HC Deb 23 August 1945 vol 413 cc784-6
49. Mr. Williamson

asked the Minister of Agriculture why German prisoners working on the land during harvest time for periods exceeding eight hours a day are to be granted food rations in excess of those provided for the civilian population, as this decision is likely to create serious dissatisfaction, particularly amongst workers in heavy industries; and will he consider the withdrawal of this concession.

Mr. T. Williams

Reports were received by my Department at the beginning of the harvest that the amount of food then being supplied to prisoners was insufficient to enable them to carry out properly the long and arduous day's work required of them at harvest time. It was, therefore, arranged that prisoners working long hours should receive extra food on a scale designed to provide no more than sufficient to enable their output to be maintained till the end of the day. In view of the shortage of labour in agriculture and of the vital importance of securing this year's harvest, it is essential to obtain the full output of which prisoners are capable and I do not propose that this concession should be withdrawn.

Mr. Williamson

Can the Minister say for what period this concession is likely to be made?

Mr. Williams

During, the harvest period only. May I remind the House also that, while this small concession has had to be granted for a very long excessive working day, heavy workers in industry can supplement their food at canteens, and civilians, unlike prisoners, are not rationed for bread and potatoes and can buy other unrationed foods?

Mr. Stubbs

Is my right hon. Friend aware that the present food rationing of farm labourers is interfering considerably with men returning to agriculture who are so badly needed; and that the agricultural worker has, during the years of the war, been doing work equally as hard as, if not harder than, prisoners of war who are working on the land now and are getting more food than they.

Mr. Godfrey Nicholson

Arising out of the original reply, may I ask if the right hon. Gentleman is aware that even in cases where prisoners had not worked more than eight hours until very recently, the ration was hopelessly inadequate to enable them to carry out that work, and will he look into the matter again? That really is the case.

Mr. Williams

That is all the more justification for the slightly increased ration for the harvesting period. May I tell the House that all these arrangements are made between the War Office and my own Department in consultation with the Ministry of Food?