HC Deb 24 May 1921 vol 142 cc14-6

asked the Prime Minister if he has received a copy of the resolution passed by the Guardians of the Kingsclere Union, Hampshire, expressing the opinion that there will be no effective relief from the burden now being placed upon the rates by the existing unemployment of a number of able-bodied agricultural workers, who are willing to work, until the minimum agricultural wage fixed by the Agricultural Wages Board is considerably reduced and greater freedom allowed for wage-bargaining between the employer and the employed; and whether he will consider the desirability of advising district agricultural wages boards that wages should be fixed on an economic basis so as to lessen the serious unemployment prevalent in agricultural districts under the existing system?

The MINISTER of AGRICULTURE (Sir Arthur Boscawen)

I have been asked to reply. The resolution referred to has now reached me, and I have received other representations to a similar effect. Minimum rates of wages are fixed by the Agricultural Wages Board, on which employers of agricultural labour are fully and ably represented, and I shall be glad to call the attention of the Board to the suggestion of my hon. Friend.


Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that a large number of persons are applying for work on farms at rates less than the minimum wage, and that farmers are unable to employ them in consequence of the high rates which have been fixed?


I have heard statements to that effect, and those representations will be sent to the Wages Board. My hon. and learned Friend must realise that I have no power whatever to interfere in the conduct of the business of the Board or with its decisions.


Has the Wages Board power to deal with cases in which farmers, for the purpose of helping men, are willing to take them on at less than the current rate which has been fixed?


I think I ought to have notice of a question of that sort, but I can just give this answer, that they give permission in cases where a man is suffering from a definite disability.


Can the right hon Gentleman say how many men there are on the Wages Board who are, or ever have been, agricultural labourers?


Perhaps my hon. and gallant Friend will give me notice of that question.