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WW1 - Did you know?

Facts about the influence World War One had on Parliament:

  • Parliament was prolonged during the war through special legislation, this meant the Members elected in December 1910 served until December 1918. This was very unusual as Parliaments usually last up to five years at a time.
  • All debates are usually recorded in Hansard (a written record of what is said in Parliament) but under the Defence of the Realm Act, the Government made a regulation banning the reporting of any secret session so these were not recorded in Hansard.
  • Members of Parliament and staff in both Houses served in the war, which led to interesting debates in Parliament as the MPs in uniform regularly intervened about the prosecution of the war. At times this made their commanding officers uncomfortable, as it was felt this undermined their service discipline.
  • The shortage of men during the war led to the employment of women in a number of positions in Parliament, including as cleaners, cooks, messengers and accountants.
    May Court started a job in the House of Lord’s accounting department in April 1918, after her twin brother, who previously worked there, died at war. May was initially appointed as a lady clerical assistant during shortages of male labour towards the end of the war. However, unlike many women elsewhere, May, along with another female colleague, Mabel Waterman, kept her job after the war and was quickly promoted. Find out more about May Court and other women World War One.
  • In December 1915 Captain Stanley Wilson, the MP for Holderness, was interned in an Austrian prisoner-of-war camp after a Greek steamer on which he was travelling was intercepted by an Austrian submarine. The electors of Holderness remained effectively unrepresented at Westminster until their MP was released in August 1917.
  • There were a number of secret sessions during the war due to the sensitivity of the topics being debated, for example Military Conscription and expenditure on the Armed Forces.|

In addition, the House of Commons sat in secret on the following occasions during WW1:

  • 25 and 26 April 1916 – Municipal Savings Banks (War Loan Investment) Bill – Parliament approved the borrowing of billions of pounds to fund the war effort and the opportunity for individuals to buy war bonds to help finance the conflict.On the same day, the House of Lords also debated whether to sit in secret and voted in favour of the measure. They were to debate in secret a motion about the need for all men of military aged 18-41 to be called up for service following the passing of the Military Services Act 1916.
  • 10 May 1917 – Debate on Navy & Army for Parliament to approve spending on military operations.
  • 9 July 1917 – Munitions of War Bill – additional measures were introduced relating to pay rates and conditions following the passing of Munitions of War Act in 1915. The original Act meant that all private companies supplying the military would now fall under the control of the new Ministry of Munitions. The ministry had the power to control wages, hours and employment conditions. It was an offence for a worker to leave his current job without the consent of his employer.
  • 13 December 1917 - Navy Supplementary Estimate 1917/18 – Parliament debated how much money should be spent on Naval equipment, the recruitment of sailors and Naval wages to fight the war.
  • 17 January 1918 – Military Services Bill – an attempt to introduce military conscription in Ireland. The bill ultimately failed with no Irish men forcibly drafted into the army.

Parliament and women

News, events and research from the UK Parliament on women’s rights and representation – yesterday and today

Memorials

The Parliamentary estate has many memorials commemorating members of the House of Lords, the House of Commons and the staff employed by Parliament who have given their lives in service of their country at times of war and other conflicts.