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Farm Workers (Civil Defence Duties)

Volume 388: debated on Thursday 8 April 1943

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asked the Minister of Agriculture whether he will confer with the Minister of Labour with a view to ensuring that full-time agricultural workers are not directed by the Ministry of Labour, through their local branches, to engage in part-time work with the National Fire Service, which entails their sacrificing some of their working hours on the farm; and, in cases where they have to travel long distances of three or four miles, whether they can be made immune from this form of duty, having regard to the importance of the utmost production from the land?

Conditions of employment and other personal circumstances are taken into consideration before directions to undertake Civil Defence work are issued; and there is provision for a directed person to appeal on grounds of exceptional hardship. I do not think it would be practicable to arrange for the exemption of all or any class of agricultural workers from liability to perform part-time Civil Defence duties, but I will be glad to look into any particular case where an obligation to perform such duties by an agricultural worker is causing interference with food production. In cases of this sort where hardship is involved, my right hon. Friend the Minister of Labour has already expressed his willingness to look into the matter, but no complaints have yet been brought to his notice.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that there are three Departments concerned—the Ministry of Agriculture, the Ministry of Labour and the Home Office? Does he not realise that what is everybody's business becomes nobody's business? Is he not trustee for the agricultural community? Is not this interfering with food production, and ought not something really substantial to be done about it? I beg to give notice that, owing to the unconvincing nature of the answer, I will raise this matter on the Adjournment.