HC Deb 14 April 1919 vol 114 cc2479-81
30. Colonel YATE

asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of

Agriculture whether he has received the protest from the Leicestershire War Agricultural Committee regarding the dissolution of the agricultural companies in Leicestershire, announced in the Board's Memorandum, No. C.L. 173/L. 2, dated the 3rd April; whether he is aware that during the past three months the total number of men said to have been registered in the Labour Exchanges there as

unemployed and desiring work in agriculture has been eight; that in a recent instance a number of men drawing unemployment donation were offered employment at the rate of 1s. per hour for plain digging but refused to undertake the work; that the position in the county of Leicestershire is so serious that unless the Government continue the provision of soldier labour some thousands of acres will have to be seeded down to grass again in the near future; and what steps he pro poses to take in the matter?


Protests have been received from the majority of the Agricultural Executive Committees, including the Leicestershire Committee, against the proposed withdrawal by the military authorities of the remainder of the men of the Agricultural Companies. The loss of these men will create a very serious position in agriculture, and the Board have urged the War Office to leave them on the land. The Government have decided, however, that they must be withdrawn. The Board are in close touch with the Ministry of Labour as regards civilian labour for agriculture. That Ministry are unable to supply substitutes for the soldiers who are being withdrawn, as the number of skilled agriculturists registered at Employment Exchanges in England and Wales as requiring work is practically negligible and is immediately absorbed. The Board are discussing with the Ministry of Labour the possibility of utilising on the land the services of men with no experience of agriculture for unskilled seasonal work. Inquiries will be made into the specific instance quoted by my hon. Friend.

Major E. WOOD

Can he hold out any hope of these notices being withheld for three weeks or a month, in view of the urgency of the seasonal operations; and, further, will he attempt to do that; and will he be prepared to make a statement to the House to-morrow, as it is obvious that by the time the House reassembles it will be too late?


I may say that urgent representations have been made, and I believe that the men will be gradually withdrawn, but I am not in a position to make any further statement at the present moment, although I realise the gravity of the position.

Colonel YATE

Will he represent that these men are absolutely irreplaceable?


We have already done so.