§ 14. Mr. Godber
asked the Minister of Agriculture what special measures he is considering to assist in completing the potato harvest in view of the continued disastrous weather conditions, and the substantial acreage still waiting to be lifted.
Over most of the country, under arrangements made earlier by the Ministry of Labour and National Service in consultation with my own Department and the two sides of the industry, there has been enough supplementary labour to enable the potatoes to be lifted when the weather has permitted. In a few areas the weather has caused more serious delays, and we are watching the position there to ensure that all available local labour is fully and effectively used whenever it can get on to the land.
§ Mr. Godber
Will my right hon. Friend consider, if need be in consultation with the Services, the possibility of making available personnel of the Armed Forces where they can be of assistance?
We are watching the position and, of course, that can be done already, within limits, by local arrangements. Soldiers can volunteer in their own time, and can work at other times by local arrangements. The Minister of Labour and National Service has arranged for the harvest suspension for agricultural workers to be continued from 20th November until 1st January in the North and in Scotland, to enable them to help with the very late harvest.
§ Mr. G. Jeger
Is the Minister aware that many very small farmers are suffering serious loss owing to weather conditions, and to their inability to lift the potatoes before they are already rotten? Is he taking steps to prevent a potato shortage in the market in a few months' time?
I am quite sure that the employment exchanges of my right hon. and learned Friend the Minister of Labour and National Service are looking into all those kinds of possibilities, but solutions have to be found on a fairly local basis here.