HC Deb 02 November 1916 vol 86 cc1844-5W

asked the Secretary of State for War (1) if it is proposed to remove from the farms men of military age, however skilled or indispensable, on and after 1st January, or, in the case of dairymen, 1st April next; if so, what will be the exact process of providing substitutes; and whether the substitution officers will be practical agriculturists with knowledge of local conditions and requirements; (2) whether,, seeing that there is likely to be a shortage of milk, wheat, and other essential foods if farms are further depleted of their skilled and indispensable labour, he will instruct the Appeal Tribunals to act in strict occordance with the recent public statements on this subject of the President of the Board of Agriculture speaking on behalf of the Government?


The hon. and gallant Member is mistaken in thinking that the intention of the War Office is to withdraw indispensable men from the farms. The men who will be called up on January 1st or April 1st are those whom tribunals have decided can be dispensed with. Where the man is indispensable and fit for general service a substitute will, if possible, be found in order to release him for service in the Army. If a substitute cannot be found he will remain in his civil occupation. The substitution officers charged with this work will be chosen, as far as possible, from people acquainted with local conditions, and in effecting substitution in agriculture will work in co-operation with the representative of the Board of Agriculture.


asked the Secretary of State for War whether, when in the New Year married farm workers occupying farm cottages are compelled to join the Army, their wives and families will be forced to leave their homes while they are serving their country in a military capacity in order to provide accom- modation for the substitutes who will take their place, or how otherwise suitable accommodation will be found for the latter?


Substitution has been in operation for some time, and so far no difficulties of the kind suggested have developed on a scale seriously to affect the general success of these early experiments in substitution.


asked the Financial Secretary to the War Office whether, in view of hardship inflicted on the wives and dependants of agricultural labourers who were called to the Colours during the months of July and August in Norfolk and other counties, where dependence is placed on harvest earnings for the payment of rent, permission will be given to the war pensions committees in these counties to make separate grants to meet the needs of individual cases?


It is open to men whose circumstances are as described to make an application under the Military Service (Civil Liabilities) scheme. Assistance has already been granted in a number of cases of this kind.