68 Mr. W. M. ADAMSON
asked the Minister of Agriculture (1) whether his consent has been given to the drafting of Irish labourers to work upon sugar-beet farms in Suffolk; and whether, in view of the Government subsidy for this part of the industry, he will consider advising the withholding of any portion of the subsidy until unemployed agricultural workers are absorbed in this area;
(2) whether he is aware that for the purposes of cultivating sugar-beet Irish labourers have been imported into the county of Suffolk; whether he is aware that experienced agricultural labourers 290 are now unemployed in this area; and what action he is prepared to take to enforce employment of local workers prior to men from other districts.
I am aware that about 50 Irish labourers have come to Suffolk under an arrangement with the United Sugar Company, and have been offered employment by local farmers. My Department has been in communication with the company with a view to ensuring the employment of local labour, and it is understood that over a thousand of the men employed in cultivating sugar-beet are drawn from local sources. So far as my information goes there are no experienced, agricultural labourers now unemployed in the area, but I have no power to enforce the employment of local workers, even if available, nor have I any power under the British Sugar (Subsidy) Act, 1925, to withhold subsidy on the ground suggested.
Is the hon. Gentleman aware that a trade union covering the district is prepared to supply the labour and the transport from local men who are unemployed?
I have seen such a statement, but I have also heard a statement that the unemployed whom the trade unions say they were prepared to supply were not willing to undertake the labour.
Will the right hon. Gentleman see the representatives of the trade union and get their evidence on this matter?
I would prefer to consult with the hon. Gentleman in the first instance. As I have said in my answer, I have no statutory power to take action in the sense in which I think the hon. Gentleman would wish me to take action, even if I had all the information.
§ Mr. MACQUISTEN
Can the right hon. Gentleman not get the Cabinet to agree about obtaining statutory powers? Does he not feel that there is a very strong feeling against importing labour in this way in view of the statement of unemployment in this country?
There is no question of importing labour. As my hon. and learned Friend is aware, the Irish 291 labourer is in the position of a British subject just the same as the Canadian labourer or the labourers of any of the Dominions, and under no provision with regard to aliens is it possible to exclude such labour.
§ Mr. MACQUISTEN
Could the right hon. Gentleman not get the power to do it rather than have our own people unemployed?