HC Deb 12 April 1948 vol 449 cc620-1
60. Mr. Swingler

asked the Minister of Agriculture if he is aware that B/41758 P.O.W. Ernst Wedding, of 194 P.O.W. Camp, Penkridge, Stafford, has now been offered a post as a market gardener; and if he will take immediate steps to ensure that his repatriation is postponed until authority for his employment has been granted.

Mr. T. Williams

The full number of recruits authorised for Staffordshire has now been obtained, and I regret that this application cannot be approved.

Mr. Swingler

Does this mean that we must lose the services of this skilled horticulturist because the committee has no vacancy for him, when we are appealing to these men to volunteer their services because of the shortage of labour in agriculture generally?

Mr. Williams

As the hon. Member is aware, we are only able to go beyond the 16,000 referred to, first, where Germans are married to British wives, and secondly, where Germans wish to stay with the farmer who has been employing them regularly as a prisoner of war. I am told that Mr. Wedding has not actually been an agricultural worker.

Mr. Frank Byers

Is it not a fact that this scheme is far too rigid at the present time, and does not allow for any transfer from one county to another? Will the Minister look into this to make it much more flexible, because it is most unsatisfactory at the present time?

Mr. Williams

The hon. Member will be aware that we got permission first to retain 10,000 willing volunteers. We found that more than 10,000 volunteers were available, and the number was increased to 20,000, including Scotland. Beyond that point the Prime Minister made a statement the other day which indicated the two classes I have referred to, and there is a large number of European voluntary workers for whom we have to find places.