HC Deb 23 July 1953 vol 518 cc559-60
1. Commander Donaldson

asked the Minister of Labour on what grounds it was decided that mine workers should be exempt from military service whereas many grades of agricultural workers are subject to compulsory call-up.

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

Underground coal mine workers could not in present circumstances we called up without serious effects on coal production. In agriculture, however, it has been possible to call up a proportion of the young men reaching age 18 without any serious effect on food production. The deferment arrangements safeguard these cases where a serious loss of food production might result.

Commander Donaldson

While thanking my right hon. and learned Friend for that answer, may I ask him to bear in mind the serious concern felt in the agricultural community about these young men who have been called up? Will he be watchful of their re-employment on their release from the Services so that we may see how the call-up is affecting depopulation in the more distant areas?

Sir W. Monckton

I will certainly bear in mind their re-employment on their return, as my hon. and gallant Friend suggests, but I would point out that it is important that the agricultural community should make a contribution to the call-up. Out of an employed population of 600,000, the call-up accounts for only about 8,000.

Mr. Emrys Hughes

Is the Minister aware that this decision is causing a great deal of annoyance among the National Farmers' Union of Scotland, who are asking those who represent agricultural constituencies to put this point of view before him? Is it not just as necessary for the agricultural workers to produce the food to feed the miners, otherwise the miners will not be able to increase coal production?

Sir W. Monckton

It is quite true that the production of food is of very great importance. It is for that reason that deferment is granted in cases where there would be a serious loss.

Mr. G. R. Howard

Is my right hon. and learned Friend aware that in a case over which I have communicated to him, as a result of the decision taken the widow concerned has now decided to sell her stock, with consequent loss of food and possible unemployment for the men?

Sir W. Monckton

I am aware of the case to which my hon. Friend refers, although I did not know until now of the action which the lady intends to take. I can only say that the case was most anxiously considered in accordance with deferment arrangements.

Mr. Emrys Hughes

In view of the persistently unsatisfactory nature of these replies, I give notice that I will raise the matter on the Adjournment.