§ 5. Mr. PETO
asked the Under-Secretary of State for War whether it has been definitely decided to take no more men for the present from agriculture; whether this applies only to men not passed fit for active service and, if so, what steps have been taken to make known the decision 183 of the Army Council to the local tribunals; whether his attention has been called to the case of H. J. Pepler, farm bailiff, with the sole management of a farm of 241 acres, who was refused exemption at the Pewsey Tribunal on the 14th instant; and whether he will take steps to let the farmers throughout the country know what their decision is, and put an immediate end to the present state of uncertainty and indecision, which is causing hindrance to food production in the country?
§ The UNDER-SECRETARY of STATE for WAR (Mr. Macpherson)
Inquiries are being made into the case of Mr. Pepler, and my hon. Friend will be informed of the result It has not been decided that no more men are to be recruited from agriculture, but ample measures have been taken to protect the interests of agriculture consistently with military necessities.
§ Mr. MACPHERSON
I am afraid that my hon. Friend must have understood my statement wrongly. I was referring to the 60,000 men then in the employment of agriculture who were available from the tribunals for the Army. The War Cabinet decided not to take those 60,000, but to take 30,000. Ultimately we only took 10.200.
§ Mr. G. LAMBERT
May I ask whether the policy of the War Cabinet that the production of food is more important at the present time than men for the Army has been conveyed to the military tribunals?
§ Mr. MACPHERSON
As I have pointed out, and as my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer has pointed out. the War Office is doing everything possible to leave as many men as possible for agriculture.
§ Sir J. SPEAR
Is it proposed to rescind the promise not to take any more B 1 and C 1 men from agriculture?
§ Mr. MACPHERSON
No. I understand it is not. I have already said in this House, and my right hon. Friend has said in another place, that we do not at present propose to take B 1 and C 1 men from agriculture.
§ Mr. PRINGLE
But is it not the opinion of the Government that it is more important to keep these men for food production than to send them into the Army?
§ 21. Mr. CECIL HARMSWORTH
asked the President of the Board of Agriculture if he has received a copy of the resolution passed at a recent meeting of the County War Agricultural Committee for Bedfordshire directing his attention to the waste of time entailed by the attendance of farmers and their men before the tribunals, and urging that no more men, even general service men, should be called from the land during the next two months; and if he has been able to take any action in the matter?
§ The PARLIAMENTARY SECRETARY to the BOARD of AGRICULTURE (Sir R. Winfrey)
It is regretted that the Department have no trace of the receipt of the resolution, but it would not, in any ease, be possible to relieve farmers and their men from the attendances required of them at tribunals, as such; attendances are necessary under the Regulations for the proper hearing of cases.
§ Mr. C. HARMSWORTH
Will the hon. Gentleman say whether his Department is in agreement with the committee in urging that no further men should be withdrawn from the land for the next two-months?
§ Sir RYLAND ADKINS
Is it not a fact that not only the Board of Agriculture, but the War Office and the Government generally have agreed that no more men ought to be withdrawn from agriculture, save in exceptional cases, during the next two months?