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Agriculture

Volume 387: debated on Thursday 25 March 1943

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Veterinary Inspection Scheme

48.

asked the Minister of Agriculture whether he can give the figures, to date, of the farmers and livestock owners who have entered the veterinary inspection scheme for the control of the diseases of dairy cattle?

The owners of 5,525 dairy herds comprising 150,000 cows and 80,000 heifers are now participating in the scheme.

Can the Minister say whether any improvement in the health of dairy herds has been observed?

Italian Prisoners Of War

49.

asked the Minister of Agriculture what reports on the work of the Italian prisoners as agricultural labourers have been received; and whether he will allow more Italian labourers to be made available for the coming harvest in England?

Reports received by my Department show that on the whole the work of Italian prisoners employed in agriculture is satisfactory. Arrangements have been made to bring further Italian prisoners to this country for agricultural work this year, and I hope that by harvest time there will be a total of between 30,000 and 40,000 available.

Is the Minister aware that in the last war we had 500,000 prisoners working for us on the land, so that we were able to release a comparable number of our agricultural population?

Women's Land Army (Milk Distribution)

50.

asked the Minister of Agriculture whether he is aware that some milk producer/retailers are employing Land Army girls to distribute milk from door to door, and that the rate of wages in their case is 48s. per week as against the trade board rate of 55s. paid by other milk retailers; and whether he will take steps to remove this anomaly?

Women's Land Army labour is only supplied for employment with milk producer/retailers where minimum agricultural wage rates apply—that is, where only part of the worker's time is spent on the round and she does not therefore come under the trade board rate.

The point I am trying to get at is that the lower rate of wages paid to these land girls for doing exactly the same work as retail milk distributors means that they are blacklegging the trade board rates of wages.

Is the Minister aware that certain co-operative societies are using no fewer than seven or eight of these land girls in large towns to distribute the milk, and is this not a sad misuse of labour needed on the land?

A case: of that description in Wiltshire has come to my notice, and I am having investigations made. If it is found that my hon. Friend is accurate, then arrangements will be made for the girls to be correctly employed or to be found other work on the land.

Is the Minister satisfied that a considerable part of their time is occupied on agricultural duties other than milk distribution?

If they are mainly or almost wholly employed in milk distribution, it is not at all what I want. I want these mobile women to be employed on the land, producing milk. If the hon. Member can give me any cases, I shall be only too delighted to look into them.

Rat Destruction (Cats)

51.

asked the Minister of Agriculture whether, in view of the growing rat pest, he will investigate the possibility of encouraging the raising of a strain of cats specially suited for dealing with rats on the lines of a similar strain formerly cultivated at Le Havre in France for use in connection with ships?

No, Sir. The most efficient methods of dealing with rats are poisoning, gassing and trapping.

Will the Minister consider feeding rats on unpasteurised milk in order to reduce their number?