HC Deb 07 June 1917 vol 94 cc304-5
126. Mr. R. McNEILL

asked the Undersecretary of State for War whether he is aware that Private A. C. Downes, No. 101613, D Squadron, Mounted Gun Corps, Cavalry Training Centre, Maresfield Park, Uckfield, is the only son of a farmer who cultivates 1,149 acres in East Kent and is employing a number of women and soldiers on the land who require constant supervision; that he has no bailiff; and that he would be in a position to plough some 200 additional acres if he had the assistance of his son, who is a skilled agriculturist; whether he is aware that, in view of the value to agriculture of securing A. C. Downes for the land, the Board of Agriculture, after inquiries through the Kent Agricultural Executive Committee, made application to the War Office for this man's release; if he will say why this application was refused; and if he will give immediate instructions for the release of A. C. Downes from the Army in order to increase food production?


The Board of Agriculture applied to the War Office on 21st February, 1917, for the release of Private A. C. Downes. His release was refused, as the Board of Agriculture has been informed that no applications for the release of a particular soldier can be sanctioned except in very special circumstances where the soldier applied for is required to manage his farm. In this case Mr. Downes (senior) was the manager of the farm, and it was open to him to apply for the services of a soldier or soldiers from an agricultural company to meet his requirements for reinforcement of labour. The Army Council is not prepared to make an exception in this case, nor to sanction Private Downes' release.


Does my hon. Friend not realise that this man is as indispensable to Agriculture as any man could possibly be; is he also aware that the War Office has been requested by the Board of Agriculture to release him after a full inquiry by the local committee, and can he give any reason why this man has not been released?


I cannot at the present moment add anything to the answer which I have already given, but I will make further inquiries.