HC Deb 03 July 1918 vol 107 cc1708-9
66. Sir W. BEALE

asked the Secretary for Scotland whether the Scottish Board of Agriculture were parties to, or had notice of, agreements or arrangements made with farmers in Ayrshire to the effect that, in consideration of the farmer ploughing additional lands this season, he would be allowed to retain the necessary farm labour to secure his crop, exempt from calling up for military or national service till after harvest time, or would at least be guaranteed equally efficient labour in case any hands wore necessarily called up; whether these agreements or arrangements were in fact or were supposed by the Board, as they were by the farmers, to be binding on the military and recruiting authorities; whether the Board have had notice that such agreements and arrangements are not being observed by the military and recruiting authorities, and that essential labour is being taken away by them without any provision or tender of substituted labour of any efficiency to prevent the serious loss of crops and farm produce; and whether the Board of Agriculture has taken, and will take, steps to bring home to the military and recruiting authorities the consequences to the national food supply of the disregard of such agreements and arrangements?


I am not aware of any agreements or arrangements special to Ayrshire, but I know what efforts have been made, and will, I am sure, continue to be made, in the interests of food production, by the Ayrshire farmers. The pressing requirements of the military situation must be the governing consideration at the present time. The Board is quite alive to the risk from the agricultural standpoint involved in the withdrawal of skilled men from agriculture, and all possible steps are being taken to bring home the necessity of substituted labour, as suggested in the last part of the question.