Oral Answers to Questions — Civil Service Marriage Bar (Abolition)

– in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 15 October 1946.

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The following Question stood upon the Order Paper:

Photo of Mr John Edwards Mr John Edwards , Blackburn

—To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether any decision has yet been reached on the abolition of the marriage bar in the Civil Service.

Photo of Mr Hugh Dalton Mr Hugh Dalton , Bishop Auckland

Might I, Mr Speaker, with the leave of the House, be allowed to give a reply to a Question which I know is of considerable public interest and which was not reached, namely. Question No. 75?

The answer is: Yes, Sir. His Majesty's Government have decided that the marriage bar in the Home Civil Service shall henceforth be abolished. I am circulating in the OFFICIAL REPORT a statement on certain points of detail arising out of this decision.

Photo of Sir Waldron Smithers Sir Waldron Smithers , Orpington

On a point of Order. Who is the judge of the importance of a Question, Mr. Speaker? I have two Questions on the Order Paper which have not been reached and which, in my opinion, are much more important than the one which has just been answered by the Chancellor.

Photo of Mr Douglas Clifton Brown Mr Douglas Clifton Brown , Hexham

We all think that our own Questions are the most important, but the judge in this respect is the Minister concerned, with my permission.

Photo of Sir Waldron Smithers Sir Waldron Smithers , Orpington

With great respect, Sir, why should one Question be answered to the detriment of a hundred others?

Photo of Mr Douglas Clifton Brown Mr Douglas Clifton Brown , Hexham

It has been the custom of this House for I do not know how many years. It is one of our rules.

Photo of Mr David Gammans Mr David Gammans , Hornsey

Can the right hon. Gentleman say why this is restricted to the Home Civil Service and why it is not extended to the Colonial Civil Service as well?

Photo of Mr Hugh Dalton Mr Hugh Dalton , Bishop Auckland

Perhaps the hon. Gentleman will read the statement I am circulating. I think that any question such as that which he has in mind could be more conveniently addressed to the Minister directly concerned.

Photo of Mr William Brown Mr William Brown , Rugby

Will the circulated answer cover the incidental effect of this decision—upon which I think the Government are to be congratulated—upon the marriage bar and superannuation arrangements in the public service?

Photo of Mr Hugh Dalton Mr Hugh Dalton , Bishop Auckland

Superannuation is a large issue, and I think the hon. Gentleman had better put a separate Question on that point.

Photo of Mr Evelyn Walkden Mr Evelyn Walkden , Doncaster

Can my right hon. Friend say whether the decision will include State servants or active school teachers employed by local authorities?

Photo of Mr Hugh Dalton Mr Hugh Dalton , Bishop Auckland

No, Sir, local authorities are not covered.

Photo of Mr Evelyn Walkden Mr Evelyn Walkden , Doncaster

But they are State servants, all the same.

Following is the statement:

In future married women will not be ineligible by reason of their marriage for appointment to established posts in the Home Civil Service, and women who already hold such posts will not be required to resign on marriage. Married women who remain in the Service will be required to comply with the normal conditions and practices of their employment, including regular attendance, the working of overtime when necessary and the acceptance of liability to transfer both within the United Kingdom and outside it. Those who, on account of domestic responsibilities or otherwise are unable to comply with these conditions will not be retained in the Service.

The abolition of the marriage bar will take effect today. It will not give any right of reinstatement to women who have in the past been required to resign from the Civil Service on marriage. Marriage gratuities will be paid, as hitherto, to women who voluntarily resign from established Civil Service posts on marriage. The Government have decided to accept the recommendation of the National Whitley Council Marriage Bar Committee (Cmd. 6886) for improved maternity leave terms.

In order that married women shall not now be debarred from competing in the main open reconstruction competitions of the Home Civil Service, the Civil Service Commissioners have decided to extend until 1st January, 1947, the last date for applying in certain competitions for which the closing date was fixed at 1st September, 1946. They will publish forthwith a complete list of the competitions affected.

This statement refers to established posts in the Home Civil Service. The marriage bar will be retained in the Foreign Service. There are a few posts in the Home Service, closely analogous to posts in the Foreign Service, the holding of which involves residence overseas on representational duties. In this very limited field the possibility of retention on marriage will have to be examined on merits in relation to the facts of each individual case.