asked the Minister of Agriculture whether he is satisfied that there is sufficient labour in Norfolk to lift the potato or sugar-beet crops in time to prevent losses by adverse weather conditions late in the season; and whether at the end of the season he has prepared drainage, reclamation and other schemes to keep all available labour fully employed.
All practicable steps are being taken by the Ministry of Labour and National Service and the agricultural executive committee to supplement the local efforts of farmers to get the additional seasonal help they require. But the potato and sugar-beet crops in Norfolk promise to be very large, and all possible local assistance will be needed. It rests with farmers themselves in the first instance to arrange winter work, but all agricultural executive committees are being instructed to consider in good time, in consultation with Farmers' Union branches, plans for full winter employment.
Is my right hon. Friend aware that until recently, the officials of the Norfolk Executive Committee were unable to assist farmers when making applications for seasonal labour to help in lifting the heavy crops; and, in view of the fact that there is a bigger acreage, a heavier crop and a smaller labour force, should not these people be put to this particular work instead of being given other work in the battle training area?
I can assure my hon. Friend that every man at our disposal employed by county agricultural committees will be made available when the lifting actually begins, but I am sure my hon. Friend would not expect the committees to keep large armies of employees exclusively for seasonal labour, and to pay their wages throughout the year.
Is my right hon. Friend aware that in the Cambridgeshire area there is an acute shortage of labour and that farmers are fearing that there may be a difficulty in getting these two important crops? Is it not possible to draft the unemployed in Liverpool and other places into the areas where a shortage of labour exists?
I can assure my hon. Friend that the county agricultural executive committees are doing their best to send European Volunteer Workers as and where they are most needed.