HC Deb 04 April 1940 vol 359 cc291-2
12. Sir Percy Hurd

asked the Minister of Labour what steps he is taking to ascertain the whereabouts of the 47,555 farm workers registered as unemployed; and whether he will instruct the Employment Exchanges to keep branches of the National Farmers' Union informed so as to provide the much-needed labour on the land?

Mr. E. Brown

The total of farm workers registered as unemployed to which the hon. Member refers related to 12th February and included many persons temporarily unemployed owing to weather conditions. The total on 11th March was 20,217. Any farmer requiring workers should notify the nearest local office of my Department when the normal procedure will enable him to be put in touch with any worker on the register who may be suitable. My Department works in close co-operation with the county war agricultural executive committees and through my right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries, I am in constant touch with the National Farmers' Union, but I should be happy to arrange any additional form of co-operation that might be helpful.

Sir P. Hurd

Does my right hon. Friend appreciate the point that there are in the towns many young fellows of 18 years of age and upwards who, before being called up, would be glad to work on the land? Do the Employment Exchanges give those young fellows the information needed to put them in touch with the farmers?

Mr. Brown

The Question on the Paper refers specifically to registered farm workers.

Mr. Craven-Ellis

What proportion of the 20,217 referred to are skilled men?

Mr. Brown

I cannot answer that question without notice. The House will see that, compared with the 750,000 insured persons, the figure of 20,217 represents an infinitesimal fraction.

Mr. T. Smith

Are those farm workers registered as unemployed spread evenly over the country, or is there any area in which the number is particularly large?

Mr. Brown

The latest figures seem to show that there is a large proportion in parts of Wales and elsewhere.

Mr. Cassells

May I ask whether, in the light of the statement made yesterday by the Minister of Agriculture, the right hon. Gentleman is prepared to take every step forthwith to see that skilled agricultural workers return to the land, whether they are on military service or not?

Mr. Brown

That is not my responsibility.