HC Deb 20 September 1948 vol 456 cc508-9
57. Mr. Hurd

asked the Minister of Agriculture if in view of the lack of work for harvest volunteers in some counties, he will review the need for as many camps next year; and if he will state the cost of this year's camps that will fall on public funds.

Mr. T. Williams

This year's plans will, of course, be reviewed; and if necessary modifications will be introduced next year. Those for 1949 will be framed, as usual, according to the best information we can get about farmers' probable labour needs: but no one knows better than the hon. Member how impossible it is to foretell, months in advance, just when and to what extent demand will materialise. The cost falling upon public funds will be much affected by the numbers of volunteers obtained after 2nd October, when camp charges are reduced and rail fares are refunded. Bookings for that period are still being made, so that I cannot say yet what the total cost will be.

Mr. Hurd

Would the Minister tell us if those counties which have a seaboard and rather attractive holiday facilities will be discouraged from recruiting more volunteers than they are likely to use in July and August; and can he also tell us what was the cost to public funds last year, if he cannot tell us what it is this year?

Mr. Williams

1f the hon. Gentleman wants a reply to his last question, he must give me notice. With regard to the seaboard areas, the number of volunteers recruited is based upon local conferences all over the country, attended by representatives of the Ministry of Labour and National Service, the National Farmers' Union, the workers' union and the county agricultural executive committees.

59. Mr. Anthony Greenwood

asked the Minister of Agriculture whether he is satisfied that full use has been made of volunteer labour in gathering the harvest or other agricultural work.

Mr. T. Williams

In the great majority of cases, the answer is "Yes." There have been instances where, owing to unforeseeable conditions farmers have not, for short periods, found full employment for all the volunteers at 'agricultural camps, but the potato harvest will undoubtedly require all the volunteer labour that can be obtained.

Mr. Greenwood

Could my right hon. Friend say whether he is satisfied that these failures were due to unaccountable events, and that they were not due to administrative failures on the part of the agricultural committees?

Mr. Williams

Clearly, I can assure my hon. Friend that that is the case. Considering the scale of the volunteer camp bookings this year, which were 145,000 to the end of August, and the essentially unpredictable nature of the work, the number of complaints of lack of employment have been very few indeed.