HC Deb 05 February 1918 vol 101 cc2142-3W

asked the President of the Board of Agriculture whether his attention has been called to the waste of labour entailed by breaking up Highland crofts for the cultivation of corn for which the land is unfit, and of the loss to the Army resulting from the grant of exemptions from military service to able-bodied young men on the ground that they are required for agriculture in the innumerable cases in which older men can equally well perform all the functions required; whether be is aware of cases in which farmers have dismissed. their hands above military age and obtained exemption for their sons as indispensable to take their places; and whether, if young men must be retained for agriculture, they will be sent to work where they can work with the best results?


In answer to the first part, I will refer my hon. Friend to the Secretary for Scotland. As to the remainder of the question, I can assure him that exemptions from military service arc only granted to able-bodied young men in cases where they are personally indispensable for the cultivation of the land. The Department have not received any reports of cases where farmers have dismissed their hands above military age and obtained exemption for their sons in the places of the older men. As a general rule, it is probable that when a young man is retained for agriculture he will do better service if he is loft to carry on his work than if he is transferred by Governmental action to work somewhere else.


asked the Under-Secretary of State for War whether, in view of the importance at this juncture of the agricultural industry, the applications for demobilisation of farmers and sons of farmers who are in occupation of holdings, and have completed three years' military service, will be considered in order that they may resume agricultural work?


I am afraid that in the present situation as regards manpower it is impossible to lay down a general rule as suggested. Individual cases, however, which are referred to the War Office on compassionate grounds, always receive most sympathetic consideration, and a considerable proportion are made available for agricultural work.