HC Deb 30 January 1941 vol 368 cc649-50
3. Mr. Higgs

asked the Minister of Labour whether he is aware of the serious position in which farmers will be placed if more agricultural labourers are called to the Colours; and can he see his way clear to permit the reservations to remain as they are at present in the agricultural industry?

Mr. Bevin

I would refer my hon. Friend to the answer given on 21st January, on behalf of my right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture, to a Question put by the hon. Member for Tamworth (Sir J. Mellor). I am unable at present to add to that reply.

Mr. Higgs

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that, since there is a great deal more land under the plough, more labour is required? The farmer has to plan twelve months ahead and some decision ought to be given to this matter?

Mr. Bevin

I think my hon. Friend will appreciate that at a time like this every industry must make some contribution, and every industry must seek to train substitute labour.

Sir Joseph Lamb

Would it be possible for either the Army or Navy to fight if they were not fed?

4. Mr. Butcher

asked the Minister of Labour whether he can state the number of men engaged in agriculture before the war who have joined and remain in the Armed Forces?

Mr. Bevin

It would not be in the national interest to give this figure.

5. Mr. Butcher

asked the Minister of Labour whether, irrespective of the Schedule of Reserved Occupations, he will refrain from calling for service in the Armed Forces any man employed in agriculture, either employer or employed, except with the specific agreement of the appropriate county war agricultural executive committee?

Mr. Bevin

I propose to continue to give full weight to the recommendations of these committees with regard to the calling-up of agricultural workers for the Forces, but I cannot go so far as to adopt my hon. Friend's suggestion which would in effect place the final decision in the hands of the committees.

55. Mr. Touche

asked the Minister of Agriculture the number of recommendations for exemption from military service made by the Surrey War Agricultural Committee; and the number of cases in which the recommendations have been given effect?

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

No, Sir. The county war agricultural executive committees are my agents; but while I am not prepared to disclose details of transactions between them and the headquarters of my Department, I can say that very great weight is always attached to their recommendations.