Clause 1. — (Power to raise women's land and air forces.)

Orders of the Day — Army and Air Force (Women's Service) Bill – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 13th February 1948.

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1.3 p.m.

Photo of Mr Emrys Hughes Mr Emrys Hughes , South Ayrshire

I beg to move, in page 1, line 7, after "women," to insert, "to a number not exceeding one thousand."

This Amendment, I believe, will carry into effect the spirit of the speech that was delivered here yesterday from this bench, which I appear to have usurped from the Leader of the Liberal party. I do not understand why the Liberal Party, in view of the very strong assertions made in this House yesterday in that Debate, have failed to put in an appearance today. The right hon. and learned Gentleman who speaks for the Liberal party said yesterday: Although there has been a considerable reduction in the Armed Forces, I do not believe that the state of the country justifies us in keeping hundreds of thousands of men in the Armed Forces today. I want to know what the Government are doing to deal with matters which are within their own province."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 12th February, 1948; Vol. 447, c. 605–6.] I submit that, in demanding a reduction of the expenditure on the Women's Services we are really taking the warning which was given to us yesterday from all quarters of the House that we should exercise due economy in the national expenditure on account of the national emergency.

There was a further speech in yesterday's Debate, a very interesting and important speech by the hon. Gentleman who is the Parliamentary Private Secretary to the Secretary of State for War, and who, I know, speaks with authority on questions concerning the organisation of the War Office. I am sorry the hon. Member for Dudley (Mr. Wigg) is not here today, but I submit that, if he were here, he would have no other option but to support this Amendment. The hon. Member said yesterday that we were spending too much on the Armed Forces, and that, I argue, applies to the extension of expenditure which is outlined in this Bill. The hon. Member said yesterday: Let us just for a moment have a look at the White Paper and the United Kingdom balance of payments for 1947. There is a deficit of £675 million at the end of 1947. Since July, 1945, no less a sum than £1,500 million in dollars has been spent on the Armed Forces, and with what results? The Government chose the policy of guns in preference to butter."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 12th February, 1948; Vol. 447, c. 661.]

Photo of Mr Robert Young Mr Robert Young , Newton

The hon. Gentleman is not entitled to quote from Debates on other subjects in the present Session, but must stick to the matter which is before the Committee.

Photo of Mr Emrys Hughes Mr Emrys Hughes , South Ayrshire

I apologise, Sir Robert, but I was quoting from that Debate in order to support my argument that a further extension of expenditure on the Armed Forces was unnecessary and undesirable. I bow to your Ruling, and I will not quote any more.

I would like to know something more substantial than the sentimental arguments put forward in this House last Friday by the Minister of Defence and the Financial Secretary to the War Office. In that Debate, we all paid tribute to the courage of the members of the Women's Services during the last war. Yesterday, I went to the headquarters of the Women's Auxiliary Air Service, and there I saw emblazoned a slogan,—"Courage Is Not Enough." That seemed to me to be rather a new slogan in a military institution, though a very intelligent one. It reminded me of that other slogan to be seen on a London statue—"Patriotism Is Not Enough"—and I think that a further inscription in that case might be—"Patriotism Is Not Enough; I Must Have No Hatred Towards Anybody." If that was the motto of the War Office, we would not be considering this Bill today. We are not entitled at present to demand from the depleted women power of this country the additions to the Women's Services that are suggested and outlined in this Bill, and, by limiting the expenditure and the numbers that can be enrolled under this Bill, we will be doing a really national service in the present economic crisis.

I ask the Secretary of State for War again where we are going to get these women? I do not know whether the right hon. Gentleman realises the extent of the demand that will be made on the woman power of our country, and the extent to which other Government Departments are also making demands on that woman power. I have here a report from my own constituency by people who are very concerned whether this new drive in recruiting for the women's Services will deplete the number of women required for the Women's Land Army, and I have a resolution passed by the National Farmers' Union in my constituency.

The farmer who raised this question was very perturbed about the prospects of securing the necessary number of women for the Women's Land Army. He warned the Government that, unless we had the women for the Land Army, the farmers would not be able to get their 20 per cent. increased production. But where are the women to come from in this new drive which the Secretary of State for War suggests? We shall have one Government Department competing with another for these women, with the result that women will be withdrawn from the land where they should be assisting the farmers and their wives who are struggling and striving to increase food production.

Photo of Mr Anthony Head Mr Anthony Head , Carshalton

It is purely voluntary.

Photo of Mr Emrys Hughes Mr Emrys Hughes , South Ayrshire

Even so, there must of necessity be competition, because there are only a certain number of women, and both Government Departments are going to make demands upon them.

I would like to draw the attention of the Under-Secretary of State for Air, who I see is present, to the kind of literature being used in this campaign. I have a leaflet here which I obtained from the Women's Auxiliary Air Recruiting Service in Kingsway. It is a remarkable document. In it, we are told that 26,000 women are needed for the Air Force. That means that 26,000 women are going to be withdrawn from useful industrial production at a time when, we are told in the Press, the Minister of Labour is going to Germany in order to arrange for 30,000 German women to be brought to this country to work in our depleted industries. That is sheer lunacy; that is not co-ordination of labour at all. I maintain that the Ministers are not acting as responsible statesmen or leaders; they are merely acting as messenger boys for the brasshats of the War Office. The leaflet sets out the kind of work the women are going to do. They are to be employed as electricians—

Photo of Mr Robert Young Mr Robert Young , Newton

The hon. Member must confine himself to the Bill. He must not give an explanation of what the women are going to do.

Photo of Mr Emrys Hughes Mr Emrys Hughes , South Ayrshire

I apologise, Sir Robert, if I transgressed. In one paragraph, we are actually told what Parliament must do. I have heard of the dictatorship of the proletariat, and of all sorts of other dictatorships, but it is something new that this Parliament should be told what to do by the W.A.A.F. I submit that public money is being spent in a useless and extravagant way, that paper is being wasted in printing such leaflets, and that, on the publicity side, somebody's brains could be put to better use. The following is an extract from the sort of literature at present available in recruiting offices for the Women's Services: In the days when Dickens wrote 'Dombey & Son' women had a very definite, but very limited place in the scheme of things. That place was bounded by the church, the kitchen and the nursery. It then goes on to explain the economic emancipation of women in a way which, presumably is intended to appeal to young girls in secondary schools. That is how our money is being wasted.

Photo of Mr Robert Young Mr Robert Young , Newton

I would draw the hon. Gentleman's attention to the words in the Amendment which are: to a number not exceeding one thousand. He is not at liberty to discuss the pamphlet in this Debate.

1.15 p.m.

Photo of Mr Emrys Hughes Mr Emrys Hughes , South Ayrshire

The relevance, Sir Robert, of what I was saying is that this campaign for more women in the Services is being carried out by ladies producing this kind of literature. However, if I am transgressing the Rules of Order, I will not proceed with that point.

I suggest that, at a time of national emergency, when labour is badly needed on the land, in the factories, and for other national activities, this Bill and this demand are unjustified. We should limit the extravagance of the Secretary of State for War. The Bill does not tell us how many women are required for the Services, or what expenditure is necessary. At a time when Ministers are warning us about inflation and unnecessary national expenditure, this is not the sort of Bill which should come before the Committee. Therefore, I consider that my Amendment is a perfectly reasonable one.

Photo of Mr Emanuel Shinwell Mr Emanuel Shinwell , Seaham

My hon. Friend the Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Emrys Hughes) has not adduced a single argument in support of his Amendment. He has played all round the wicket, and, when he did indulge in a little bowling, it seemed to be body-line bowling. He must surely be aware—for presumably he has read the Bill, and heard the Debate last week—that this Bill has nothing to do with recruitment at all. It has, however, everything to do with raising the legal status of women in the Forces. Indeed, that is our primary concern in the submission of this Bill. My hon. Friend appeared to be arguing that, at this time, it was quite improper to seek to enlist women into the Forces. But that is not his reason for presenting this Amendment. He is usually accused of being sincere. Why not be sincere on this occasion, and tell the Committee quite frankly that his reason for objecting to this Bill is that he is against the existence of an Army, an Air Force and a Navy altogether?

Photo of Mr Emrys Hughes Mr Emrys Hughes , South Ayrshire

I made that point perfectly clear in the previous Debate. I understood that on the Committee stage we should deal with the details. There is no doubt as to where I stand in this matter. I was trying to keep in Order by dealing with the Bill in detail.

Photo of Mr Emanuel Shinwell Mr Emanuel Shinwell , Seaham

Precisely. My hon. Friend has confirmed what I said; there is no dispute at all. But, if he is against the existence of the Forces, and wishes to abolish them altogether, then, clearly, there is no validity in the argument he now presents that his reason for the Amendment is because he wants to conserve manpower. That is not his reason at all. In any event, even if it were, the argument has no validity, because, as I shall show, in maintaining the women's section of the Forces we are, in fact, to the extent that we are able to obtain their services, conserving manpower. The women are employed in various administrative tasks, and, if they were not so employed, it would be necessary, for purposes of efficient administration, to employ men. In the measure that we employ women, we do not require to employ men. That is the position.

Much that my hon. Friend said might be quite relevant when we come to the Estimates, when he can argue whether we should employ 10,000, 20,000, or 30,000, as the case may be, and upon what tasks they are to be, or are, employed. The Amendment has nothing to do with raising the legal status of these women. My hon. Friend is asking that we should restrict ourselves to 1,000, but there is no magic in that figure. Why not 100, or even ten? The figure is obviously quite meaningless. The Amendment is quite unacceptable, and I ask the Committee to reject it.

I wish to take the opportunity, because this seems as good a time as any, to announce, in accordance with the promise I gave when we were discussing this Bill on Second Reading, the new titles for the A.T.S. and the W.A.A.F.

Photo of Mr Robert Young Mr Robert Young , Newton

I think that this statement should be made on the Question, "That the Clause stand part."

Photo of Mr Emanuel Shinwell Mr Emanuel Shinwell , Seaham

In that case, I will defer my announcement until later.

Amendment negatived.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Clause stand part of the Bill."

Photo of Mr Emanuel Shinwell Mr Emanuel Shinwell , Seaham

Perhaps I may now take the opportunity to announce that we have received the Royal Assent, and it is proposed that the A.T.S. should now be designated the "Women's Royal Army Corps," and in the case of the W.A.A.F., the "Women's Royal Air Force." We had prolonged discussions as to suitable titles, but we came to the conclusion that these were the most suitable.

Photo of Viscount  Turnour Viscount Turnour , Horsham

May I say on behalf of my hon. Friend that these seem very appropriate terms, and that we are entirely in approval? I am glad that the rather frivolous suggestion made in some quarters for another name was not adopted.

Photo of Mr Anthony Head Mr Anthony Head , Carshalton

I also should like to say how pleased I am that these titles have been conferred on the Women's Services, and to congratulate the Minister on his great acumen in avoiding the trap of calling the A.T.S. the "Royal" A.T.S. with the consequent difficulties involved in the shortened title.

Question put, and agreed to.

Clause ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 2 ordered to stand part of the Bill.