HC Deb 12 March 1928 vol 214 cc1509-11
51. Mr. BUXTON

asked the Minister of Agriculture whether he is aware that many agricultural workers are not receiving the statutory minimum wage to which they are entitled under the Agricultural Wage Regulation Act, 1924; whether he is satisfied that the machinery for inspection provided under the Act is adequate for the purpose of enforcing its provisions; and whether the number of agricultural workers receiving less than the minimum wage is negligible?


From the information in the possession of my Department I am satisfied that the number of agricultural workers who are receiving less than the statutory rates of wages is not considerable in relation to the total numbers employed. The machinery for the enforcement of the Act is adequate for the purpose and information as to the action taken in this respect, up to the 30th September last, will be given in the third Annual Report under the Agricultural Wages (Regulation) Act, which will be published very shortly.


Can the Minister assure the House that the percentage receiving less than the legal wage is less than 25 per cent.?


Certainly, it is very much less than 25 per cent. The total number of complaints since the Act came into operation was 5,400, and of those 2,200 were not substantiated so far as to lead to a demand for payment of arrears.


Is the situation still that the majority of the complaints received by his Department came from the trade unions?


I think that a good many individual complaints came in.


If the Ministry rely on complaints coming along from trade unions, and two-thirds of the workmen are outside the unions, how can the right hon. Gentleman ascertain the percentage of people who are receiving less than the minimum wage?


I have said that we do not rely on complaints coming from trade unions. In addition to dealing with specific complaints we are carrying out about 50 test inspections a month.

Brigadier-General BROWN

Is it not a fact that the trade unions do not represent the agricultural labourer at all?