HC Deb 24 April 1939 vol 346 cc771-3
32. Mr. Lipson

asked the Minister of Agriculture whether he will ask county agricultural education committees to arrange forthwith courses of instruction for women enrolled in the land army?

Sir R. Dorman-Smith

As I informed the hon. Member on 20th April, it has not hitherto been contemplated that courses of training for women enrolled in the Women's Land Army should be arranged generally during peace time. The reason is that the majority of the women who have patriotically offered their services in this capacity in the event of war are, at present, in occupations which will not permit of their attending courses of training except in the evening and in the vicinity of their homes, although some might be willing to give up their annual holiday, usually about 14 days, for the purpose. It will, I think, be generally agreed that effective training in general farm work cannot be carried out in a classroom or in so short a period as a fortnight, and an intensive course of training immediately on the outbreak of war at a farm institute or similar institution or on a farm for a period of at least six weeks for women without previous experience, would prove the most efficient arrangement from every point of view. Arrangements for training where the volunteer is not engaged in other work are, however, now in force or under consideration in many counties, in addition to the arrangements made by the Women's Farm and Garden Association, on the payment by women of their own expenses, and I am giving consideration to the possibility of local education authorities providing further facilities for the training of women volunteers in particular classes of agricultural work during peace time.

Mr. Lipson

Does my right hon. and gallant Friend not agree that it is advisable at least to provide these facilities in order to see whether the volunteers are able to take advantage of them, and that even a small amount of training would add to their effectiveness in an emergency; and does he not appreciate the danger that if such training is not provided many of these women who have enrolled will seek some other form of national service?

Sir R. Dorman-Smith

We are seeing whether we can provide some facilities.

Mr. Ede

Is the right hon. and gallant Gentleman aware that the women's organisations themselves have expressed the most profound disappointment at the Ministry's attitude on this subject?

Sir John Mellon

Can my right hon. and gallant Friend say what financial arrangements he suggests with regard to those courses of instruction?

Sir R. Dorman-Smith

No, Sir; we are having it worked out.

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