HC Deb 03 December 1953 vol 521 cc147-8W
14. Mr. Osborne

asked the Minister of Agriculture if he is aware that in Lindsey, Lincolnshire, this year 5,000 acres of potatoes were picked by schoolchildren under the blue card system; a further 2,000 acres during holidays; that the local National Farmers' Union fear a smaller acreage will be sown this year unless picking by schoolchildren is again permitted; and if he will make a statement on the subject.

Sir T. Dugdale

I am aware that considerably more use has been made of schoolchildren in Lindsey than elsewhere for the picking of potatoes in term-time and that more than 10 per cent. of the crop has been picked in this way in the county as compared with some 3 per cent. for the country as a whole. In my view there is no reason why the lapsing of the Defence Regulation, which enabled local education authorities to permit the engagement of children in term-time should lead to such difficulties in harvesting as would result in the sowing of a smaller acreage in the county next year. There are various other means of supplementing regular farm labour at harvest-time including the employment of children in their holidays and an adjustment of school holiday times, as is done in many counties, to coincide with the potato harvest and increase the opportunities for schoolchildren to help harvest the crop. In view of the special needs in Lindsey, I am arranging for the volunteer agricultural camps to be continued in that county next year. The agricultural executive committee will, in the coming months, give special attention to these and other measures in consultation with farming interests in the county and the authorities concerned.