HC Deb 21 January 1947 vol 432 cc9-11
5. Mr. S. Shephard

asked the Minister of Labour if, in view of the shortage of labour in agriculture, he will reconsider his previous decision and now allow Italian ex-prisoners of war to return to this country to take up agricultural work'.

Mr. Isaacs

I should not feel justified in allowing this at the moment in view of the arrangements that are being made with the two sides of the industry to employ Poles already in this country. I propose, however, to re-examine the position at a later date.

Mr. Shephard

Is the Minister aware that there is every likelihood of a manpower crisis in the agricultural industry during this coming year, and will he look at this question again since it is vitally important?

Mr. Isaacs

My information is that we hope to meet the agricultural situation this year, but, as I have already indicated, we intend to look at the matter again as soon as we have straightened out the question of the Poles.

Captain Crookshank

Could not the right hon. Gentleman look at the Poles and the Italians at the same time?

Mr. Isaacs

I could, but if I were to look at the Poles and the Italians at the same time while also negotiating with the industry I should be cross-eyed.

Sir Arthur Salter

Will the Minister reexamine the whole question of supplementing our defective manpower with foreigners in view of the facts just disclosed?

Mr. Isaacs

Yes, Sir. I hoped that that was indicated by the last part of my answer to the effect that we propose to re-examine the position at a later date. We are surveying the whole field and, as I have said, it is our hope that we shall be able to get every assistance.

Mr. Eccles

Is the Minister aware that some of the ex-prisoners are engaged to British girls, and where a man has a wife and a job on the land to come back to could he not make an exception in that case?

Mr. Isaacs

That is, in fact, one of the specific points under consideration.

Mr. Byers

Does the Minister realise that 33,000 additional men will be required in agriculture in 1947, according to the White Paper produced this morning, and does he mean to tell the House that there are 33,000 Poles in this country to fill those jobs? If not, will he look at other sources now?

Mr. Isaacs

I have already stated that we are looking at the other sources, but as far as the 33,000 are concerned, we have very high hopes that when we have screened the Poles we shall have filled the majority of those places.