Employment of Children.

Oral Answers to Questions — Agriculture. – in the House of Commons on 18th June 1942.

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Photo of Sir Richard Denman Sir Richard Denman , Leeds Central

asked what steps the Minister of Agriculture is taking to avoid unnecessary employment of children of 12 and 13 years of age in agriculture, and in particular to limit the maximum hours of work to four a day?

Mr. Hudson:

Instructions have been given to county war agricultural executive committees not to encourage or to facilitate the employment of children under the age of 14 until every other source of supplementary labour (including local women, the older children at public and secondary schools and soldier labour if available) has been fully used. Committees have been asked to make every effort to see that children under 14 do not work for more than four hours a day. Arrangements are to be made wherever possible for the work to be spread over such number of children as will enable individual children to be employed for half days only (up to four hours) at a time, and in term-time to attend school for either the morning or afternoon session.

Photo of Sir Percy Harris Sir Percy Harris , Bethnal Green South West

How is provision made to protect the children from being put on heavy work, and to see that the work is at any rate of a character suitable for child labour?

Mr. Hudson:

I think we can leave that to my war agricultural committees and the local education authorities.

Photo of Mr Thomas Harvey Mr Thomas Harvey , Combined English Universities

Arising out of the reply of the Minister, which in many ways will relieve anxiety, may I ask whether he has made Regulations to provide against the possible overstrain of children who are physically unfit and whether he is aware of the anxiety of head teachers on that point?

Mr. Hudson:

Yes, Sir, that has been taken care of.

Photo of Mr Edmund Radford Mr Edmund Radford , Manchester Rusholme

Is the Minister aware that many of us, when we were children, went to haymaking and other farm work for pleasure?

Photo of Sir Richard Denman Sir Richard Denman , Leeds Central

In view of the Minister's assurance, for which I am grateful to him, I desire to give notice that I shall not deem it necessary to proceed with the Prayer which is down for next week. I think I am also speaking for my hon. Friends whose names are associated with mine.

Photo of Mr Aneurin Bevan Mr Aneurin Bevan , Ebbw Vale

Even although the right hon. Gentleman is communicating with the county war agricultural committees, is he asking the President of the Board of Education to communicate with the rural education authorities to prevent them from allowing children to leave school?

Mr. Hudson:

Yes, Sir, the whole arrangement is being conducted with the closest co-operation between the Board of Education and my Department.

Photo of Mr Aneurin Bevan Mr Aneurin Bevan , Ebbw Vale

That is not the point. Is the Minister going to communicate with the rural education authorities to see that they do not release the children from school?

Mr. Hudson:

That has already been done.

Photo of Mr Gordon Macdonald Mr Gordon Macdonald , Ince

Is the Minister satisfied that he has the machinery in various districts to enforce these regulations?

Mr. Hudson:

Yes, Sir.

Photo of Mr Evelyn Walkden Mr Evelyn Walkden , Doncaster

What form of collaboration is there between education authorities and war agricultural committees to see that farmers do not violate the regulations laid down? Is the Minister aware that excessive enthusiasm on the part of farmers may cause the children to work excessively long hours?

Mr. Hudson:

That is being provided for in the instructions which are being sent out to the committees. In addition, penalties for a breach have been strengthened.

Photo of Mr David Adams Mr David Adams , Consett

Will the householders billeting children have the right to send those children to work on the farms?

Mr. Hudson:

An attempt will be made to obtain the parents' consent. It is only if we cannot communicate with the parents that those in charge of the children will be entitled to give the consent.

Photo of Sir Charles Lyle Sir Charles Lyle , Bournemouth

Is it not a fact that children love working on farms?