HC Deb 04 March 1946 vol 420 c30
69. Mr. Turton

asked the Minister of Agriculture (1) what is the present number of prisoners of war engaged in agriculture; and what increase he has requested the War Office to supply for the period of this year's harvest;

(2) how many Italian prisoners of war are engaged in agriculture.

Mr. T. Williams

The number of prisoners-of-war available for work in agriculture in England and Wales on 31st January, 1946, was approximately 143,000, of whom 48,000 were Italians. The allocation of German prisoner-of-war labour for 1946 is at present under consideration by the Departments concerned. I hope that the number of prisoners made available for the harvest will be substantially larger than in 1945.

Mr. Turton

Arising out of that reply, as last Monday we were told that the number available for harvest will be 137,000, which is less than the present number, will the right hon. Gentleman explain that figure?

Mr. Williams

Yes, Sir. As the hon. Gentleman must know, the number of German prisoners available for work at any given moment is a fluctuating number, and none can say exactly what this is at a given time.

Mr. Turton

But what we are asking is, what is happening during the harvest; will they fluctuate in the harvest to a smaller number?

Mr. Williams

I have already informed the hon. Gentleman that we hope to have many more available for the harvest than we had last year.

Mr. Stokes

Can my right hon. Friend assure the House that these workers get the full result of their labours and are not treated as slaves? May I have an answer? Then I shall come back to it again.