HC Deb 21 February 1952 vol 496 cc417-9
35. Mr. Maitland

asked the Minister of Labour whether his attention has been called to the fact that National Service advisory panels, when considering applications for the deferment of agricultural workers, do not invite the applicant to state his case in person before the panel; and whether he will consider instructing panel chairmen to do this.

The Minister of Labour and National Service (Sir Walter Monckton)

I have had no previous representations on this point. The present arrangements were agreed in detail with the agricultural employers' and workers' organisations, and nothing has been brought to my notice suggesting a need for the change proposed by my hon. Friend.

Mr. Maitland

While thanking my right hon. and learned Friend for his reply, may I ask whether he will consider special cases in parts of the country, such as Scotland in general and Lanarkshire in particular?

Sir W. Monckton

If my hon. Friend wishes to bring to my attention some special features in the constituency which he represents I shall, of course, be pleased to consider them.

Mr. Gerald Nabarro

Is my right hon. and learned Friend aware that from the results flowing from the investigations made by these panels it would appear from the evidence that is coming from my constituency and elsewhere that many persons serving on them have no knowledge whatever of agriculture?

36. Mr. Maitland

asked the Minister of Labour the special qualifications sought in selecting persons to serve as chairmen of National Service advisory panels on the deferment of agricultural workers; and how they are chosen.

Sir W. Monckton

Agricultural advisory panels do not have a chairman. They normally consist of two representatives from each side of the industry, who are convened by an officer of my Department. The convenor's duty is to convey the advice of the members of the panel to the National Service Deferment Board, with whom the final decision rests.

Mr. Maitland

Will my right hon. and learned Friend bear in mind that great dissatisfaction has been expressed in my constituency, at any rate, about the working of these panels?

37. Mr. Maitland

asked the Minister of Labour how many agricultural workers, employed on farms or market gardens employing fewer than five persons have been refused deferment from National Service between 31st October, 1951, and the latest convenient date in the United Kingdom and in Scotland; and how many deferments have been granted, in the United Kingdom and in Scotland to agricultural workers on farms and market gardens employing more than five persons.

Sir W. Monckton

I could not, without a disproportionate expenditure of staff time, divide these figures between farms employing more or less than five workers. In the United Kingdom, 5,810 deferments had been granted and 1,454 rejected up to 31st January. The corresponding figures for Scotland are 840 and 153.

Mr. David J. Pryde

Does not the Minister consider that the time has arrived when the whole question of the deferment of agricultural workers in Scotland should be reviewed?

Sir W. Monckton

The question of deferment is constantly before us, both in relation to England and Scotland. I have it under review all the time.

40. Sir Ian Fraser

asked the Minister of Labour if he will consult the Service Departments with a view to formulating a scheme whereby agricultural workers can be called up for military training for certain months in the year, over a number of years, instead of for the whole of the two-year period as at present.

Sir W. Monckton

I do not think there are sufficient grounds for proposing a scheme of this kind, which would clearly have serious disadvantages from the point of view of the Services.

Sir I. Fraser

Will my right hon. and learned Friend not give further and sympathetic consideration to this matter, having in mind that he would gain real good will from the agricultural industry if he could meet their seasonal difficulties?

Sir W. Monckton

I am most anxious to bear anything in mind which will enable us to meet the seasonal difficulties of agriculture, which I fully appreciate, but there are very great difficulties in taking a call-up of agricultural workers and dividing it into four when we consider the work for which these men are wanted when they are called up.

Mr. J. Grimond

In view of the great difficulty which the two-year call-up imposes on agriculture, will the Minister consider, as an alternative, accepting the enrolment of agricultural workers in the Civil Defence Service or the Home Guard, in which they would probably serve in time of war?

Sir I. Fraser

Is my right hon. and learned Friend aware of the arrangements whereby fishermen and others who normally work in boats are called up by a special arrangement which suits both them and the naval service?

Sir W. Monckton

I am aware of that. In answer to the hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. J. Grimond), I would point out that it is very difficult to make special arrangements for a particular industry. I think the House ought to be aware of the figures involved here. So far, it looks as if for the first year not more than 10,000 men will be called up from agriculture out of a total working force, including working farmers, of something like 900,000.