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Farm Work

Volume 437: debated on Tuesday 13 May 1947

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asked the Secretary of State for War what help is to be given by men serving in the Army to assist agriculture during the 1947 harvest.

The general arrangements for providing military assistance to farmers and agriculture will be continued this year as in recent years. Although the number of troops likely to be available in the United Kingdom for loan to farmers during this year will be considerably fewer than in previous years, the need for the Army to give the maximum possible assistance has been emphasised to formation and unit commanders. During the harvest months the provision of assistance to agriculture will have priority over military training, and authoritative requests for assistance will be met by the Army even though they may entail serious loss of military training time.

Would the Minister later be prepared to make a statement showing the number of soldiers who will be available in each county area, and also give details as to how farmers should make application for this labour?

I will consider that, but the machinery we have now is working satisfactorily. However, I would like to have notice of the question.

Is my hon. Friend aware that in one or two areas last year O.C.T.U. training was interrupted, and a good deal of dislocation caused by young officers having to help with the harvest? This meant a good deal of anxiety for those administering the O.C.T.U. Will he see that these men are not used for agriculture unless it is absolutely essential?

It is a question of assessing, in each case, which should have the greater priority. On the whole, I am inclined to agree with my hon. Friend that O.C.T.U. training had better not be interrupted, but I cannot give any guarantee.

If men work on the farms out of their ordinary working hours, will they be allowed to receive pay for the work done?

Will my hon. Friend use the full power to see that children are protected from going into the Army?