HC Deb 23 January 1941 vol 368 cc273-4
8. Mr. Beechman

asked the Minister of Labour whether in view of the importance of keeping skilled agricultural workers on the land he will consult with the Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries for the purpose of arranging for greater weight to be given to the recommendations for exemption from military service made by county agricultural committees.

Mr. Bevin

I am in close touch with my right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries on this subject, and I am not aware that there has been any failure to give full weight to the recommendations for exemption from military service made by the county war agricultural executive committees.

Mr. Beechman

Is the Minister aware that the county committees alone can identify the really skilled workers on the land who are key men and that the recommendations of the committees are constantly ignored?

Mr. Bevin

I deny that they are constantly ignored, but I cannot hand over my responsibility under the National Service Act to any committee.

Sir John Mellor

Will my right hon. Friend give special consideration to those districts which, through industrial competition, were short of agricultural labour even before the war and which are obviously in a much worse position now?

Mr. Bevin

I take into account any representations made to me by the Minister of Agriculture, but the responsibility for making recommendations as to numbers rests on him.

Mr. Lipson

Is my right hon. Friend aware that the anxiety is rather regarding the future calling-up of men, and will he undertake that the county war agricultural committees will have the opportunity of knowing what men it is proposed to call up before they are called up, so that they can recommend whether or not they should be called up?

Mr. Bevin

I cannot commit myself as to what machinery I may have to adopt, whether it be the county agricultural committees or some other tribunal, but I have to have regard to two things: One is that everybody on the land, including the farmer, is working, and that there is no waste effort anywhere, in order that the total force of man-power might be used effectively and a proper contribution be made to the Services in comparison with other industries.

Mr. Charles Williams

Is my right hon. Friend aware that there is a great waste of effort at the present time in the filling up by agriculturists of large numbers of unnecessary forms? Could he look into that?

Mr. Bevin

I am afraid that there are no forms coming into my Department.