HC Deb 10 November 1949 vol 469 cc1391-2
47. Coloner Ropner

asked the Minister of Agriculture whether he is aware of the concern which is felt by farmers at his decision to bring to an end the Women's Land Army; and whether he is satisfied that this decision will not adversely affect farmers' efforts to achieve production targets.

Mr. T. Williams

I have no evidence that this decision has caused concern among farmers, and for the reasons given in my recent announcement, I am satisfied that it should not adversely affect production.

Colonel Ropner

Does the right hon. Gentleman recall that it was only comparatively recently that he was encouraging women to enter into long-term contracts with the Women's Land Army, and will he say what has caused him to reverse his policy?

Mr. Williams

Yes, Sir. It is because the numbers of the Women's Land Army have fallen from over 50,000 to less than 15,000, and we no longer feel it necessary to maintain a national and county organisation for such small numbers. On the other hand, I have expressed the hope that the majority of these members of the Women's Land Army who are still working will remain in agriculture.

Mr. Tolley

Is my right hon. Friend satisfied, after an examination of the facts, that in these days of full and overproduction in industry for the export drive labour will be available to make up the loss to agriculture which will be caused by bringing to an end the Women's Land Army?

Mr. Williams

Yes, I believe that labour is being recruited at a rate which will enable farmers to reach their targets. I repeat my hope that these members of the Women's Land Army will not leave agriculture but will continue to work as employees of farmers.

Mr. Lipson

How much will be saved by the closing down of the Women's Land Army?

Mr. Williams

I cannot say without notice.

Mr. Piratin

Is the Minister satisfied that the rate of wages which will be paid to these women workers if they go into land work in the normal way will attract them?

Mr. Williams

Yes, Sir.