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Agricultural Workers

Volume 496: debated on Thursday 28 February 1952

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asked the Minister of Labour how many shepherds have been called up for National Service between 31st October, 1951, and the latest convenient date; how many of these were in Scotland; and how many have been deferred.

The numbers must be very small, but I regret that actual figures are not available and could not be obtained without a disproportionate expenditure of staff time.

While thanking my right hon. and learned Friend for his answer, may I ask him to consider the possibility of total deferment for shepherds for all forms of National Service?

I cannot undertake to agree to total deferment for shepherds, but if my hon. Friend will wait to hear the answers to some later Questions on agricultural matters he may hear some additional information.

Is the Minister aware that there is great indignation all over Scotland about the call-up of agricultural workers and that the right hon. and learned Gentleman's wolves are now devouring the shepherds? How can he justify a policy which gives the farmers a subsidy one day to increase production and takes away their labour the next day?

The hon. Gentleman will realise that it is not for me to give a subsidy to the farmers. In regard to the later Questions to which I have referred, I can assure him that I have been in touch with the National Farmers' Union and the workers' unions concerned to obtain their assent in the course which I am taking.


asked the Minister of Labour how many agricultural labourers in Warwickshire are due to be called up to Her Majesty's Forces in the near future; and what action he proposes to take to ensure the labour necessary to avoid a cut in food production in the Midlands.

Fewer than 50, it is estimated, during the next three months. As the numbers are so small, the latter part of the Question does not arise.

Has the attention of the Minister been called to the recent statement of an official of the National Farmers' Union in which it is estimated that nearly 2,000 agricultural labourers were likely to be affected? Is he further aware that in one case a farmer had to reduce his herd of cows from 27 to 17 and will have to reduce it further because another man is to be called up? Is it not a serious matter for the country's food production?

I have not seen that statement and it does not concur with the information I have, but I will look into it now that the hon. Gentleman has drawn my attention to it.


asked the Minister of Labour, with regard to the call-up of the 10,000 agricultural workers, which is the figure to date, whether the possibility of their exemption from service in war-time has been considered; and if he will reconsider the calling-up of such men to the detriment of the agricultural industry in peace time, so long as there is any chance that they will not be available for the services in war.

The figure of 10,000 is the approximate maximum number of agricultural workers expected to be called up from the 1933 age group. The question whether these men might or might not be available for the Services in the event of a war at some future date, is not the only point to be considered. The Services have heavy current commitments for which these men are needed now.

Has my right hon. and learned Friend considered the possibility of calling up agricultural workers on a territorial basis rather than the present call-up, which is causing a great deal of disquiet?

Is the Minister aware that in this respect and in many others the National Farmers' Union are gravely disappointed with the treatment they are receiving from the present administration?

I am sorry and surprised to hear it. They, no doubt, like other people, want more than they get, but they have not indicated any great dissatisfaction up to date.

In view of the unsatisfactory nature of that reply, and the disappointment that it will cause to Tory farmers in my constituency, I give notice that I will raise the matter again.