Agricultural Production.

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons on 11th February 1941.

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Photo of Mr Thomas Williams Mr Thomas Williams , Don Valley

My hon. Friend evidently has information other than that in my possession. All over the country there is a tendency for farmers' mortgages to decrease rather than increase, because for the first time for some years they are not doing too badly.

With regard to man-power, I am sure we all recognise its importance, especially to agriculture. You cannot provide a skilled agricultural labourer in a training establishment in three months, six months, or even six years. But since the Government have called upon the industry to cultivate every acre, they must, as far as possible in the present circumstances, provide both the machine-power and the man-power so that they will be able to do the job. The Government does appreciate this very grave problem but has to decide between the requirements of the Services, and the production of food, shipping, etc., and secure the best balance they possibly can. I can say to the hon. Member and to the House that the plan for raising the numbers essential for the Fighting Services is still under discussion, and many details are still to be settled. I can, however, say that in relation to the total employed in the industry the men withdrawn will be a very small proportion indeed. Secondly, the arrangements proposed will guarantee the retention on the farms of every man who is really indispensable; and, thirdly, due regard will be paid to the special circumstances of agriculture as regards seasonal operations and calling-up dates. Service requirements are putting a terrific strain upon every industry in this country. Substitution and training are now universally accepted as being assential, and I both hope and believe that agriculture will be able to play its part in this moment of national crisis.