HC Deb 21 February 1952 vol 496 cc42-3W
53. Mr. Godber

asked the Minister of Agriculture what arrangements are being made this year to assist farmers to obtain adequate labour for the potato harvest.

Sir T. Dugdale

Assurances have been given that the Government will do everything they can to help farmers to get the labour needed for harvesting the potato crop, and I am confident that with these assurances we can rely on the farming community to do all that is practicable to grow the increased acreage that the nation needs. The following are the special measures that are being taken:

In England and Wales the Ministry of Labour will hold regional conferences with all concerned to concert action for getting supplies of labour from all sources to meet the expected demand. Local campaigns will be necessary and the Ministries of Agriculture and Labour will do all they can to help farmers in arranging these. County agricultural executive committees will continue to run volunteer agricultural camps where these are essential for potato harvesting.

All local education authorities in whose areas labour for potato harvesting is likely to be a problem have received a letter from the Ministry of Education asking for their co-operation, where other sources of labour are insufficient, in making available the help of the older schoolchildren both during potato holidays when this can be arranged and during special term-time exemptions from school attendance.

Special help from the Services will also be sought where harvesting would otherwise be in serious danger and the Services have promised wherever possible to do their utmost to help in such emergency in any particular locality.

As regards Scotland, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland asks me to say that the schemes which the Department of Agriculture for Scotland have been running over the past few years will continue and should be sufficient to supply the labour required for the gathering of the potato crop in that country.

54. Mr. Peart

asked the Minister of Agriculture what acreage of potatoes he expects to secure due to the ploughing up of grasslands and the contribution of £5 per acre.

Sir T. Dugdale

As the response by the farmers to my appeal to plough up grassland will be governed in large measure by the weather during the next few weeks, it is difficult to say what additional acreage will be achieved in total. It is even more difficult to predict how that acreage will be distributed among the individual approved crops but, as I have already said, I hope this year's area of potatoes will be at least 50,000 acres above last year.