HC Deb 26 January 1948 vol 446 cc663-4
72. Mr. Granville Sharp

asked the Minister of Agriculture whether he will make a statement on the future of the Women's Land Army.

Mr. T. Williams

I have given consideration to the future of the Women's Land Army in consultation with the representative organisations of the agricultural industry and other interested parties. In view of the needs of the agricultural expansion programme, I have decided that we must be ready to keep the W.L.A. in being for a few more years, and aim at reaching the highest strength that is practicable. The conditions of service will remain substantially as they are at present, though I propose to introduce certain modifications to make the service more attractive. As regards administration, the present structure, in the main, will be maintained, but I have reached the conclusion that it would be appropriate to the conditions under which the service will now be operating to end the system of voluntary county committees and voluntary local representatives. Voluntary workers cannot be expected to give services of this kind indefinitely, and I am glad to take this opportunity to pay tribute to the devoted work which they have performed since the formation of the W.L.A. I hope to have their continued help in welfare matters.

Mr. Sharp

Can my right hon. Friend give the assurance that he now accepts the Women's Land Army as a permanent part of the agricultural organisation of this country?

Mr. Williams

Well, I did not say a permanent part, but I feel confident, in view of the new agricultural expansion programme, that it will be necessary to keep the Women's Land Army in existence for at least two or three years.

Mr. York

Would not the right hon. Gentleman reconsider making this service more attractive by improving the conditions under which these girls live in the hostels, as I have already brought to his notice one or two cases of bad conditions?

Mr. Williams

I can assure the hon. Member that I entirely agree with him, and where we can improve the conditions of the hostels we are trying to do so.

Mr. Baker White

Would the Minister give special consideration to points that have been put forward about the provision of clothing for the Women's Land Army, particularly for summer working?

Mr. Williams

Yes, very careful consideration has been given to that fact, and it may be possible slightly to improve the dress later on.

Mr. Hurd

Can the Minister give us any estimate of the extra cost which will fall on public funds by putting the administration entirely into the hands of the Civil Service instead of allowing it to be done partly by voluntary means?

Mr. Williams

Not without notice; and I am not at all sure that we shall be putting the service into the hands of the Civil Service either.

Captain Crookshank

Who will run it then? They are either volunteers or the Civil Service.

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