HC Deb 05 August 1943 vol 391 cc2444-5
33. Mr. Rhys Davies

asked the Home Secretary what measures are taken by his Department, in conjunction with the Board of Education, to see that the bye-laws relating to the employment of children on the land are implemented?

34. Mr. Astor

asked the Home Secretary the maximum hours and the average hours worked by children of school age helping in agricultural work; the minimum age at which children are employed in this work and what inspection of conditions of employment is in operation?

Mr. H. Morrison

A Defence Regulation made on 30th April, 1942, limits the hours that may be worked in agriculture by school children to 36 in any week and 7 on any day (four on a day when they are required to attend school either morning or afternoon). No child may be employed for more than 4 hours continuously without a break of at least 1 hour. County War Agricultural Executive Committees have been asked by my right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture to make every effort to see that children under 14 do not work more than 4 hours a day and to discourage their employment at all until every other source of supplementary labour has been fully used. Actual hours of work vary greatly according to locality, weather and season, and no information is available to enable the average hours worked over any period to be estimated. The minimum age for employment of children is 12 except that a few local authorities have by bye-law allowed the employment of younger children, by their parents only, on light agricultural work. Local authorities are responsible for enforcing the conditions controlling the employment of children in agriculture. I am sending my hon. Friends copies of the circulars issued from the Board of Education for the guidance of local authorities in carrying out their duty under the Defence Regulation. The Minister of Agriculture has asked County War Agricultural Executive Committees to give all the help they can in securing observance of the Regulation.

Mr. Davies

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that in spite of all that he has said and the fact that the Regulations are in operation, they are not implemented at all in some parts of this country, where young children aged eight are employed in agriculture? Would he be good enough to look into the problem if I send him details? Will he also consider another point? Where the local administration in these cases has broken down in connection with prosecutions, what steps can he take to enforce the Regulations?

Mr. Morrison

If my hon. Friend will send me particulars of the cases he says he has, my Department and the others concerned will certainly look into them.

Mr. Astor

Has the right hon. Gentleman's attention been called to an answer given earlier this week admitting that in certain parts of the country the situation was far less satisfactory than in others? In these cases will he send his own inspectors into the area in order to make sure that the Regulations are enforced?

Mr. Morrison

My attention has not been called to them, but I will look them up.

Mr. Astor

Will he send his own inspectors?

Mr. Morrison

I will examine that point.

Mr. Kenneth Lindsay

Would the right hon. Gentleman keep in close consultation with the inspectors of the Board of Education and of the Ministry of Agriculture?

Mr. Morrison

It was all settled between the three Departments perfectly amicably. It is not for me to run the inspectors of the Board of Education, but I know that the President himself is taking a personal interest in the question.

Mr. Quintin Hogg

Has the right hon. Gentleman's attention been drawn to a meeting of the Committee on Wage Earning Children on 28th July regarding conditions in certain parts of Lincolnshire?

Mr. Morrison

No, Sir.

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