asked the Minister of Agriculture whether he is aware that, owing to the action of some education authorities in prosecuting parents whose children are absent from school whilst with their parents in the hop fields, hop growers are experiencing great difficulty in recruiting the necessary labour; and what steps he proposes to take to overcome the difficulty.
Mr. T. Williams:
I am aware that in Herefordshire and Worcestershire hop-growers are concerned about the effect which the threat of prosecution will have on the hop-pickers coming from industrial areas. The normal school holidays in a few of the areas concerned will cover the whole of the hop-picking season; and although in other areas they will cover only the first part of the season, parents may also obtain permission for their children to stay away from school for an extra fortnight to accompany them on holiday. It will therefore be possible for the usual arrangements to operate for the greater part of the season; but there will still remain about 10 days at the end of September when parents who kept their children away from school to go hop-picking would be open to prosecution. My Department is considering, with the hop-growers and the other Departments concerned, what steps can be taken to fill this potential gap in the labour supply.