HC Deb 05 February 1941 vol 368 cc930-1
41. Mr. Jackson

asked the Minister of Agriculture whether, having regard to the widespread complaints by farmers of the difficulty in obtaining the services of skilled tractor drivers, he will give an assurance that such men will be excluded from any further calls for military service; what steps have been taken to provide facilities to train additional men for this purpose; how many additional tractors are likely to come into service in the current year; and how many new drivers may any such training facilities be expected to provide?

The Minister of Agriculture (Mr. R. S. Hudson)

While I can give no assurance that any specific class of workers will be excluded from any further calls for military service, I can assure the hon. Member that the importance of skilled tractor drivers is fully recognised. County War Agricultural Executive Committees have been empowered to arrange for courses of instruction in tractor driving and to pay trainees the appropriate agricultural wage while under tuition. It is expected that committees with full knowledge of the needs of their respective areas will arrange for the training of an adequate supply of tractor workers. As regards the third part of the Question, steps are being taken to ensure, as far as possible, that an adequate supply of new tractors is maintained, but it would not be in the national interest to publish any estimate of what that supply is likely to be in the current year.

Mr. Shinwell

Why cannot the right hon. Gentleman give a definite assurance that skilled men will not be taken from the farms and put into the Army? Do we not require them on the land at present, in view of the food situation? Are they not of more use there?

Mr. Hudson

That is a matter for my right hon. Friend the Minister of Labour.

Mr. Shinwell

Why should Ministers pass the buck to other Departments? Are we to understand that the question of retaining men on the land is not a matter for the right hon. Gentleman? Will he not give a definite assurance on this matter or, if he cannot do so, will he himself approach the Minister of Labour?

Mr. Hudson

My right hon. Friend the Minister of Labour said in answer to a Question the other day, that we are at present in the closest consultation and are, in fact examining the machinery required to see that the services of specially skilled men are not taken.

Mr. Granville

Is my right hon. Friend aware that there is a serious shortage of agricultural labourers in East Anglia, and will he make representations to the Minister of Labour not to call up any more for the Army?