wrecked the enthusiasm of the munition workers in 1940 by absolutely overwhelming them with ridiculous hours of work, only to break their spirit, so that they have never recovered it since.
The hon. Member for Stoke (Mr. Ellis Smith) in one of his usual speeches, which I have heard repeatedly in the House, gave his account of the noble sacrifices made by the engineers, how they had agreed to work overtime, and so on. Can he inform me now why they are kicking up such a deuce of a fuss because overtime has been stopped? That is one of their biggest grievances in the North of England, that they have been deprived of the opportunity of "sacrificing" themselves any more. Will he tell us what are the sacrifices they have made? Will he tell us any single instance where they have made any agreement of any kind without exacting the uttermost farthing from the country in doing so? I am not referring to individual men; they are as good as any in the country. I am referring to organised labour, which in this matter from the very beginning has been utterly, callously, coldly, selfishly greedy. There has been no sacrifice on the part of the engineering industry such as the hon. Member suggests. I know that a very large number of the men in that trade and the unions concerned resent very much the clotted hyprocrisy of some of the things the hon. Member says in this House.
I am afraid the hon. Member is better off than I am, but if he will hire the hall and do the advertising, I will be glad to come and repeat all I have said.
It is very difficult not to entrench further on the time of the House in trying to conduct a continuous argument in face of continuous interruption. My point is that so far as this House is concerned we have nothing to do with whether management is good or bad, whether capitalists are doing their duty, or whether labour is doing its best, or anything of that kind. We are entirely concerned with the Minister in charge of this particular business, whether he has carried out his duties, not only conscientiously, but also efficiently, and whether the results of his policy have been good or bad I am venturing to submit that the results of his policy right from the very first moment since he was appointed have been disastrous to the labour position throughout this country. Everyone who has to deal with aircraft works knows perfectly well that taking the whole of the workers in that industry in this country there must be at least 200,000 employed persons redundant in that industry, 200,000 men and women who are not employed fully during the hours they spend at the works. No experienced engineer could go into any aircraft or aircraft engine works in the country without seeing that there is a vast number of men and women there for whom there is no real work, but yet they, are still employed there. When it comes to going into the offices of these concerns and one sees the gigantic staffs —enormous staffs beyond anything which any engineer would think it was possible to employ—and are being employed, one understands why it is we have to call up grandmothers and little boys and girls and drag them in chain gangs into these concerns where, when they get there, they will have nothing whatever to do but kick their heels, knit comforts for the troops, make cigarette-lighters for sale outside, or waste their employer's time and the nation's money in some other way.
I feel I have to restrain myself after listening to the hon. Member for Mossley (Mr. Hopkinson). I am sure it must have been plain to the whole of the House that the hon. Member's whole intention was to bring to this somewhat disorganised engineering industry, in which he is such an authority, several constructive suggestions and a great amount of good will calculated to dissolve any disharmony there may be in that industry. May I suggest that if the hon. Member knows with such confidence and with such a wealth of detail where there are these 200,000 redundant workpeople within an industry, he has an obvious duty, not only to this House but to himself, and certainly to the Minister of Labour, to submit to the Minister details of this redundancy.
I am quite certain that that is the proper thing to do. I should have thought, knowing as we all know the love he bears to the Minister of Labour, as demonstrated in this Debate, that this excess of good feeling would have driven him to submit a duplicate to the Minister of Labour. I wish to address myself to the main burden of the hon. Member's argument. It is that the Minister of Labour, I think he said maliciously, had upset the order of industry by removing the sanction of the sack.
I am sure the difference between my paraphrase and the words of the hon. Member are very great. I cannot disagree with the hon. Member in thinking, that there will be some slight degree of indiscipline applicable to some uncertain percentage of industry due to the fact that the sanction of the sack is no longer operating. We all know that, but I want also to suggest that the Minister and this House of which the hon. Gentleman is a very distinguished Member have not removed this blessed sanction of the sack merely to placate organised workers.
I want to suggest—I think the hon. Member knows it but refuses to admit it—that if the right to sack a man on the spot were restored to employers to-day, that would not bring order to industry but greater disorder. The late Chancellor of the Exchequer for four years demonstrated to the House the great advantage financially which flowed from the removal of this much abused sanction. It was an advantage not only to the pockets of every worker but an advantage to the whole financial structure of the country. The hon. Member wants the right to sack a boy who misbehaved in a Nottinghamshire pit. I presume that if he wants the privilege of sacking restored to the employer, he would also restore to the employee the liberty of contract wherever he can get a job. Are there more jobs than labour available now? The whole burden of this Debate has been about the shortage of labour. There are more jobs. If this boy is sacked, he must be allowed to go to another pit.
The hon. Member is in a gallant company of one in this country, because from the very first day of the war organised employers have said that they cannot have a freedom that amounts to anarchy within the industry. If this lad is to be allowed to offer his services in a free market, immediately there will be competition for his service, and if there is competition, there will be not only disorganisation of industry, but there will be that inflation which the Chancellor of the Exchequer deserves every credit for having fought off for four years. It occurs to me that I am a very junior Member of this House and that I have been speaking a little heatedly about this matter, but this is not the first speech from the hon. Member to which I have listened. I must respectfully submit that he speaks here with an irresponsibility which I am sure he would not display in the conduct of his own industrial affairs
However, my object in rising was to ask the Minister of Labour a quite simple question. That question is whether he will not address himself to the possibility of freeing more labour for house building. Yesterday all of us, I am sure, were delighted to hear the Minister say that he was greatly concerned about the effect of the shortage of transport on the health of the people. If it is possible to rate bus crews as high as air engine workers, it is not a sentimental concession, nor is it an attempt to relieve working people of hardship. It is because, if tired and weary workers have not got transport, then production time is being lost. We all know that the most efficient way of using labour is not to cram it into primary industries. If we take away bakers in order to put them into air engine works, there will be a loss of efficiency in industry, because the workers will be starved and there will be a loss in production. That is what actuated the Minister in making his concession about bus conductors. I suggest that exactly the same reasoning applies in relation to the problem of house building, particularly in bombed areas. Indeed, the problem of house building cannot be separated completely from that of trans- port. If people are forced to live 15 and 20 miles away from their work, because there is a scarcity of houses adjacent to their work, then the transport problem is complicated, and in addition a limit is put on the amount of overtime which these people can work.
Moreover, where you have bad overcrowding you produce unhealthy workers. Last week I was talking in my own division to a precision engineer, who is working and must continue to work a 64-hour week. This man, with his wife and five children, has been bombed out and is forced to live in a single room. There are in that room two beds and one bed chair. The engineer is usually given the bed chair, but as one of the children had some glandular complaint he had to give up the bed chair. That man told me that five nights, or such portion of the night as remained to him for sleep, he had had to spend on a hard kitchen chair. How can such a man be expected to go on working a 64-hour week? I can understand that the Minister has difficulties, and I do not pretend that the Minister has not attempted to deal with part of the housing problem. The modified housing programme this year is part of that attempt. I am, however, doubtful whether he has gone far enough. We have been allotted 200 houses in my part of the country, but for that scheme of 200 houses we have one bricklayer. I am not pretending that there is any surplus of building trade labour, but I suggest that the Minister must make up his mind which type of production within the building industry is to be given highest priority. He has a substantial building force available, and I suggest that his concession in regard to the transport problem supports my argument that high priority must be given to house building in districts where there is the greatest overcrowding.
We have heard in this Debate several well reasoned speeches suggesting that there is a questionable use of labour within the Services. The hon. Member for Streatham (Mr. Robertson) made a speech with part of which I find myself in utter disagreement, but he did argue very cogently for the better use of man-power within the Services. I would ask the Minister to consider whether, in places where there are organised building trade units within the Army, their services could not be used in the assembly of prefabricated dwellings. No doubt the Ser- vices will hold up their hands immediately and say these men must not be diverted from their jobs, but the Services, I think, must be made to realise that they have to fit in with the complete pattern of industry in this country. In two other industries that I know they have given valuable service, and when once they get over the initial prejudice I am sure they will give valuable service in this matter. Put shortly, my argument is that the release of man-power in the bombed-out areas for the construction of even temporary dwellings adjacent to places of work will result in a proportionate increase in production within those areas.
I feel that the Minister has carried through a task, greater probably than that which any Minister has ever been asked to face, with conspicuous success. He has faced that task with courage, and his difficulties, I feel, have arisen from the imponderables of war. That is because it is quite impossible for the Services to say exactly what their requirements would be in the matter of supplies, because they cannot know what may be the results of enemy operations. If the right hon. Gentleman were here to-day, he would probably tell us that he has had to make several schemes for calling up man-power in order to meet demands coming upon him from different directions. In connection with the work of the Select Committee on National Expenditure, I have had to visit some of the construction works on aerodromes, or perhaps I should say airfields, as the Prime Minister told us that is the right word now. These airfields provide a very good instance of the difficulties which face the Minister of Labour.
There are a very large number of airfields which have to be constructed in a very short time, because the work is a matter of urgency, and the increasing size of aeroplanes has led to the necessity of increasing the length of the runways. That is a feature which the Minister of Labour could not possibly have foretold. Obviously it must make a vast difference to the Ministry's schemes, because an extra labour force has to be employed to carry out these works. I think the approach made to labour in regard to the war effort has been very unfortunate. It has always been on a filthy lucre basis instead of being on the basis of an appeal to good feelings. Wherever labour has been asked to do an urgent job, it has done that work within the specified period, and done it extremely well. After all, whether a man is dressed in uniform or in plain clothes, he is the same sort of Englishman.
It is the greatest mistake to view the labour force in this country as unpatriotic. It is not, and I think it has been grossly misunderstood in most cases. But if you turn to Ireland—here I am going to say something which may lead Mr. Speaker to call me to Order, so, I will try to say it before he can do so—and find it necessary to bring to this country people from what was part of the British Isles but is now neutral, whose interests are not those of the men among whom they work, and if you employ them on airfields, they are not going to work with the same alacrity and the same spirit as the English or the Scotch. I cannot believe it is right that these workmen from Ireland, who when it rains rush to take shelter and who leave great heaps of rubble on the runways, should be paid at a rate far higher than the pilots who fly these machines. I cannot believe that that is right. These men are necessary for our war effort, and on the airfields I have visited there are quite a number of them. The contractors say that under certain conditions they work all right. It largely depends on the local priest. If you can get the local priest to your way of thinking, it puts these men into a better state of mind. There is so much money going about, and so little to spend it on, that you have to drop the money side in order to get the best effort, and take the men into your confidence. As far as the R.A.F. are concerned, you must have far more works flights.
The Ministry of Labour to-day allows only two men to each airfield. The circumference of an airfield is about ten miles, and certain airfields are of grass. It is essential that they should be kept in order for the safety of the pilots. There you have an example of the misapplication of priority needs. I do not know how it can be put right, but it cannot be right to spend over £1,000,000 on each airfield, and then to allow only two men to look after it. It would be helpful if the Ministry would look into the question of how the labour is allocated.
I turn to the question of factory changeovers. The Minister of Production recently warned us that in our constituencies we were going to have a lot of trouble owing to transitional periods, as a result of the changeover of production. The British workman is a highly-skilled craftsman. I hope that he will never lose that high standard. The great danger of mass production is that you lose pride of workmanship. The United States and Canada are great countries, used to mass production. They are the real exemplars of mass production. Our war effort will be supplied by the successful operation of the Royal Navy enabling convoys to bring across the seas the products of great mass-production factories over there. I look forward to the time when this small Island will hardly hold the tanks and aircraft brought here. What is to be done about maintenance? All these magnificent machines are produced by the skilled mechanics of the United States, who are very good indeed, but there are such things as crashes and major repairs. I believe that we have been over-building in this country in the way of factories. Our factory space may well be in excess of our man-power. It will have to be considered whether factories should not be used for maintenance of these products from overseas. I believe that the British worker, man or woman, is, par excellence, the person to do this maintenance. Our workers can adapt themselves to it; they take an interest in the individual thing.
Will the hon. Gentleman kindly define what he means by an airfield when he says that there are only two persons as a maintenance staff on each airfield? Does he not know that there are maintenance units?
The hon. Gentleman perhaps misunderstood me. I am talking of the personnel employed by the Works and Buildings Section of the Air Ministry, who are responsible for buildings and airfields. I am not talking of the maintenance of aircraft: that is a different question. There are only two people allocated to each airfield for this purpose at present. The human side should be thought of. I regret very much that the Home Secretary was unable to allow a greater let-up on the black-out. I do not think hon. Members appreciate how important it is this winter to encourage workers in every way we can, and to study their health. The black-out is one of the greatest miseries of industrial England. My own belief is that our capacity to defend ourselves from aerial attack is 400 to 500 per cent. better than it was in 1940. I cannot understand why we cannot let up proportionately on the black-out in factories. When you go around the factories at night, especially when the night shift has been working, the atmosphere is vitiated. Women and men come in, and they feel the air sodden and heavy when they start work. I want somebody to weigh in the balance the benefit we should get from more ventilation, a better atmosphere and more output, against the risks of being bombed. If we are bombed, what does it matter, compared with having the output for offensive work? We must not confuse our duty to beat the enemy with our inclination to black ourselves out so that we shall not be hit. We are going over to the offensive, and the best way to do that is to assist the workers in their task.
It is of the greatest importance that the workers should be told more about what they are doing. I go around factories where components are being made, and I ask the girls making them whether they know what the components are for. They say, "No, I do not." The Minister of Labour, together with the employers' organisations and the trade unions, should try to make the work interesting to the individual. There is no difficulty if you are making some component part, even a very small one, about seeing a picture of the finished article, and learning what that article is doing. If you are to succeed in bringing these people along all the time, they must not be able to see idlers going along for ever and without check.
When I travel in buses in London I always keep my eyes open. If you go in a bus that goes near to a greyhound race track, it is astonishing to see the number of young men who get into that bus. I long to be able, like the American policeman, to say, "Who are you?" I am sure that if the Minister of Labour would consult the London bus conductors and conductresses, they could tell him a lot about these people. They have to study the psychology of these people. If you talk to a busman, he will tell you that he cannot understand where these fellows come from. How many hon. Members have walked along Oxford Street in the spring and summer and noticed the fruit barrows? Have they ever seen an old man selling fruit from those barrows? I never have; they are all lusty young men of military age, doing a very big trade. It is very astonishing that the fruit industry seems to be able to be a reserved occupation for a large number of men who ought to be called up before their grandmothers. A friend of mine pointed out to me to-day that not long ago he was walking through this part of London and saw a scaffolding being put up and men going up with sponges and buckets to clean the statues. I myself wondered at the time why it was necessary to do that. None of us is as well dressed as he was, and I do not see why the statues should be cleaned. A number of the clocks in London are not being wound up. There are not enough clocks anyhow, and when you ask the Ministry of Works why they do not wind the clocks, they say there is not enough labour available, but I would rather have a clock going than a statue cleaned. I wonder whether the Minister of Labour might go into that, though it is a small point.
With regard to the question of canteens, there are certain firms which provide their workers with good food and others that do not. Nobody can make even a small part for aircraft if he has stomach-ache; it is impossible. Not enough attention is paid to the importance of catering and to the appointment of inspectors to go round the factories. If you combine bad ventilation due to the black-out with the provision of doughs-nuts and awful stuff for gravy at midnight and the workers have to go back to work until four in the morning, the output during that time will not improve. The people who do the catering should have more credit given to them when their catering is good. I believe there is no system at the Ministry of Labour of inspection of canteens, and nothing is done to give a good canteen manager an outward and visible sign when he has done his job. These managers sometimes wonder whether they are helping the war effort, as they get a lot of grumbles, and no one seems to care.
The other day I met one of the Russians who attended the Trades Union Congress. He could not talk English but had an interpreter. He was very interesting. I asked, "What are your impressions?" and he said, "They are twofold. One is, that I am astonished to see that in this country strikes are allowed at all. They are not allowed in my country at all. Those who start lockouts and strikes are considered as traitors, and Marshal Stalin would liquidate them." I think that if that happened here, there would be a frightful row. Another point was, that the workers in Russia took pride in the fact that they got no more pay than the soldier in the Red Army. That is all right because in Russia industry belongs to the nation, but industry in this country does not belong to the person who owns or runs it. It is a sort of half-way house between the two. I am certain that we do not make sufficient approach to the human side of labour, and we put too much importance on money, which, if set against men's lives, does not matter very much. I am also certain that, if he will really inquire into how labour is used both in the Civil Service and elsewhere, the Minister will find that it is not necessary to call up these ladies.
I want to get away from the general question and touch upon one matter which was referred to by the Minister in his speech yesterday. The particular point does not appear to have been engaging the attention of many Members, yet in my view it is one of the utmost importance. I refer to his reference to man-power as relating to hospitals, with special reference to the Hetherington Committee. For a long time the Minister of Health and the Minister of Labour have been warned of what is likely to happen if there is to be continued depletion of the staffs of hospitals. The result has been that, notwithstanding the applications which have been made to the Minister of Labour to bring the hospitals under the Essential Work Order, nothing has been done and a situation is approaching of the gravest character. The Minister of Labour has always said, in answer to requests made to him that the Essential Work Order should apply, that he cannot do this unless there is an agreement between the hospital authority and the trade unions concerned. There is some validity in that, but in the main hospitals do not have separate agreements. They are not industrial establishments, and they generally resolve that their staffs shall be paid not less than trade union rates, that trade union conditions shall be observed, and that those sections of the staffs that do not come under that heading shall be paid in accordance with the Joint Industrial Council awards. The authorities have done their best, therefore, to secure that the staffs should be protected, and yet the Essential Work Order has not been applied. The Minister of Labour is aware of the great danger which exists as a result of the increase in the incidence of tuberculosis. The Minister of Health has introduced a new scheme by which, as a result of mass radiography, many cases that otherwise would remain hidden would be discovered. The Minister of Health has brought out a scheme to attract people to have treatment. They are going to pay allowances to those who will be willing to leave work to undergo treatment. The position at the present time is that there are wards closed owing to the fact that there are no staffs to man them. A member of the front Opposition Bench has written a letter to the Minister of Labour this week making complaints of the feeding, the type of food and the cooking at a very big sanatorium. Had I known, I could have given him an explanation before he wrote that letter. It is at the Harefield sanatorium where there is a patient and staff population of over 1,400. There is a kitchen staff, one assistant cook and three daily women. How is it possible for them to cook for that establishment? The domestic staff of the ward are in the ratio of two for every 58 patients. How is it possible for the ordinary work of that sanatorium to be conducted?
Their domestic staff is 70 below establishment, and it is a constant headache for the matron to know how to get the work done. In fact it is not done; it is neglected. It may be argued that there is some fear on the part of people about going into tuberculosis establishments, and if one used tuberculosis sanatoria as an illustration, there might be some ground for it, but it is unfair to give one side of the illustration and leave it there, imagining it to be the exception. Unfortunately, it is not. At Hillingdon General Hospital they are 40 under establishment in the domestic department. Now, the Minister has some measure of responsibility in this direction, and I hope he will not wait for the presentation of the Hetherington Committee's Report before he does something. His National Service officers could assist. Also, in addition to domestic staff, clerical staff is required. The Minister himself has said that we are facing a titanic task, and next year we may be faced with enormous casualties. Let us have hospitals to deal with these cases.
The Royal Middlesex Hospital was in need of a shorthand typist who understood medical terms. A shorthand typist who was in the employ of the Essex Insurance Committee was prepared to accept the appointment, was interviewed and was appointed, and the Insurance Committee agreed to release her because, apparently, they were able to do without her services. The local National Service officer was prepared for her to accept the appointment, but the National Service officer attached to the employment exchange nearest the hospital to which she wished to go refused to allow her to take the job. I wrote to the Minister, and he replied:
There is a shortage of shorthand typists and we must have them in the greatest priority classes
One can understand that, but is not hospital work of the greatest priority? If that were the end of the story, it might be said that this particular woman was required for some important work. But what are the facts? After my letter the local employment exchange provided a typist who knew nothing whatever about medical matters or terms. We therefore have the position of a woman who could be dispensed with and who would be of value being refused the right to go to the job and someone who does not know anything about the type of work being allowed to go there. That does not seem like good organisation. There is need for ensuring that by some machinery the needs of hospitals will be safeguarded. Man-power boards should not have the responsibility of dealing with hospital staffs. They are, in the main, engaged in valuing the differences as between industry and industry. Hospitals are very different, and if you had special hospital man-power boards, you might overcome that difficulty. I have had brought to my notice so many of these incidents that obviously this is not exceptional. It is generally true of the country as a whole. I want to see our medical services improved, and they will not be improved unless we have the staff to do the job. At the Clare Hall Sanatorium the pharmacist has had his calling-up papers.
Arrangements have been made for someone else to take on the job, but the Central War Pharmacy Committee have said, "If you do, your reservation will be cancelled." If the man takes the job in the sanatorium, he will be de-reserved and called up. There is need for attention to what is an important aspect of this general man-power question, and I think the Minister might look into these facts.
I think the Minister of Labour can be very well pleased with the general tone and effect of this Debate. It was with widespread concern that the country heard that it was proposed to extend the call-up to women between 46 and 51. But I think one may say, after hearing the speech of the Minister yesterday and the still fuller and more sympathetic speech made by my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary to-day that it has been made quite plain that the Department are fully alive to the anxieties which have been felt and of the fact, which I think has been fully established, that women of those ages are at present bearing a heavy burden and that the vast majority are making the greatest voluntary contribution they can to the war effort. I think the House of Commons, with a certain number of exceptions, has shown itself rather in the spirit of a Council of State willing to support the Minister, in whom it has great confidence, in any demand he makes, provided he can prove conclusively that it is necessary for the purposes of the war. Nevertheless, we have a responsibility to our constituents to bring home to those in administrative responsibility the point of view of the toad under the harrow. I want to urge on my hon. Friend that when the House does agree to an exercise of these powers—[An HON. MEMBER: "No"]—the majority are agreed—they wil be exercised with a deep understanding of the problems involved. When women are called up I am sure it will be only if it can be done without imposing an intolerable burden upon them.
To the speech of the hon. Member for Rugby (Mr. W. Brown), I would invite the Minister's special attention, and I hope we shall have a more satisfactory answer to it than we had from the Financial Secretary yesterday. I understand the constitutional position of the Financial Secretary to the Treasury to be somewhat different from that of most of the other Under-Secretaries. Not only is he Financial Secretary to the Chancellor of the Exchequer, but he has upon him the special responsibility for looking after all staff matters in the various Departments of State.
The hon. Member for Rugby yesterday made certain allegations about waste of man and woman-power in Government Departments. When he makes those charges he speaks with all the knowledge that comes of holding a responsible position in a trade union which includes a, very large number of civil servants. It has been the general view of the Minister of Labour that, in order to obtain the maximum war effort, it is important to call into consultation the trade unions, who are able to draw upon the experience of those who are working in the mines and the factories. I cannot see why the Financial Secretary to the Treasury should not be equally anxious to obtain at any rate the recommendations and opinions of the trade unions which represent the Civil Service. I cannot feel that this is really a responsibility that rests primarily upon the Minister of Labour. It is, I think, the Financial Secretary's responsibility to see to it that Ministers responsible for the Departments obtain the maximum of work out of the minimum number of people, and I feel that the speech of the hon. Member for Rugby requires a much fuller answer than was given by the Financial Secretary. The country is only prepared to make these great sacrifices provided it is satisfied that those who have been called up are being used in the most effective way possible. It is idle to pretend that there is not a widespread suspicion that the same standard is not being exacted in Government Departments as is exacted in private employment.
I pass from the Civil Service to war production, and, while I do not expect a detailed answer to-day on the matter of production, I think it is important for us to be given, in so far as considerations of security allow, some indication as to what branches of war production are now being closed down and which ones are being expanded. I believe that anti-gas clothing and such like things are no longer being manufactured, on the ground that we have now quite adequate supplies. I hope my right hon. Friend will obtain the fullest information from the Minister of Production in order to ensure that the production for the war effort which is now being continued is only devoted to particular articles of war which are going to be the most important for the offensive.
I pass from that to the question of the Armed Forces, and especially the Army. The Prime Minister, with his inimitable originality of phrase, on one occasion said he was going to call upon the Army to comb its tail in order to magnify its teeth. It is probably inevitable, for reasons of security, that this House should never have been given any details as to how far that policy has been put into effect, but certainly during the time that I was serving in the Army it was common talk among many of us that it would be possible to effect very great economies in the use of man-power, and especially of officers. I will give one example of which I had close knowledge. At that time in Anti-Aircraft Command there were 12 divisions and three corps, each with a large staff, under the supreme direction of Anti-Aricraft Command. It was very frequently said in conversation between us staff officers that most of us could be abolished, with immense advantage to ourselves and to the war effort, but at that time the contrary view was orthodox. Not very long afterwards the 12 divisions and the three corps headquarters were abolished and replaced by seven groups roughly coincident with the similar areas of the Royal Air Force. I am disposed to ask whether the same policy might not now be extended to many other parts of the Army in this country. G.H.Q. Home Forces was created when we were anticipating an invasion. I cannot say exactly what the position is at this time, but certainly the staff of G.H.Q. Home Forces grew to a quite inordinate size, and it was frequently said by officers serving in positions where they had the opportunity of knowing what was going on that there was an immense duplication of functions between G.H.Q. Home Forces and the War Office.
Very much the same considerations would seem to apply to geographical commands, districts and sub-districts. Again it was an officer holding a high and responsible position who expressed to me only a short time ago his view that the whole of this ought now to be recon- sidered, in view of changed circumstances. The old geographical commands before the war, and in the early days of the war, were responsible for the training of troops. That responsibility, I understand, has now been taken away from them, and a special organisation has been set up for the purpose of training. The Gale Committee went into this matter some 2½ years ago and made a number of recommendations which were of very considerable value. One of the great troubles about the Army has been the refusal to allow officers holding responsible commands even a very limited financial authority. Perhaps the straw that broke this camel's back and made him decide that he could do better service in the House of Commons than as a staff captain was when it was found that he had to obtain the concurrence of a Commander-in-Chief in order to refund 7s. 6d. to a soldier whose battledress blouse had first been lost and then found. The officer who prepared and investigated the case was a captain of a battery. The statement was then conveyed from the battery to the regiment, from the regiment it went to the brigade, and from the brigade it came up to me. When it reached me it took the wrong turning. It should have gone to the geographical Commander-in-Chief, but I sent it to the Commander-in-Chief Anti-Aircraft Command. Before it went to him it went to the corps, and from the corps it went on to Anti-Aircraft Command. No one noticed the mistake I had made in sending the application along the wrong route, but they noticed that I had failed to specify the day on which the battledress, having been lost and found, was taken back on charge. So it was necessary again for this document to go down all the official channels until finally it was ascertained on what day the battledress blouse was found. When I tell that story, which is perfectly true, it is for the purpose not of amusing the House but of indicating the extent to which man-power and time were then being wasted in the Army and in order to urge that my right hon. Friend, who is responsible for man-power, should see that such matters are decentralised and the procedure of the Army improved so that there is no waste of man-power.
The hon. Gentleman the Member for Stoke (Mr. Ellis Smith) quoted from the speech of the Prime Minister, who emphasised that owing to the activities of Bomber Command the German air force is now being driven increasingly on to the defensive. Therefore, it could reasonably be anticipated that there was not likely to be a recrudescence of air raids upon this country on the old scale. I want to urge that as a matter of policy the Government should be willing to accept a lower standard of anti-aircraft defence. This is not a matter in which the soldiers are to blame. If they are required to provide a certain standard of defence, obviously they have to have the men and the guns to do it. The decision has to be taken at the political level where a Minister can be held responsible to this House if he says, "I am prepared to face the unpopularity if something goes wrong and there is a large-scale attack on a town where there are no guns and searchlights." I urge that the time has now come when we must be prepared to take these risks and transfer increasingly men from the anti-aircraft defences of this country to the field forces. There should also be a further drastic cutting-down of the man and womanpower which is used for Civil Defence.
Yes. As a matter of policy I would say that the time has come when we must be prepared to take certain risks in our defences in order to devote ourselves increasingly to the offensive.
I am a little surprised that no reference has been made by hon. Gentlemen opposite to the question of labour in the coal-mining industry. There was one matter which caused some concern to my hon. Friends and me. That was the feeling we had that a certain class in the community was being singled out for direction into the mines. I have read with close care and attention the statement that my right hon. Friend made yesterday. I feel that he has entirely corrected any unfortunate impression that there may have been, because he has given an undertaking that the directing of young men into the coal-mining industry shall be upon the broadest basis, with no distinction of classes.
I want to express my regret that in a Debate of this kind, which has on the whole shown the House of Commons at its best and most united, and which I hope will go a long way to convincing the country that both the House and the Gov- ernment are approaching this difficult problem of the call-up of women with a real anxiety to avoid any undue hardship, the hon. Member for Stoke should have attributed to hon. Members who have opposed this call-up motives which should not have been attributed to them. It is not the first occasion when the hon. Member has, finding himself disagreeing with the actions of Conservative Members, criticised them for exercising their Parliamentary duties. On the first occasion they had protested against the way delegated legislation is passed without the House having an adequate opportunity of considering it, and he criticised them. Now he has attributed bad motives to them because they desire to oppose the calling-up of these women. I did not sign the Motion on this subject, and I do not think I signed the other one. I am justified, therefore, in saying that those hon. Gentlemen who did so were exercising their duty as Members of the House of Commons to defend the liberties of the individual. I think that on further reflection the hon. Member for Stoke will regret that he attributed dishonourable or class motives to them in Parliamentary actions which they took.
I wish to stick to the position that has been taken up by my colleagues on the issue that has been debated. The hon. Member for the High Peak (Mr. Molson) referred to the unanimity in the House as revealed in the Debate. My colleagues and I have often found ourselves out of step, more especially during these years of war, with the majority of the Members in the House. On this occasion, however, I think that we are in step with the majority and that the Government are out of step. The Minister of Labour tried to make his case, but I do not think he was very successful. Throughout the Debate various Members have appeared to me to set up what was practically an unassailable case for a change of policy on the part of the Cabinet with regard to the conscription of the older women. The Financial Secretary to the Treasury intervened in the Debate, presumably to answer the speech of the hon. Member for Rugby (Mr. W. Brown). He did what has become more common in recent years on the part of Ministers. He stood at the Box, put down notes and read a brief which quite evidently had been prepared for him beforehand by civil servants and which had no relevance what- ever to the Debate. He gave us figures showing the percentage of increased personnel in the various Government Departments.
The hon. Member for Rugby, however, had put forward specific cases where there could be big savings of labour and also a method which could be applied generally throughout the Civil Service which would make it unnecessary, in his opinion, for the State to call upon the services of the grannies. I think that case ought to be met. The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Labour came along blithely to try to answer points which had been made by other hon. Members. He evidently disclaimed responsibility for dealing with the point which had been so inadequately met by his colleague from the Treasury. He is in a difficult position if the Government are not able to give a better answer than has been given so far to the points made by hon. Members. The hon. Member who preceded me has not been in the House of Commons as long as I have. If he had been, perhaps he would not have been so satisfied as he seems to be with the promises and assurances he received from the Parliamentary Secretary of how generously and sympathetically the Ministry would administer the new Regulations for the calling-up of these older women.
I am only saying that if my hon. Friend had been here as long as I have and had had as much experience of various kindly Ministers of Labour, and other Ministers, he would not be so willing to accept their assurances unless those assurances were given definite statutory form.
I have sat under many Ministers of Labour of different parties and they all run very much to type. They are all profuse in promises of a kindly and sympathetic administration, but my constituents have generally found that the treatment they got was much the same from all of them. I will give an instance of what happens which may serve to bring some misgivings to the hon. Mem- ber. When it was announced that conscription was to be applied to women, assurances were given that nothing would be done which would give any real cause of complaint to anybody. The Parliamentary Secretary told us that if women had important household duties of course they would not be called up, not even for an interview. I have one case here. It concerns a young woman. Her mother died and when she left school she had the job of looking after the home, acting as housekeeper. She is doing so at the present time. Her father is engaged on work for the country and a married sister, whose husband is a prisoner of war, lives with them and works at munitions. A young sister and a young brother are in the Forces. This girl is the housekeeper, having those important household duties to do, and yet she is told that she must go down to work in England. She has offered, if she is allowed to continue her household duties in order to keep the home together, to do some work of national importance locally, but that is not good enough for this generous, kindly, sympathetic administration.
I took up the matter with the Government Department concerned. The girl had said that if she is sent away the home would be broken up, and the Department says that it would appear that this statement is not true, because it is considered that the remaining members of the family—that is, the father and the unmarried sister, who are both on munitions—would be able to run the home with the help of a sister who lives next door. Always there is this attempt to bring in another household. Anybody will know that that sister next door has her own house to look after.
The case which hon. Members have made is that if the need for additional personnel is so great they would be prepared to agree to it in spite of all the hardship it might cause in the home, but they want to be assured that better use is made of the personnel already available. I will give an instance bearing on that. We in Scotland have been very much worried about young girls being taken from Scotland and sent down to work in the Midlands. I have here the report of a case of a Glasgow girl of 21 who was prosecuted at Glasgow on 12th July for returning from a job to which she had been directed in England. The "Scots Independent" report says:
Trained as a machine operator Miss Campbell was sent to Manchester, to the Fairey Aviation Company, with five other Scots girls. When they reported at the Fairey works they found there was only one job available. A ballot was to be drawn to decide which girl got the job. One paper fell to the floor and the official arbitrarily decided that this would be the lucky girl. It contained Miss Campbell's name. She refused to take the job and so did the others. The only accommodation they could get for the night was in the Ministry of Labour hostel, where they were charged 3s. and lay on bare boards with an Army blanket. Next morning the girls returned to Glasgow at their own expense. Miss Campbell's solicitor said the evidence showed that the girls had been treated as animals. The sheriff agreed and, finding Miss Campbell technically guilty, dismissed her with an admonition.
I mention this case to show one of the reasons why we in the West of Scotland have had so much trouble, but the real point I want to bring out is that the Ministry of Labour, through or along with the Ministry of Aircraft Production, said there were five girls needed for this work. Really there was only one needed because there was only one job. The Ministry said there were five jobs and so the girls were taken there.
The Ministry of Labour has to persuade the House of Commons that those additional people are required and cannot be obtained otherwise than by the conscription of the grannies of the country. I do not use that word with any disrespect. I am sure that any woman who becomes a grannie is all the more entitled to the respect of her fellow citizens and friends, because "Grannie" is a title of honour and not of disrespect. That is the case the Government had to meet, but they have not met the case, and my colleagues and I are definite that we intend to divide the House on this issue. Perhaps it is unfortunate that the question comes before us upon the technical Motion for the Adjournment, but I suggest to those who have put a Motion on the Paper that they should not let that fact be a hindrance to their pressing this matter to a Division. If they decide to take a Division, we shall be pleased to support them in the Lobby. I say to those who have pressed this matter strongly that I hope they will go into the Division Lobby. The hon. Member for South Croydon (Sir H. Williams) pointed out that he and his Friends took a different view from ourselves about the war and that he would not be prepared to support us in a Division because it might be supposed to carry with it that he agreed with us in our general attitude towards the war. That position can be easily solved by the hon. Member and his friends being responsible for the Division. I think that the House should have the opportunity of conveying to the Government in the Division Lobbies an instruction that the personnel already obtained must be utilised better before these other classes are called upon.
I hope that the House will bear with me for a minute more, because I want to say a word about the young people. If one can become indignant that women at the later period in their lives should be called up in present circumstances, there should be greater indignation with regard to the taking of boys of 16 and 17. In any case they will be taken at 18 under conscription, and in present circumstances they should be left until that age and until the wastage of personnel going on at the present time is brought to an end. They will be able to have the advantage of education during those years of adolescence, 16 and 17. I appeal to hon. Members to make sure that the Government are not allowed to continue this policy, which may be fatal for the future of this country. So much depends on the young people during those years and in this period of crisis, when the demand for labour is so great. Far better ways than taking away these young people can surely be devised.
I hope that the Government, before the Debate closes, will show us that there is no need for any of us to go into the Division Lobbies. I suggest to the Parliamentary Secretary, who is looking after this question, that he consult his chief before we come to the hour at which we must terminate our discussion, that he should communicate to him that in the opinion of the House he should give us an assurance that nothing further will be done in this matter and that, in view of the overwhelming opinion of Members of Parliament, the Cabinet should be asked to reconsider their decision so that the country will not be committed to this policy of conscription for the grannies and the grandsons.
The War Cabinet, and only the War Cabinet, can know the facts and the circumstances of the policies to which the intake of national labour must be related. That, I think, is not challenged. This House will sustain the Government in any necessary measure and in any proposal to take additional personnel to make a complete mobilisation of the country, for the Government again, must be the judge. The real issue in the Debate is not whether the Government should call up the older women now, not whether women of 50 or 53 should be excused from taking their place in the war effort, but whether the circumstances justify, in the present state of the national use of labour, the calling-up of those people now. We all know the difficulties that will be entailed, the exemptions that will have to be made, and the hardships that will be involved. In the words of my hon. Friend the Member for Kidderminster (Sir J. Wardla-Milne), what are the Government going to get, and will it be worth it? The Government have made no case to justify what the value will be, or the anxiety, trouble and sacrifice that this will cause.
May I point out one or two other matters? If every other available reservoir of labour had been tapped, there could be no question against calling up everybody who could be called up, but has every other available reservoir been tapped? In my view, I say frankly that no answer has been made to the case put up yesterday by the hon. Member for Rugby (Mr. W. Brown), and no attempt was made by the Financial Secretary to the Treasury, in his very carefully prepared speech, to deal with the issues that the hon. Gentleman raised.
May I put forward one or two propositions? We think there is a lot of "dead labour" in the Services and in Government employ, and a lot of effort is there available. Some of us who object on the face of it to the older women being called up while the present position exists believe that this might well be combed out. There are lots of people, men and women, in uniform as well as out, wasting their time and not being called-up for any national effort at all. I venture to think that one of the first things the Minister should do is to appoint, in conjunction with the Service Departments, inspectors of manpower to see how the personnel is being used in these different directions. I have repeatedly urged this. We have to remember that to-day the Minister of Labour, unlike the position in the last war, is the one recruiting agency, and once a person is called up and put into one of the Services, the Minister of Labour says, "Now that the man is in the Army, the Navy, or the Air Force I have nothing more to do with him. I wash my hands of the whole thing." The Parliamentary Secretary said that he was prepared to consider any proposal, and I readily acknowledge the promptness and courtesy of the answer he always gives to cases which are put to him. I do not always agree with the decision, but he does give it carefully and with reasonable speed. But it is no use his saying, "This is a sad case, but the man is in the Army, and I have nothing to do with him." The hon. Member for Kidderminster said the Minister was doing magnificently a great work, but as it is he is doing it somewhat too narrowly. He should be more in co-ordination with the Service Departments. There should be far more co-ordination. Somebody must be responsible, and it should be the Minister of Labour who should see that the person who is taken is reasonably and efficiently utilised.
What does the hon. and gallant Member think are likely to be the relations between the Minister of Labour and the Secretaries of State of the three Service Departments if the Minister is to be authorised to interfere with them in the work they are doing? Surely it is not a matter for which the Minister of Labour but the War Cabinet should be responsible?
I am not suggesting that the Minister should interfere. I am suggesting that he should be in a position to know what is happening to the man or woman after recruitment and how he is being used once he is taken. I think with more co-ordination this would be done. The very swollen staffs in temporary Government service should at once be examined and combed.
Has not the time come when throughout the country all regional offices could be overhauled? Wherever a Regional Commissioner has been placed innumerable Government Departments have been set up, with swollen staffs, to do something in preparation for contingencies which might not now arise. I suggest that the time has now arrived when the whole system of Regional Commissioners could be overhauled. Happily the reason for which they were established is very differ- ent from the position to-day. I think that local government should be left to itself and that a good deal of material could be found by the Minister of Labour if he would only co-ordinate with other members of the Government to try to get rid of a good deal of this mushroom Civil Service in the country. When some of us talk of the Civil Service being swollen we are not referring to the established civil servant, who is an essential part of the war effort or peace-time government, but to people who have come temporarily, in 'war-time, into these various Departments. Thousands of them are now there and taken away from the attention of the Minister of Labour. My anxiety is that the Minister should be able to turn his attention to them and see whether it is really necessary for these swollen staffs to exist as they do now at a time when the grandmothers are under review for immediate call up.
Will the Minister of Labour also overhaul the interview arrangements that exist throughout the country? There is no doubt that, broadly speaking, they have had a difficult work to do. They have had many thousands of people to interview. On the whole they have done their work well. But there are complaints of which we all have heard. The time has arrived to ask what steps are taken to see that the right people are put there. How and by whom are the interviewers appointed? Is it merely a question of some clerk in the Ministry of Labour being sent, without regard to her qualifications to interview these people? If you are going to have the system that exists now to deal with these older women, it seems that there will be confusion worse confounded. It was, I think, the hon. Member for West Walthamstow (Mr. McEntee) who said it would be a mighty good thing to turn the interviewers into the women who are to be called up and let some of the older women do their work. I hope the Minister will do what he can to see that the right type of staff is put on to this job and to see that they have instructions on the lines on which this House expects them to work.
Obviously the Minister and the Parliamentary Secretary cannot interview all these women clerks themselves, but I hope the Minister will take some steps with his establishment officers to see that it is made clear that the House does not like the idea of young girls interviewing these older women, girls who pay no regard at all to the duties and responsibilities of the housewife. The duties and responsibilities of the housewife should be recognised as real and substantial in to-day's war effort. I regret very much that it has been found necessary by the Government to ask for the call-up of the older women. I think a great deal more could be done to call up the reservoir of man- and woman-power that exists before any attempt is made to call up the older women. I put my name unhesitatingly to the Motion on the Order Paper, because I believe that although there should be total mobilisation in the war, yet before it is necessary to take women of between 45 and 50, people of doubtful value from the utility point of view, there should be a most drastic comb-out of young people who are at present under the cloak of reservation.
Two things have impressed me very much in this Debate. One is that this Debate has been well worth while. The other is that the speeches which those of us who have had the privilege and pleasure of listening to in this House yesterday and to-day have been, all of us must agree, of the highest order and the greatest knowledge, and of the greatest benefit to this Debate. If my speech does not rise to the occasion with the same efficiency, I leave that to the judgment of my fellow Members who are listening to me. Both the Ministerial speeches will have attracted the greatest interest throughout the country. They will focus interest on this growing problem, the question of man-power, and will bring to our people in the country the seriousness of the situation that faces us.
I may be forgiven if I refer to one or two speeches made by hon. Members yesterday. I would refer first of all to that of the hon. Member for South Croydon (Sir H. Williams). Yesterday he based his case on the destruction that will take place in the home life of the working-class men and women of this country. That is a statement from a gentleman of a party which was in control of the public assistance committee in the London area from 1933–34. He now displays a sudden interest and concern in the welfare of the people of the class to which I belong. During those three years we had in the East End of London retired colonels and captains and honourable ladies who were sent down to administer relief, and one of their main objects was to drive our women out to work whenever they possibly could. Now at a time like this hon. Members opposite display concern for the welfare of our women.
The next speech to which I would refer is that of one of my colleagues. It may be that the feelings of a large number of our women for whom she claims to speak are whole-heartedly in favour of the Minister's Order, but it is no use denying that when the Order was first put out there were growing discontent and alarming disquiet among our women. They were complaining wherever they were lined up in queues, but I think that the real cause of the complaints of a number of women who were expecting to be brought under the Order was that they thought they would have to go to the employment exchange and be put through the process some of their daughters had had to go through. That was what was troubling them. It may be that to-day they have got over that fear of how they would be treated. I ask the Minister as gently and quietly as I can to give very special attention to this matter, so that when these women have to come up for interview they will be interviewed by those who are well equipped to deal with them. We do not want it said to them, as was said to some of our young girls, "You realise there is a war on, and you will go where we send you." We do not want that kind of thing said, and I trust it is not going to be said.
I want to refer briefly also to what is troubling a large number of Members of this House. There are many of us who do not believe that the whole available resources of our man-power are being properly used. Perhaps I might be allowed to give briefly some instances of what is occurring throughout the country. Recently a young lady who lives opposite me in Poplar thought she was not pulling her weight in the war effort. She had been taught a trade. She was a solderer, but she was working in a cigarette factory. As that did not come under the Essential Work Order, she turned the job in and went to the Poplar employment exchange and asked if she could be given a job at her trade. This young woman was sent by the Poplar exchange officials to work as a solderer for Sanders Bros., in Thames Road, Poplar. I understand that they are doing essential war work in packing biscuits for our Forces. Three days after she started on that job to which she was sent by the Poplar exchange she received another order from the National Service officer to go to work in a factory just outside the East End of London. There is a young woman whom I know very well who works at the same factory, who is dying to get on war work and is as anxious as any woman could be to do war work, but she cannot get her release from the National Service officer. These are anomalies which can be remedied if there are the will and the desire to do it. If somebody in control would go round to the exchanges and see that this kind of thing does not happen, we should get over many of our difficulties.
There is another thing which is common knowledge and 0which Members of this House can see for themselves every day. You have only to walk 400 or 500 yards up the street and you will see strapping men—young men, many of them—pushing barrows of apples. Do you mean to tell me that cannot be altered? There must be a reason. They pay no rates, and many of them have never paid Income Tax in their lives, but they can get away with it. It may be that they are not registered, but that should be found out. I believe that in some Departments the war effort is being waged in a quiet manner as though the war was going on for another five or 10 years. If hon. Members take their minds back to the last war, they will remember we had rounds up every day in the week. How often do they take place now? Once now and again you read of inspections at the racecourse or at the dogs, but generally the position is never troubled about. Is that because there is no intention of doing anything about it, or because there are some who want the war to go on as long as it possibly can?
I ask the Minister to study very carefully all the speeches that have been made in this Debate. I am sure much can be learned from them. The Debate has been of a very high character. If some of us have been too critical of the Minister, I am sure his back is broad enough to take all the criticism. Some hon. Members have been concerned about the call-up of women between 45 and 50. I believe that a large number of those women would be only too glad to get out of the day-to-day drudgery which they have had all their lives. I hope that I have been able to impress the Minister with our desire for reforms which are badly needed.
As one of those 200 Members who have been accused of sentimentality, I have listened to this Debate quite prepared to be convinced that we were wrong and that the Minister was right in calling up women of from 46 to 51. But, having heard the Minister and the Parliamentary Secretary and all those few Members who have supported them, I am more convinced than ever that we were justified in the Motion we put down. We are quite unrepentant. Before the Recess I asked the Minister whether he was not aware that there was a great deal of feeling in the country that full and effective use was not being made of the available man-and woman-power, particularly of the young men and women already called up for the Services. As usual, my suggestion was rejected as being completely without justification. During the Recess I have had thousands of letters from people all over the country, telling me of individual cases. I am not going to read these letters to-day, but I have investigated some of them, and I am convinced that the misuse which I suggested of man-and woman-power, among those under 30 years of age, has taken place and is still taking place.
How does the hon. and gallant Member explain the fact that I and, as I know, some other Members have not had a single letter? It seems extraordinary that he should have had thousands.
I cannot explain anything that happens in the hon. Member's constituency. I raised the matter, and it happened to get headlines in the Press. Certain newspapers sent investigators to Colwyn Bay and other places, and there were more headlines, and, unfortunately for me, I got numbers of letters. I may have exaggerated a little in saying that I got thousands, but certainly I was overwhelmed by the number of letters.
It was the case that a few weeks ago there was a redundancy in the staffs of some Government Departments, certainly in the clerical staffs. What has been done in the meantime to rectify that? I have had no information from the Financial Secretary to the Treasury or from other Ministers that anything has been done. These allegations have been completely disregarded. I put a Question to the Minister asking how many men and women under 30 years of age were employed in the clerical staffs of Government Departments on 1st September this year. The Minister wrote me a very nice letter, saying that he was sorry he did not have the information, but that he was passing the Question on to the Financial Secretary to the Treasury. I got an answer from the Financial Secretary, which was equally evasive. It said that the information asked for was not available. The Financial Secretary is supposed to be responsible for the Civil Service staff, yet he is not able to tell an hon. Member the number of people, male and female, under the age of 30 employed in the clerical staffs of Government Departments. He ought to find out. How is the Minister of Labour going to apply this Order if he does not know these facts? The reason given for the fact that the information was not available was that there had been no census of these people since the war. I hope that before the House meets again, the right hon. Gentleman or the Financial Secretary to the Treasury, or somebody else, will take steps to get the information; otherwise there will be a considerable row in this House. It is an extraordinary state of affairs that nobody knows how many of these people there are in Government Departments, or what they are doing.
The hon. Gentleman said to-day that he had to get the labour required for aircraft production, either by calling up women from 46 to 51 or from some other source. He did not know which was the best source. All I can tell him is that from the figures which he gave of what he hopes to get from the calling-up of this group, to my mind the result is infinitesimal compared to what he could get from other sources. For instance, if he applied, as he should, a very fine tooth comb to Government Departments, he would find sufficient people to fill the gap. I will tell him another source of labour. The other day the Minister of Production made a statement in this House that we required to have a certain mobility of labour in the near future, to concentrate on a certain aspect of war production. He was asked whether he was not aware that there was a certain amount of unemployment in production to-day. He did not know that that was the case, and seemed rather surprised, that there was any unemployment at all in production. I had heard of many cases where men were unemployed in the industry.
Only a few days later I happened to be in a factory with which I am connected in the West country, when I was told that a Ministry of Production official was outside and wanted to see me. He did not know me but had heard that I was chairman of the company and that we had more work on hand than we could handle. Although he belonged to a different area he had come all the way to see whether we could not give him some work to do. I said that this was extraordinary because, when this question was raised in the House of Commons, the Minister did not seem to know anything about any unemployment in the aircraft industry at all. This official said, "If he does not know about it, I do, because it is my job to keep these factories going." He also said, "There is a good deal of unemployment at the present time and I have come all this way outside my area in order to try to get some work for that area." He said that the unemployment was chiefly in the Dorset area and the Thames Valley area. As my constituency happens to be in one of the areas I went down shortly afterwards and made inquiries and found that what he said was true. [An HON. MEMBER: "What are the firms?"] Sub-contractors in the aircraft industry.
If my hon. and gallant Friend will look at any newspaper, he will see scores of advertisements asking for engineering work on such things as aircraft parts or gun parts from firms all over the place. They simply cannot get anything.
I was approached by some sub-contractors in my constituency and I was told by people who had been engaged for 34 years on aircraft production of a shortage of sub-contracting work. I asked what had been done about it, and a man told me that he had been to the regional office and that the regional officer said that he would show him his books and he would then see what the position was in that area. There are thousands of firms, small employers no doubt, in the same position, with skilled engineers out of work and clamouring for work. If this goes on in the small area to which I am referring, it must be going on all over England. Why are drastic steps to be taken to call up grandmothers and other people who will be utterly useless in aircraft production for months? I have had something to do with factories employing women. I give the highest praise to women. They have done a magnificent job, but they have to be trained and at most it will only be part-time work at that age. Why should the homes of these people and what is left of the home life of this country be destroyed and the women of these ages put even to the trouble of registering? It is no easy matter for people living in rural areas, to line up for buses and to go from places like Sunningdale to Reading.
I have been trying to make a case against the calling-up of these women on the ground that there are a great many people unemployed who are still in the aircraft industry. I do urge the Minister before he takes the step, which I consider to be a retrograde step, of enforcing this Order and calling up this group, to comb out of all Government Departments everybody under 30 years of age. He should also send somebody down to the regional offices of the Ministry of Production and find out how many sub-contractors, employing men and sometimes women, are unemployed. I think he would find that there are thousands of them. He should make further use of their services before he calls up further grades.
I tried to find out how many working hours were lost as the result of strikes during the last six weeks. There seems to be an enormous number of unofficial strikes. I put a Question to the Minister yesterday asking how many strikes there had been in this country since 5th August and how many man-hours had been lost as a result. The reply was that between 5th August and 12th September this year there were 230 strikes and it was estimated that 270,000 man-hours were lost as a result of those strikes. I also asked how many were official strikes and the Minister said, as far as he knew, none. What is the cause of these unofficial strikes? Is it because the trade unions have lost their grip and no longer have any control over their members? If that is so, it is very serious, and it is up to the right hon. Gentleman to find out the causes. It is having a very great effect on production. Is it because the Communist Party are undermining the trade union movement of this country? I believe it is; I believe that that has a lot to do with it. But whatever the cause, it wants to be investigated and dealt with.
I want to find out the facts. There is a great deal of unrest in labour circles and this is very disquieting. I ask the reason and am told very often that it is of no earthly use the employers trying to enforce discipline on their men to-day because they get no support whatever from the appeal tribunals. The result is that they are going with the tide and allowing the men, and in some cases women, to do what they like. That is a very serious matter and I am afraid that there is a good deal of justification for it. The hon. Member for Abingdon (Sir R. Glyn) mentioned his visit to airfields and the labour problems there. The last job that I had in the Air Force before I came out was opening up bombing stations. It was very urgent because we wanted these stations originally for bomber aircraft. I was struck with the problems confronting me—chiefly labour problems—and I used to get hold of contractors and tell them that I wanted accommodation urgently, and they asked, "What can we do with this Irish labour? These men will not work. All they think of is catching the last bus to work and the first bus home, and on a rainy day they do not turn up at all.? In one case a man gave so much trouble that the firm was obliged to sack him. What happened then? He appealed. to a tribunal, and the next week he was back at work. It is no use employers taking cases to tri- bunals; they are packed with trade union officials who never give them any support whatever. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] Yes, there is a great deal of truth in it. These are reasons why we are not getting the production in industry that we should and can get. I ask the Minister to investigate these questions before he tries to destroy what little is left of the home life of this country by calling up grandmothers and people who are trying to keep homes together for their sons or daughters. Undoubtedly, these women will serve willingly, but before a retrograde step like that is taken every effort should be made to find the necessary labour elsewhere. To-day, I have told the Minister of one or two places where he can find it.
I rise principally to ask one or two questions about one aspect of this problem which no other Member has yet mentioned, namely, the problem of boys and girls of 16 to 17. But before I do so I would like to say to the hon. and gallant Member for the Isle of Wight (Captain P. Macdonald) that, like other Members, I have not had a single letter about the calling up of these elderly women. I have not heard a single complaint from my constituency. As a matter of fact, nearly all these women are working. Some get up at 4 o'clock in the morning and then travel for two hours in the train.
Perhaps it is. At any rate, they are very busy. The Minister (Mr. Bevin) knows some of the factories in which they work. I do not think the case has been made by those who have spoken against the Government on this question of women of 47 to 50. The Civil Service may be grossly overstaffed—I believe it is in some places—and there may be sub-contractors in the aircraft engineering industry who are looking for work. But none of those arguments, which have been put up so cleverly by hon. Members, have anything to do with the question of women of 47 to 50 working. There are hundreds of thousands of them working at the present time.
I have not noticed any great concern hitherto about the women who have been working for the last three years, and, therefore, I take with a pinch of salt these sudden expressions of enormous interest. I have listened to all the speeches to-day, and I have read all those which were made yesterday. Nevertheless, there has been a general feeling, which was emphasised by the hon. Member for Abingdon (Sir R. Glyn) and others, that what are needed at the moment are smaller staffs for the passive side of our national life—Regional Commissioners, wardens, anti-aircraft and the rest—and a rather greater consideration for the difficulties of people who have to travel long distances. In this connection there are also the questions of feeding arrangements and housing, which were mentioned by my hon. Friend the Member for Greenock (Mr. McNeil).
May I remind the House that there is another group of people, 2,500,000 of them, from 14 to 18 years of age, who have done pretty well in this war? I want to know what the Minister means by his remark yesterday that he is proposing to conscript boys and girls between 16 and 17. When the Noble Lord the Member for Horsham and Worthing (Earl Winterton) intervened to ask whether that would apply equally to boys at public schools, the Minister said that it would. Of course, most of them will be moved from one place to another in industry, not from school, but why, out of all the industries in the country, is aircraft production singled out for conscription? This industry is the only one, as I understand it, into which there is conscription or direction under 18. If half of what the hon. Member for Mossley (Mr. Hopkinson) said is true, they ought not to be conscripted into this industry. Indeed, I know of factories and industries into which young people ought not to be conscripted at all. There are places around here in the suburbs of London where no boy or girl ought to be employed. I want to know what the conditions, hours of work and the rest of it are to be. Three months ago the Minister gave a most sympathetic answer to a Question about releasing for holiday work boys and girls from industry during the summer. To that appeal 30,000 young people responded, but there was no provision for them all. There are ample numbers ready to go without conscription if you put your appeal in the right key.
Half the boys who used to go into the mining industry are not now going. The Forster Committee was set up in March, 1942; it worked quickly and well, and its report was out in the following July. Nothing was done until a year later, when Mr. Johnston, K.C., was sent round the pits. He is going round them now. Why? Is that with the fullest knowledge of the Minister of Labour? I have a shrewd suspicion—and I speak without any special knowledge—that the Minister was anxious to do something in this field because he has very considerable experience in his Department in connection with young labour. But why is it that if you want to prepare young people for the Royal Air Force you can spend £600,000 a year on training them in the Air Training Corps—and I am in favour of it—and you spend nothing on training boys, to go down the pits? Why? If you can have pre-service for the Royal Air Force, why not for the mining and aircraft industries? Before boys and girls are sent into the aircraft industry, about whose management in some cases I have the very gravest doubts, I would like to know a little more about the training they will get. The hon. Baronet the Member for Abingdon said the great need of the country, and the great glory of the country, was the craftsman. What sort of craftsmen are you going to get if you just exploit the labour between 14 and 18? It is the same in the cotton industry and no one knows better than the Joint Parliamentary Secretary (Mr. Tomlinson). I am a little tired of Reports from the Board of Education about long hours. We had another last week. I am a little tired even of reading the results of registration. We know these facts now. They are in black and white and have been proved by 150 education authorities. The time has come to handle this young labour with more consideration.
There is another point about it. If you are an apprentice on the Clyde, you are not allowed to join a pre-service organisation. The net result is that none of these lads get any recreative training at all. We tried to get a hostel opened near Loch Lomond for 10 days during the Glasgow Fair. That is the only holiday they had. The problem is not one of keeping people at school. They are leaving as fast as they can. I have talked with hundreds of lads in camp this summer. Some of them came from the pits, curiously enough for a week's harvesting-holiday, and it is a good thing for them too. Many of them say that they are wasting their time in the factories because they have been put on short time. I have been told this night after night. I want an explanation why, of all the industries, the right hon. Gentleman has singled out aircraft for conscription of the 16s and 17s at this moment, and, secondly when are the Ministry of Fuel and Power and the Ministry of Labour going to get together to train boys for the mining industry itself? No one registered at Glasgow last week at all. If there is no other industry round about the mines—of which I can give a case in my constituency—the boys go down the pit; but, if there is an alternative they choose the other, because the wages are better. But you will not get boys to go down the pit because of the difference between the Porter award and some other award. Look at what happened! The Minister of Labour broadcast an appeal on Sunday. On Monday the Porter award comes out. It does not come here, but goes to the Trades Union Congress.
I would not dare to give an opinion whether the Award is right or wrong but, from the point of view of timing, that is not the way to do it. I find that nothing has been done to implement the Forster Report for a year and a quarter. This is playing with the problem. It does not mean business. Before the war 30,000 boys between 14 and 15 went into the mines. The average to-day is less than half that. How are you going to attract them? You will not get them until you take a great deal more trouble about training and prospects. If a boy goes into the Air Force, he is working for his country, and there is no profit in it. I am tempted to think that you will not do very much with the mining industry until you make some changes at the social end of it, and the economic end too. If you want to make an appeal to boys to go into the mining industry, which is a difficult job—the best miners say they would not send their sons down under present conditions—you will have to make some changes. Why not? Changes have been made in everything else during the war. Why these perpetual blueprints about 1960 and what we are going to do after the war? I appeal to the Ministers of Labour and Fuel and Power to take hold of this mining situation, and the entrance and training, before it is too late, because, if they do not, there will be very few young men left, with the attractive wages which are still being offered outside, and they will not respond to a moral call to go into this, the most important of all industries after the Services.
We are coming to the end of a very valuable and important Debate. It seems to me that one of the strongest points that have come out is the wastage, the abuse of labour, in the Services and in other fields of public endeavour. I think it would be highly desirable if the Minister of Labour had the machinery whereby we could have an independent investigation to ensure that labour is being used to the fullest advantage. I think that that is the crux of the situation. In my view, the Minister of Labour has done a job which no other man in the country could have done. He has been able to do it because he has had a life's training, but what I believe is more important is that the men in the country had confidence in him. It would be a pity; if that confidence was shaken in any way. Therefore, when an application is made to him for a certain number of men and women, in his own interest he should ensure that the labour is used to the greatest advantage.
My principal reason for rising is to reply to a question put by the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for the Isle of Wight (Captain Macdonald). He posed the question, "Have the trade union leaders lost their influence in the trade union world?" There have been several unofficial strikes. It would be as well to remember that if all the men and women who have gone into industry had had trade union experience it would have been much easier for the trade union leaders, but when we have the figures of the Minister as to the number of people in industry to-day and remember that we have only some 7,000,00o in the trade unions, we can appreciate that the leaders have a very awkward job. The hon. and gallant Mem- ber went on to speak of unofficial strikes. Why are there unofficial strikes? I have one in my division at a colliery where no one ever expected the men would strike at all. They are miners of a typically Northumbrian type and anyone who knows the Northumberland miners knows that if there is a strike among them there must be very good reasons for it. Therefore, when he asks whether it is the Communists who are doing this, or whether it is because the trade union leaders have lost their influence, he might have asked another question, "Can it be the employers who are causing the unofficial strikes?" In this colliery, employing a little over 1,000 men and producing 1,200 tons of coal a day, a number of men are working in a 21-inch seam. I wish I could explain the cause of this stoppage to hon. Members and make them see as clearly as I do what that means. The height of the seam itself from the floor to the roof is about 21 inches.
I am coming to the floor in a moment. For weeks past, the men have been carrying on under absolutely intolerable conditions. The working place is as far as 18 feet from the loading tub and in some cases slightly over; that is up to seven yards away from the loading point, and there is a seven foot cut underneath to be filled off every day. The men working there have to turn over on their sides and practically on their backs and they have been working under these conditions for weeks. They have been promised consideration but scores of men have had nothing on their notes for what they are doing. This has been going on for weeks and the men have packed up. Now there is a deadlock because it is said that the custom in Northumberland is for men to go back to work before they can talk about a dispute. It is the custom that dates back to the Tolpuddle martyrs. In those days we sent men overseas if there was a dispute. In Northumberland we turned them out of their houses in the winter and brought in the police. We now have trade union machinery and that' machinery undoubtedly endeavours to organise and control matters so that disputes might be settled. We have had fewer disputes in Northumberland during this war than there have been in any part of the British coalfields. That is because of the influence of our trade union leaders, four most excellent men who have worked night and day. Our trade union secretary, when he spoke to me yesterday, could hardly speak because of ill-health, but he is labouring to get a settlement.
We cannot get a settlement, however, because it' is the custom to go back to work before we talk. The merits of a dispute should be some factor in determining whether that custom should operate or not. As an old trade union leader I do not believe in the unofficial strike. I am anxious that the men should not be kept idle merely because of custom and that the dispute should be settled. When I last spoke in a coal Debate I urged that the Minister should have more powers in this respect. The fault is not all on the side of the men. They may be driven to desperation, and in such cases the Minister ought to be able to state, on the merits of the case, that negotiations should be opened before the men are ordered back to work. If the Minister did that', I am sure that we should have these pits working on Monday.
I am not raising controversy, but, as the hon. Gentleman is aware, I know that pit, the company and the men, and have known them for 40 years. What he describes is incomprehensible to me. That that company and that management should be pig-headed to the extent that he suggests seems to me incredible. They must have changed immensely in the last few years.
They have changed so much that I ask that when the men get back to work, the Minister should have an inquiry into how this pit is managed. I can assure the House that the story I have told is not incredible and that these men are going in to the pit with 10 ft. and 15 ft. on top and are having to crawl round on their stomachs to get the coal out. They were promised payment, and it has not been received. That sort of thing troubles the men. I agree that there is a sanctity of contracts, but I put it to the Minister that, even with sanctity of contracts, if the conditions were so abnormal as I have shown, the conditions under which the prices were fixed were not operating. The other night the wireless broadcast to the nation that these men were idle because of wages. The men can make their wages if the conditions are there. It is the conditions they are complaining about, and the treatment they have received on account of those bad conditions. I hope the Minister will exert his influence. Let us have negotiations opened, so that these men can get back to work.
First of all I want to thank hon. Members for the contributions they have made in this Debate to the problem that faces the country and the Government in this very difficult task. With regard to the dispute mentioned by the hon. Member for Morpeth (Mr. R., J. Taylor), I am assured by my right hon. Friend the Minister of Fuel and Power that he is in touch with the company now, and I hope that a solution will be found. I should like at the outset to refer to the problem of unofficial strikes, which has been raised by several hon. Members. Strikes are divided into several categories. Some strikes are deliberately provoked for ulterior reasons by employers. I have known strikes, even in this war, in which the desideratum has been to create conditions to alter contracts. I have known strikes inspired by people who have had quite different motives. When you come to analyse strikes, in nearly every case there is a different reason. The second class of strike is one which is organised for political reasons, and it is that type of strike which the Government are considering dealing with, the strike in which, having regard to the fact that the executives and the unions and the employers— [Interruption.] I am making a statement that affects millions of people in the country, and I have to weigh every word I say, because so many industrial relations in the country are dependent upon what I am saying.
I want help now. There is another type of strike. The executives of unions, the Trades Union Congress and the Employers' Federation have entered into what is virtually a collective agreement to submit these problems to arbitration during the war, and I ought to say that during the whole period in which that has been in operation, so far as I know, no executive have paid one penny in support of a strike. I think that is to the credit of the trade unions of this country. But advantage has been taken of that recently. It broke out in the last few weeks. We know as a Government that sometimes these disturbances arise not from a wages dispute but in order to embarrass the Government in the political field. Certain people will promote disturbances and, as they have done recently in one or two cases, actually arrange an organised opposition to stop even the principal officers of the union being heard in the meeting called to hear the complaints. I think that kind of thing is intended to impede the war effort, and if executives have entered into a bargain with the State, then I am ready to consult those executives and to take whatever steps may be necessary to see that their bargain can be carried out. We cannot tolerate it, and I think I am right in issuing a warning to these people, who vary now and again in their support of the war effort. It is not limited to one side only. I know a number of the "ites," some of one kind and some another—the Trotskyites, and all sorts of people. Their circulars and literature are against the war, intending to impede the war. In other cases, a political step is taken to try to embarrass us. We have got to face that, and while I will not be a party while I am in office to doing anything at all, under any circumstances which will weaken the legitimate trade unions in any way—rather I want to strengthen them—I feel that steps must be taken to see that the war effort is not impeded by these activities. I hope the result of this statement may.be that some of those who thought it suited their purpose to do this will take the warning.
The other kind of strike is one which breaks out upon an issue which may appear to the country trumpery, but very often, though it is unofficial, it is the result of long and protracted irritation, and then there is the "last straw." The right way to deal with that, the course which I have always adopted, is to have inquiries in order to get the facts and to try to ascertain the best method of dealing with them. 'Every unofficial strike does not come in the previous category. Some come in other categories. It is very diffi- cult to handle industrial relations when, as a previous speaker has said, millions of people are being thrown into industry who are unaccustomed to discipline, and unaccustomed to any trade union methods or negotiations. We have to fit them into this great machine with understanding on their part of how it works. That has to be taken into account.
Equally, on the other side, one of the weakest features of our industrial system has been the limitations of managements, especially in the field of human psychology and understanding—the method of leaving it to the foreman with his "Get your check, put your coat on, clear out." That kind of attitude towards workpeople, which was the practice for many years, produced a psychology which is not good for industrial relations.
I claim that, on the whole, having regard to the irritation, the transference and the difficulties that have arisen with new people coming into industry, it has been remarkable that there have been so few disputes during this war.
May I now turn to the complaints that have been made by hon. Members about the interviewing staff? I think there is a tendency to pick out one or two exceptions that hon. Members have come across, but I assure them that if they will write to me I will go into them immediately. It would be most regrettable if there were a castigation of a large body of good people, many of them voluntary workers, who have come forward and done this interviewing in a most sympathetic and understanding way. The wives and friends of some hon. Members in this House have rendered very great service in this interviewing work. One hon. Member complained to me very bitterly one day about a lady. I looked into the matter, and then I said to him that I thought he had better deal with the matter himself. I had discovered that the lady was the chairman of his own women's election committee, and I thought that the best thing to do was to pass it on. I will again press the necessity for sympathetic understanding. I have not had women under 30 years of age doing this interviewing work for some time, and I will try to get older women to deal with this new class; but that does not mean that all the older women are sympathetic to their sex. Some are, but it does not always follow that there is more understanding.
About interviewing in general, I would like to say a word. I hope that this interviewing system, which I have had the good fortune to introduce during the war into the employment exchanges, will not be abolished after the war. One of the most difficult matters that I took up, which arose from the long period of unemployment pay, was the regimentation and the treatment at the counter of the people coming up in queues and being dealt with on the index card basis. I used to read the Debates in this House during that awful period. I believe hon. Members will agree with me that the staff in those days were placed in a very difficult position. Every person has a different problem and upon the introduction of the private interview system, I insisted that no records of the interview should be retained in the Department. I wanted nothing put on one side which anybody could use in the future in any way at all, and that has been all to the good. When the change comes—and this will be very vital, for the resettlement period when men come back, with all its difficulties, and the women have to find their way back into civil employment—the interviewing method will be more important even than it is now.
The next point put to me was about the Home Guard. We have recently eased the amount of time that the Home Guard have to give, and we will look into the matter still further as time goes on; but we are not out of the wood yet. We have to keep our eye on this country, when certain events are taking place. A home force has to be maintained in those eventualities. It is not only large scale invasion that we have to watch; a time may come when most of our Regular Army will be out of the country altogether. The question about the Civil Defence forces has also been raised and the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent (Mr. E. Smith) quoted the Prime Minister as saying that the danger of invasion was remote. I would remind him that the Prime Minister also said that new air inventions were being developed by the enemy. It is easy in a lull to say: "Why not break up your Civil Defence force or weaken it." Immediately an attack came and we had not got the required force, the same hon. Members would say: "Why had you not the foresight to maintain it?" Therefore we endeavour to take a balanced view and to avoid undue risks. My right hon. Friend the Home Secretary after a discussion about man-power on a previous occasion, gave up large numbers of the permanent Civil Defence force in order that they might go into industry, and thus made a very handsome contribution to the solution of the problem that we now have to face.
I have been asked about aircraft. I am not conscripting for aircraft in the sense that we would conscript for the Army. What I did say was that I should have to restrict the free choice of the youth and to direct to aircraft production. For the satisfaction of the hon. Member who raised this point, I will say that it will be done with the help, in the main, of the juvenile committees. In putting young people into aircraft production I shall have regard to their training and to their development, but we must put them in if we are to get the numbers. It is said that the aircraft industry has a lot of waste labour. Quite frankly—and I make this confession to my hon. Friends—I think that if the aircraft industry had been developed under public ownership, like the Royal Ordnance Factories, by the State, we should have done a lot better. The orderly way in which the Ministry of Supply was able to tackle its job of tremendous expansion under direct State management, made it much easier for me to handle than the aircraft industry has been. On the other hand, I recognise that it is a new industry, that it has expanded rapidly and I daresay has more changes of type. It has its difficulties.
There is the fact, which I submit we have to consider, that the big expansion of the aircraft industry takes place at a given date. At the moment of expansion you cannot put the people in, and they may appear idle in advance, while you are training them to get accustomed to the workshop, ready for the great expansion. I am told that there has been an awful amount of idleness. How does the hon. and gallant Member for the Isle of Wight (Captain P. Macdonald) reconcile that statement with the great increase in production, in which we are still ahead of the world?
I shall welcome detailed information from my hon. Friends and I will send an official to look into the matter at once. I think I can dismiss my hon. and gallant Friend, whose affection for me is well known. I will not say any more. I am tempted to do so, but I have a very good estimate of my hon. and gallant Friend's contribution. I ask hon. Members not to make general charges against firms, but to give the firms a fair chance. When they are charged with wasting labour I ought to be given an opportunity to send a labour supply inspector there to see into the matter. Hon. Members should not threw general charges at me.
I will welcome it. I press for it. I really do not think a firm ought to have these charges thrown at them as a general thing, unless the charges can be tested, and I will give my hon. Friend the answer in writing if he will give me the facts.
I do not remember the case. I remember the case at Croydon which I think the hon. Member put to me in which there was a tremendous attempt to withhold men who were doing nothing. I took them away against the protests of all the directors. I remember that case very well. Perhaps I ought to finish the point with which I was dealing when I was interrupted. I was going to give the priorities which the Cabinet has worked out—aircraft, coal, buses, certain services and designated trades. I have been asked, can I send men in to see if there is efficiency? I get criticised both ways. I am told that the man-power boards do their work so badly that I take too many people away and handicap the firms. On the other hand, I am told I leave too many people there. I make this claim—and it is borne out, I believe, by the testimony of industry as a whole and by hon. Members of this House: The man-power boards have done a difficult job very efficiently and very fairly and on the whole have maintained a balance in industry with great,success from the point of view of production.
Another point put to me is whether I can give longer deferment in hardship cases. I will look into that matter very carefully and see whether or not that is possible. In other words, if you defer, it may be obvious you are not going to call on the person deferred. So make a clean sweep of them and have done with it. I will look into that and see whether anything can be done.
The other main point put against us is the question of the Civil Service. One hon. Member said, "Why cannot you take everybody under 30?" If we called on everyone under 30 in the Civil Service, in the Admiralty alone we should practically close down operations, because there is, for example, ciphering. Practically the whole of the ciphering and of the coding and other work there and in other Service Departments is the result of training younger people at the outbreak of war and making specialists of them I only mention that to indicate that you cannot make a clean sweep in this way, and you have to look at the thing in the light of what the people are doing. If hon. Members think that more ought to be done in the Civil Service than there has been, it may aid me in putting still further pressure on my colleagues. I will look into the matter again and raise it with my colleagues in the Government as to whether further steps can be taken in connection with the Civil Service, but we established the Kennet Committee, and we have had impartial investigations, and we have had this checking-up going on in the Civil Service, as we have in the case of other employers throughout the country.
It is a practice, when one is up against a problem, rather to say that it can be done by taking somebody else. I assure hon. Members that in trying to carry out this difficult job we have tried to be impartial as between one and the other. I was told by the hon. Member for Gorbals (Mr. Buchanan) that I was letting off directors and high executives and putting undue pressure on the workpeople. I can assure him that the man-power boards comb through these executives over and over and over again, but when the Supply Departments put up a case that an executive person is a key person for management or running a big department, it is very difficult, especially when they ask you for a substitute and you have not got one. You have then to make the choice as to whether you will impede production by taking the man away. Here again age is not everything. All the ability in management is not in the older generation, and a good deal of imaginative work is necessary from many younger executives, and the success of your enterprise and your production very often depends on leaving the younger energetic and imaginative people in that field of work. All these things have to be taken into account.
I was asked also whether we would investigate the offices of the Regional Commissioners and Departments of that kind. If hon. Members think that these are overstaffed I will go on with the investigation and see how many can be combed out, from time to time. But there again the Regional Commissioners' service is a service which owing to our very success in the war has not had the weight put upon it that there might have been if circumstances had been different. All the time you have to keep at the back of your mind the emergency situation that might arise in handling these problems. I was asked about the building labour for Scotland. I must at this moment try to get finished the aerodromes and the other equipment for the great American Air Forces. The great drain of the labour from building has been accentuated by the Americans developing an enormous Air Force on this side. I have told the Secretary of State for Scotland that I appreciate the housing difficulty. Bomb damage had to be interrupted on account of other work owing to the demands on us. As soon as I can see a release of some building labour upon the completion of these great jobs, I will certainly endeavour to transfer it back in order to make the civil life of our people better, both in respect of bomb damage and the provision of other building as quickly as I can. It is purely the necessities of the war that have made me take the steps I have.
On the hospital side the hon. Member for South Tottenham (Mr. Messer) stressed the question of hospital domestic service. I hope in a few days to have the Hetherington Report. Here again I have no basis on which to work, since, as the hon. Member knows, on the domestic side there were no wages, no conditions, nothing. I have had to create new arrangements as it were almost out of the blue. When I get this Report I will strain every effort to try to get the domestic side of the hospital service put right out of the registrations I am now making and those I have made. I know what it involves. I know it reduces the efficiency of the highly trained nurses we want for tending the sick and my hon. Friends may be assured that I will do all I can in that direction. In regard to the canteen service the hon. Member for Abingdon (Sir R. Glyn) suggested that there should be some greater recognition of good service. That is a good idea and I will go into it as soon as I can. A point was raised about the Forster Committee's Report. On that I would like to point out that in the coal mining industry we have to work through the parties in the industry. It is not nationalised yet. It is not like dealing with the A.T.C. or the Services, in regard to which when the Cabinet comes to a conclusion you operate it. This House up to now has pursued the policy of dealing with this industry in this way and therefore immediately the Forster Report was published, we asked the parties to consider it forthwith. I am assured by my right hon. Friend that on his part he introduced a provisional training scheme almost immediately. That scheme is now in operation and will be expanded as the youths come along and are available for training. If hon. Members want to hear greater details on this question of training for production, it would be better to leave my right hon. Friend to deal with his own problems.
I am not the agent of my right hon. and gallant Friend. Under the Mines Act the whole question of labour and production is the function of the Minister of Fuel and Power. All I do is to find the personnel. When means are required to attract personnel, it is my duty to make the representations to him to get the industry put right, and that I have been doing all the time.
If there are other points which I have not argued, I will look into them and endeavour to communicate with hon. Members later. Time does not allow me to take more points now. All I can say, in conclusion, is that in dealing with this problem which has been ventilated in a good Debate, in which Members have been able to put their points, and I really believe they are satisfied that the Government have taken the right and proper course in order to leave no stone unturned to mobilise every available bit of man-power we have got with one object in view. Let those who vote against it have this on their conscience. Those who vote against complete mobilisation and full use of the man-power and the resources of this country in all respects at this moment should ask themselves what would be the result if others supported them. What would be the result if it was not done? The result would be to carry on this war, and every minute it is being carried on there is a greater sacrifice than calling women of 46 to 51 to serve in the factories, a far greater risk to the rising generation of this country, the most precious portion of this body politic. Everything you can do to turn out weapons of war helps to carry out the policy of the Government to which I referred publicly the other day—that is, that metal is cheaper than men, and if we can use men and women in the factories to build up the most mighty equipment, the most powerful forces we can and with the sheer weight of that force shorten this war by a minute, or a day, or a month, then we shall be doing the most humane thing we can do in order to end this holocaust.
I have sat through the greater part of this Debate, and that part which I did not hear I have read. I want to say that I think it would be the greatest possible pity if the hon. Gentleman the Member for Shettleston (Mr. McGovern) were permitted to use the Rules of this House to insert a wedge in that magnificent spectacle of national unity which has been presented by the hon. Gentleman the Member for Stoke (Mr. Ellis Smith), the hon. Member for North-East Leeds (Mr. Craik Henderson) and the Minister of Labour. If we are going to divide about a serious matter of this kind let us divide on a substantive Motion.
May I put a point of Order? The Government arrange the Business for the week, and then come before the House and ask for a substantial extension of their powers bringing in older women and younger people. Surely the hon. Gentleman is experienced enough—
The Government bring before the House this matter in the form of a Motion for the Adjournment. That is a procedure which has been convenient for many discussions, but it is quite inappropriate in certain circumstances like the present. I ask whether those who are in complete opposition to this whole scheme of industrial conscription and particularly are in opposition to this proposed extension are not to have their constitutional right of casting their vote against the Government.
I want to ask if, when this matter is disposed of to-day and the House has finally lost this opportunity to cast its vote on this matter, you will tell me the appropriate occasion upon which the House can cast its vote on this issue?
These squabbles may be intelligible to Members of this House, but they will not be intelligible to the country. If we are to divide, let us do it on something which the country can understand.
One knows that had a Division been taken on that Motion, the sides which people have taken would have been misrepresented right through the country, and it would have been the greatest possible disservice to national unity had such a Division taken place. There is only one other thing I want to say. I was not one of those who signed the substantive Motion. Having heard the Minister of Labour, I feel less inclined to support them than ever, but I do not join with hon. Members opposite in imputing any dishonourable motives to them. On the contrary, I think they have performed a public service. Having regard to the speeches of the hon. Member for Gorbals (Mr. Buchanan) and the hon. Member for Rugby (Mr. W. Brown), any suggestion of political or class motives must be regarded as fantastic. It is a very serious Lhing to call up elderly women and subject them to penalties. It is an old-established tradition of this House that before Supply of money is voted, grievances must be discussed, and it seems to me that my hon. Friends were perfectly right in insisting that before a further Supply was voted to the Ministry of Labour the grievances which have been so well and eloquently put should have been properly discussed by this House.