HC Deb 22 April 1947 vol 436 cc792-4
27. Mr. Renton

asked the Minister of Labour how many former Italian prisoners of war have been allowed to return to this country since 31st July, 1946, in order to work on farms; how many have been given permission but have not yet arrived in the United Kingdom; and how many applications by British farmers for the return of such men have been refused by his Department.

30. Mr. Baldwin

asked the Minister of Labour whether in view of the forthcoming shortage of agricultural workmen, he will now take steps to grant permission for the return of repatriated prisoners of war who desire to do so.

Mr. Ness Edwards

Over 450 applications have been made by farmers to be allowed to employ Italians now in Italy, most of whom are understood to have worked here in agriculture as prisoners of war. Hitherto such applications have been refused, but, I am proposing, subject to the usual conditions being satisfied, to grant permits to farmers who apply for permission to re-employ Italian exprisoners of war who worked in agriculture before their repatriation. I am not at present contemplating any similar proposals in regard to Germans who have been repatriated.

Mr. Renton

Will the Parliamentary Secretary tell the House why there has been so many months' delay in coming to this necessary decision?

Mr. Ness Edwards

I should have thought that that would have been obvious. There are 200,000 Poles in this country whom we must get placed, with a special obligation in every case, and whose position cannot be prejudiced by bringing in other people.

Mr. Baldwin

In view of the forthcoming shortage of agricultural workers, and of the fact that no houses are being built for them, will the Minister reconsider his decision about German prisoners of war coming back to this country?

Mr. Ness Edwards

There is no intention to reconsider it. The door has been left open for Germans now here who are in agricultural employment and for whom farmers can provide accommodation. Farmers may apply for the retention of these Germans if they agree to stay in England. There is no intention to fetch Germans back from Germany.

Mr. Godfrey Nicholson

Surely, it is not unnatural for a German prisoner to wish to go back to Germany to see his family before resuming his occupation with a fanner in this country?

Mr. Ness Edwards

Cases of that sort have not yet been brought to our notice. Farmers have been invited to apply for their retention. If there are such circumstances as mentioned by the hon. Gentleman, they will be sympathetically considered.

Mr. Nicholson

Will the hon. Gentleman reconsider his reply in the light of what he has just said, because I know that this applies in many cases?

Mr. Ness Edwards


Mr. John Morrison

Is the Parliamentary Secretary aware that Polish men cannot milk cows unless taught, as it is a woman's job in Poland, and will he take this into account in any change over?

Mr. Ness Edwards

We have a number of Polish women here.

Mr. Boyd-Carpenter

Can the hon Gentleman say what are the usual conditions to which he referred?

Mr. Ness Edwards

The usual conditions are that, first, there must be accommodation, and, secondly, these prisoners will not be taking the place of available British workers.

Mr. Martin Lindsay

Is not the hon Gentleman aware that the Government next year will once again have to appeal to farmers to save the country, that they will not be able to do so if there is not sufficient labour, and that every means to increase the labour force should be adopted?

Mr. Ness Edwards

I agree. We are inviting the farmers to apply for available labour.