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Volume 436: debated on Tuesday 15 April 1947

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asked the Secretary of State for War how many German prisoners have so far indicated their wish to remain in this country as free paid workers; how many have been granted permission to do so; and for which industries and trades such recruitment is being considered.

As stated by my right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture in reply to a Question by my hon. Friend the Member for Bedford (Mr. Skeffington-Lodge), the possibility of allowing some prisoners of war to stay in this country as free agricultural workers is being studied, but a detailed scheme has not yet been fully worked out and consequently the number of prisoners of war who would wish to take advantage of it is not known.

Have they so far been asked if they would remain? Has any inquiry been made whether they will stay?

The procedure is that a prisoner is not invited to stay in this country until his turn comes round for repatriation to Germany.

In view of the importance to the individual farmer of having a particular prisoner who has worked well with him, could this be expedited before they leave?

Although this is not a matter for my Department, I should have thought it would be possible for a farmer through his war agricultural committee to make application for a particular prisoner of war if the prisoner of war is desirous of staying.

Can the right hon. Gentleman arrange for a conference in the localities between the commandants of the camps, the farmers' unions and the agricultural committees on this matter?

Until the details are worked out by the Ministry of Agriculture and the Ministry of Labour, I think that would be a little premature.

Would the Minister consider taking a census of the prisoners of war in this country with the object of finding out how many are willing and anxious to remain here as free workers?

I must know the conditions under which they will be permitted to stay before I can take that census.

Can the Minister make arrangements whereby prisoners of war who have signified that they are anxious to stay in this country, and whom farmers in the localities are prepared to employ, are not moved to some other district?

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that much better work will be got out of prisoners of war if they can have some certainty about this?

My information and experience go to show that most of these prisoners want to go home.