HC Deb 10 April 1952 vol 498 cc2976-8
46. Mr. Awbery

asked the Minister of Agriculture how many agricultural workers in the South-Western Region have left the land to work in factories for each of the years 1949, 1950 and 1951; what was the cause of this exodus; and what he proposes to do to encourage men to remain in this important industry.

The Minister of Agriculture (Major Sir Thomas Dugdale)

Statistics of former agricultural workers working in factories are not available. The total number of agricultural workers in the South-Western Region in June, 1948, was 90,364. This rose to 92,159 in June, 1949, fell to 91,449 in June, 1950, and then to 86,797 by June, 1951. The net loss of 3,567 workers was by no means wholly to factories, but many farm workers have undoubtedly left the land for industry during the last two years. It has been a period of keen competition for labour everywhere and of industrial development in many rural areas. In answer to the last part of the hon. Member's Question I would refer him to the reply I gave to the hon. Member for Rugby (Mr. J. Johnson) on 21st February and to my remarks in the agricultural debate on 4th April.

Mr. Awbery

Is the Minister aware that there has been a general drift from agriculture and from the land into the factories in that area, caused by better conditions and wages obtainable in the factories? Will he take steps to have the wages of the farm workers in that area revised so that there will be an incentive for workers to remain on the farms and on the land, instead of going to the factories?

Sir T. Dugdale

The question of wages is not my responsibility. That is entirely in the hands of the Agricultural Wages Board.

Mr. G. Brown

Does not the Minister think that some part of the reason why men have left the land arises from the increase in mechanisation which has taken place in agriculture, which must mean greater productivity per man, but lead to there being fewer men on the land?

Sir T. Dugdale

I would agree with the right hon. Gentleman.

Mr. A. J. Champion

Would not the Minister agree that this makes all the more serious the failure of the Government to provide a sufficiency of capital equipment to enable this industry to expand as it would wish to with necessary equipment to prevent the loss of manpower being serious?

Sir T. Dugdale

I dealt with that point during the debate. I am satisfied that with the capital equipment available we can still further increase the food production of this country. A very good feature, so far as the labour position is concerned, is the number of young people coming into the industry.