HC Deb 26 February 1918 vol 103 cc1238-9

asked the Minister of National Service what steps he proposes to take in order to provide the labour of all classes necessary to harvest the produce of the increased arable land which has been recently ploughed up under Government Orders?


As the hon. Member is aware, the interests of agriculture are specially safeguarded in connection with recruiting under the arrangements by which men whole-time employed on farm work are vouched by county agricultural committees. We are also endeavouring to secure that agriculturists are not withdrawn for constructional work, as explained by my hon. Friend the Undersecretary to the Air Ministry. Reinforcement has also been effected by releases from the Colours, in which the Canadian, South African, and New Zealand military authorities have co-operated; and, so far as the military situation permits, it is hoped to secure the temporary release of soldiers for harvest. Prisoners of war with agricultural experience have also been employed in larger numbers than hitherto, and the number will be further increased. The strength of the Women's Land Army is being increased. Special arrangements are also being made again to secure at harvest the services of boys from the public and secondary schools and from the Boy Scouts. Part-time committees will be encouraged to assist in providing additional labour for farmers within reach of the large towns. In all these attempts the Ministry of National Service is throughout acting in close co-operation with the Board of Agriculture and the War Office.


Is the hon. Gentleman aware that when harvest time comes it is not only unskilled labour that will be required, but also smithies, wheelwrights, saddlers, and all kinds of labour, and will the Ministry of National Service take that fact into consideration?


I can assure my hon. Friend that it has been already carefully considered and is being acted upon.