HC Deb 09 February 1954 vol 523 cc976-7
4. Mr. Hamilton

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland what steps are taken to ensure that farmers do not employ in potato gathering children under 13 years of age, especially when those schools, normally supplying the labour, are having their short mid-term autumn holiday.

Mr. Henderson Stewart

It is one of the normal duties of the police to prevent contravention of the law relating to the employment of children. I have no information which would suggest that they are not alert to this duty when schools are closed for mid-term holidays.

Mr. Hamilton

Has no case at all been brought to the notice of the Minister that this practice is in existence in Scotland, particularly at half-term holidays, when the older children are away from school? What additional steps and supervision is the Minister contemplating to obviate this reprehensible practice?

Mr. Stewart

In addition to what I said just now about the duties of the police, the Director of Education for Fife tells us that one of the duties of his school attendance officers is to report to the police any infringement of the law. The hon. Gentleman can feel that this is reasonably well covered.

Mr. G. M. Thomson

Would not the Minister agree that the only way to prevent these things is to abolish altogether child labour in the potato fields? Is he aware that there are well-known farmers who engage in most efficient potato production without the use of child labour?

12. Mr. Carmichael

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland the number of children who worked at potato harvesting in 1953 from junior secondary, senior secondary and fee-paying schools, from Glasgow and Lanarkshire, respectively.

Mr. Henderson Stewart

1,799 Glasgow children went from junior secondary schools, 422 from senior secondary schools and none from fee-paying schools. 1,953 Lanarkshire children went from junior secondary schools, and 272 from senior secondary schools. No children attending Lanarkshire fee-paying schools are of the age to work at the potato harvest.

Mr. Carmichael

As this Bill comes up annually, will the Minister take note of those figures? He will discover that the great majority of the children came from the poorer districts of Glasgow and Lanarkshire, who are the children who should have the opportunity of a better education? If children are needed for harvesting, will he go to the fee paying schools, where the children are much healthier and more capable of doing the job than are the poor children of 13 years of age in working-class districts?