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Harvest Work (Children)

Volume 462: debated on Thursday 3 March 1949

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asked the Minister of Education if he will make a statement regarding the employment of children in agriculture this year.

I shall shortly be sending a circular to local education authorities indicating that it will again be necessary to ask for the help of older school children in gathering the country's crops, though not, I hope, to the same extent as last year.

Is my right hon. Friend aware of the growing opposition on the part of local education authorities to the continuance of the employment of school children on the land, and will he give a guarantee that this is the last year in which the practice will be continued?

I cannot possibly give a guarantee that this will be the last year, but I am just as anxious as local education authorities to dispense with the services of school children in this connection as soon as possible.

Will my right hon. Friend consult the Minister of Agriculture to see if this work can be done by machinery, instead of by child labour? Was not this a wartime emergency measure? Why should it be considered in times of peace?

I have consulted the Minister of Agriculture and, wherever possible, machinery is used to assist in this work. It is true that this was a wartime measure, but I would point out that for all practical purposes the same conditions obtain now in regard to gathering in the crops as obtained in wartime.