§ 87. Mr. HAYDN JONES
asked the Secretary of State for War whether he is aware that men engaged in agriculture and who have received certificates exempting them from service till the 1st January next are now being served with notices to report themselves at the military centres on the 3rd January and subsequent dates; and whether the service of such notice renders an application for further exemption invalid if not made within seven days of the receipt of the notice to report?
§ The FINANCIAL SECRETARY to the WAR OFFICE (Mr. Forster)
It is not quite clear to what men the hon. Member is referring. As far as the War Office know, notice papers are being issued to report on the 3rd January, or thereabouts, 640 only to men who were not called up in accordance with the agreement that they should be left on the land until the end of the year to enable the autumn work to be completed, although the men would normally have been due to report on some date between the 1st October and 31st December. No certificates of exemption have been issued by the War Office in connection with this arrangement.
Is it not the fact that a large number of these men who have been on the farms are being given notice to join the Colours, without any effective substitutes being found to replace them?
§ 95. Captain WRIGHT
asked the Secretary of State for War if instructions have been given by the War Office to the military representatives throughout the agricultural districts to call up for a re-hearing all young men under the age of 25; to appeal to the county tribunals in every case where the exemptions are confirmed by the local tribunals; and to appeal to London in every case where the county tribunal confirms the decision of the local tribunal?
§ Mr. FORSTER
The only special instructions issued to military representatives in agricultural districts were that in dealing with all cases of application for exemption or in calling up existing exemptions for re-hearing, special attention was to be paid to the scale of labour agreed upon between the Board of Agriculture and the War Office and care taken that the labour on farms was not reduced below a working minimum.
§ 96. Captain WRIGHT
asked the Secretary of State for War what meaning, if any, the military representatives are instructed to give to R. 105, List of Certified Occupations, p. 22, Application of Age Limits, and to Appendix B, Scale of Staff regarded as necessary in Agriculture?
§ Mr. FORSTER
Military representatives are to regard the passages referred to as intended for their general guidance in dealing with applications before tribunals to which the Certified Occupations list applies.
§ 97. Captain WRIGHT
asked the Secretary of State for War what strategic importance, if any, is attached by the Head quarters staff to the question of the production of home-grown food; and whether 641 he will explain how the food supply can be maintained if the ranks of agricultural labour are still further depleted?
101. Captain BATHURST
asked the Secretary of State for War if he will personally state in the clearest terms, for the greater confidence of farmers, that no further skilled labour of any description will be taken from the farms for the Army during the continuance of the War unless substitutes of admittedly equal skill and competence are provided in their place, and also that steps will be taken to make good the existing shortage of indispensable labour on farms so that the output of home-grown food in 1917 may not be seriously reduced?
§ Mr. FORSTER
It is hardly necessary for me to say that the greatest importance is attached to the question of home-grown food. An agricultural Census has recently been taken for the purpose of ascertaining the position of agriculture in regard to the supply of men for the Army; until the figures have been scrutinised, it is not possible to make any statement.
Is my hon. Friend prepared to confirm the statement made by the President of the Board of Trade a fortnight ago, of which this is a repetition?
§ Mr. PRINGLE
As a personal statement is asked for from the Secretary of State for War, why cannot the Secretary of State for War be here to make a personal statement?