HC Deb 05 July 1938 vol 338 cc155-6
5. Mr. T. Johnston

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland whether he is aware that the system of district wages committees, unco-ordinated by a central wages board, under the Agricultural Wages Regulation (Scotland) Act, 1937, has resulted in a wide diversity of wage rates, especially for juvenile workers; whether he is aware that a youth of 16 years of age may receive a weekly wage of 27s. in Dumfriesshire, but only 17s. if he works across an imaginary line in Lanarkshire, and only 15s. if he works across an imaginary line in Selkirkshire; and whether he intends to promote legislation for the creation of a central co-ordinating board as recommended by the Caithness Committee?

Mr. Colville

I am aware that the minimum rates of wages fixed by district wages committees in Scotland for workers of similar age groups vary to some extent as between different districts. The minimum rate fixed for an ordinary male worker of 16 years of age is in Dumfries-shire 22S. per week, in Lanarkshire 21s. per week, and in Selkirkshire 15s. per week. It was the purpose of the system of district committees embodied in the Act that these committees should fix rates in the light of local conditions, and I may remind the right hon. Gentleman that the question of the respective powers of the Central Board and of the district committees was very fully discussed during the progress of the Bill only a year ago. In these circumstances I should not feel justified in promoting amending legislation on the lines suggested.

Mr. T. Williams

Does the right hon. Gentleman agree that the economic conditions in Selkirkshire are 7s. per week worse for a 16-year old boy than they are in Dumfriesshire?

Mr. Colville

The main point of the question was whether I would introduce legislation, and I cannot promise that, in view of the considerations which I have mentioned.

Mr. Williams

Is it not possible that these large variations in wages will cause a large immigration of agricultural labourers from one county to another?

Mr. Gallacher

Can the Minister not introduce a one-Clause Bill covering the whole of Scotland and laying down minimum rates, and, if not, why not?