HC Deb 30 June 1953 vol 517 cc185-6
18. Mr. G. M. Thomson

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland whether his attention has been drawn to the one-man mechanical potato harvester exhibited at the Royal Highland Show; and whether he will investigate its use to replace child labour for the potato harvest.

Mr. J. Stuart

The machine referred to has been submitted to the British Society for Research in Agricultural Engineering for test this autumn. Until the result of the test is known I cannot say what effect the use of the machine may eventually have on the employment of school children for the potato harvest.

Mr. Thomson

When considering the results of these tests, will the right hon. Gentleman bear in mind that this matter should not be treated purely on an economic basis but in relation to the urgent need to get rid of this form of child labour in Scotland?

Mr. Stuart

It will be considered very carefully, but it is too early for me to say at the present time.

Mr. Woodburn

Can the right hon. Gentleman amplify the reason why this is to be tested by the British Society? The problem of separating clay and stones from the potatoes is peculiar to Scotland. Surely the proper place for this to be tested is at the Scottish Research Stations, or in the fields?

Mr. Stuart

I think the first thing we have to do is to wait until the potatoes are ready for research.

Captain Duncan

Is my right hon. Friend aware that farmers are just as anxious as anyone else to find a suitable machine, but those who have seen this machine at the Highland shows are not satisfied yet that this is the answer to a difficult problem?