HC Deb 16 November 1939 vol 353 cc821-2
47. Mr. T. Smith

asked the Minister of Agriculture why a number of agricultural wages boards have not yet increased wages in the present emergency; and whether he proposes to take any action in the matter?

The Minister of Agriculture (Colonel Sir Reginald Dorman-Smith)

By the Agricultural Wages (Regulation) Act, 1924, Parliament has made agricultural wages committees responsible for fixing the minimum rates of wages in their areas. These autonomous bodies consist in the main of representatives of employers and workers, and they can be called together to consider motions for alterations in wage rates put forward by either side. Of the 47 committees, all but 14 have decided, since the outbreak of war, to increase the minimum rates, and of these 14, 12 have meetings arranged for the purpose of considering the matter. Of the two remaining committees, one has so far not arranged such a meeting and the other, at its meeting in October, decided to make no increase except in respect of forestry workers.

Mr. T. Smith

Is the Minister satisfied that, on some of the wages boards where no increases have been given, agricultural workers are fairly represented and that the

Home Bred Animals. Imported Animals. Administrative Expenses.
£ £ £
Under the Cattle Industry (Emergency Provisions) Acts, 1934–1937.
1st September, 1934–31st March, 1935 1,449,581 563,726 43,550
1st April, 1935–31st March, 1936 2,796,516 1,087,534 70,775
1st April, 1936–31st March, 1937 2,867,145 1,115,001 73.916
1st April, 1937–31st July, 1937 997.985 360,327 28,629
Under the Livestock Industry Act, 1937.
1st August, 1937–31st March, 1938 2,063,019 522,423 59,900*
1st April, 1938–31stMaich, 1939 3,312,663 978,027 104,500*
1st April, 1939–31 October, 1939 2,014,670 635,359 65,600*
* Estimated proportion of the administrative expenses of the Livestock Commission.

committees are not weighted against the workers? Is he aware that during the last war we had to pass special legislation to see that agricultural workers had a square deal; and does he not think that the time has come when there ought to be a supervising authority for these agricultural wages boards?

Sir R. Dorman-Smith

I have no reason to think that agricultural workers are not adequately represented, through their unions. So far as the second part of the question is concerned, the hon. Member will, I think, be aware that certain negotiations are going on at the present time. I hope soon to have the report from the bodies concerned.