HC Deb 02 May 1940 vol 360 cc939-55
The Chairman

The hon. Member for East Fife (Mr. Henderson Stewart) wishes, I understand, to move his Amendment, in page 1, line 14, in a slightly different place, namely, at the end of line 12. It will, therefore, come before the Amendment standing in the name of the hon. Member for West Fife (Mr. Gallacher).

4.15 p.m.

Mr. Henderson Stewart (East Fife)

I beg to move, in page 1, line 12, at the end, to insert: having regard to the economic conditions of the industry. I am obliged to you, Sir Dennis, for permitting me to make the slight alteration which you have indicated to the Committee. I propose to insert precisely the same words slightly ahead of the place indicated on the Order Paper. It has been represented to me that it would make better English if the words were introduced a little higher in the Clause. If the Amendment is accepted Clause 1, Sub-section (1), will read as follows: The Board, if they are of opinion, having regard to the economic conditions of the industry, that any minimum rate of wages,… My first reason for suggesting the incorporation of these words is that it is abundantly plain that all of us in all parts of the Committee intended, when the original Act was passed, that consideration of the economic conditions of the industry should be the business of the wages committees. Quite clearly it would be impossible and absurd to attempt to fix any definite wages without considering the general state of the business. If the state of farming was good, as it is now, if conditions were improving, as we hope they are improving now, then clearly the wages paid to the workers should be increased. Similarly, if agriculture—I pray that this may never happen again—were to be allowed to fall back into the state of fierce depression which it suffered after the last war, obviously wages could not be paid economically within the industry. When the original Act was passed for Scotland, I think that that view was clearly in the minds of all Members and it was certainly in the minds of Members in all parts of the Committee when the similar Bill affecting England was discussed and passed only a week or two ago. Indeed, the House went further on that occasion. Words were inserted in the English Bill requiring the Wages Board to give consideration to economic conditions. I will read the first few lines of the Agricultural Wages (Regulation) Amendment Act, 1940, affecting England, which became law only a few days ago. Section 1, Sub-section (1), reads as follows: The Agricultural Wages Board shall, after consultation with the agricultural wages committees"— I invite close attention to these words— and after considering general economic conditions and the conditions of the agricultural industry, fix,… The first proposition I put to the Committee is that, if it is right not only to have in our minds the economic conditions of the industry, but specifically to lay down in an Act of Parliament that they should be one of the things that the Wages Board must consider in the case of England, it must obviously be equally right in the case of Scotland. Although our local conditions are in many cases very different from those existing South of the Border, the fundamental or economic conditions of the industry are in fact governed by the same factors, which are the question of prices, the state of the industry as a whole, monetary conditions of the country and so on. These are national fundamental conditions which affect agriculture, be it in Scotland, Wales or England. I submit that if the House was wise, as I am sure it was, in inserting these words as mandatory upon the English Wages Board, the Committee cannot very well reject a plea for a similar mandatory condition to be placed upon the Board which will look after agricultural wages in Scotland.

What are the economic conditions of the industry which hon. Members have clearly in their minds? I would remind the Committee of what happened before and after the last war. On page 25 of the Report of the Committee on Farm Workers in Scotland in 1936 there appears a table showing the movement in farm workers' wages in Scotland in different years. One finds that whereas the wages paid to ploughmen in 1914 were only 19s. a week, by 1920 they had risen to 49s. a week. Why was that? Clearly because the economic conditions of the industry had changed. There was need and justice for more than doubling the wages in that comparatively short time. What happened after that? From 1920 onwards there was a steady fall in the level of ploughmen's wages in Scotland, until in the years 1933 to 1935 wages had fallen to 28s. a week. I put to the Committee the same question, Why did that great fall take place? The answer is the same as before. Because the economic conditions of the industry had changed. It surely cannot be wrong, since we are facing a new war, the developments of which no man can foretell, to lay upon the Wages Board the duty of at least considering the economic conditions that prevail. That is all that my Amendment suggests, namely, to have regard to the economic conditions of the industry.

My view of the economic conditions that would be acceptable to all of us is that farming should be such a business that it pays farmers to proceed with it. Within recent years a good many farmers have not found it profitable. I speak with some intimate knowledge. I have, as I have told the House on other occasions, been permitted to look closely at the farming accounts of a great many farmers in Fife, and I unfolded to the House more than once, a year or two ago, the result of the investigation. I am completely satisfied that in those years, four years or so ago, hundreds of farmers in the constituency that I represent could not present a solvent set of accounts. They were in fact insolvent, almost hopelessly overdrawn at the bank, some of them hopelessly in the hands of one kind of trader or another, all because the industry at that period did not provide a profitable return. On that account, those farmers, many of them good farmers and most anxious to do what was right by their men, found themselves unable to pay adequate wages. The hon. Member for West Fife (Mr. Gallacher), I gather from the Amendments which he is to move, will have one doubt at any rate about this Amendment.

Mr. Gallacher (West Fife)

A lot of doubts.

Mr. Stewart

His doubt on this occasion, I imagine, would be as follows, and I suggest that it is a valid doubt. No one would deny that, if we had to consider only the question of the increase in wages, it would be better to take into account economic conditions. However critical one might be of this Amendment, no one, surely, would say that, if farming was obviously paying better, you could not therefore pay your ploughmen better wages. It might possibly be said, however, that this Amendment leaves it open to the Wages Board to reduce wages if they are satisfied that the economic conditions are not so good as they were. I do not seek to avoid that argument, but I would answer it in this way. The hon. Member for Don Valley (Mr. T. Williams) said most impressively, on the Second Reading of the English Bill: The Minister referred to the establishment of the Central Wages Board, and I agree that wages crept up to 46s. in 1920, but the moment the emergency was over the agricultural labourer was forgotten."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 3rd April, 1940; col. 187, Vol. 359.] I think that the hon. Member for Don Valley was almost fully entitled to make that statement. Perhaps the word "forgotten" is not as suitable as it might be, but the fact remains that in 1920 wages fell to such a pitch that the hon. Member for Don Valley was almost entitled to say that we had forgotten the men who had received those wages. My reply to the criticism to which I have been referring would be that, if, after this war, there are signs of another depression in agriculture, then, for the first time, we shall have a central body—the Agricultural Wages Board—charged with the duty to consider that depression and to report upon it one way or another to the Secretary of State for Scotland, who, in turn, no doubt, would report to this House. For the first time, if my Amendment is accepted, Parliament will be officially informed of the economic depression, and will be then able, and inspired, I hope, to take measures to prevent a continuation of that depression. I feel certain that by this new method of giving the Central Wages Board the duty to consider economic conditions we might prevent any new depression. I cannot believe that, if Parliament were officially informed that an economic state, called a depression, in fact, existed, it would allow the Government to permit that depression to continue.

There is not a Member in the Committee belonging to any party who does not agree that the first thing to do about agriculture is obviously to make it a prosperous industry. We are all anxious to do that. I have heard speeches of that nature from every part of this House. The right hon. and gallant Gentleman the Minister of Agriculture made that abundantly clear during the Second Reading Debate on the English Bill. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland dealt with the same point, and I seem to recollect one or two speeches from the other side echoing the fact that the first duty of the Government, or of any machine the Government controls, is to make the industry prosperous. Without a prosperous agricultural industry, adequate wages cannot be paid. There is no dispute about that.

I feel, therefore, that the Amendment I am moving is one which should be acceptable to all parties in the House. I do not want to make a long speech, but I would like to summarise the arguments which, I feel, support this Amendment. We should remember that this is not merely a Bill for a time of war. It may last for all time and when it becomes an Act may control the settlement of agricultural wages in Scotland for a generation. It is quite certain that in that generation there will be a rise and fall and a change of economic conditions from time to time. It is vital that this new machinery which we are creating—the Central Wages Board—must have regard to such changing conditions. This Amendment will have an equal effect on both sections of the industry and should be advantageous to both. The farm worker at present says, "My wages, compared with the man working at an aerodrome, are small and, therefore, I demand higher wages." From his point of view this Amendment will be of the greatest advantage, because he can demand of the Board that they take into account all those economic conditions, and economic conditions do not mean only prices; they mean such things as the drain of men from the land to some other industry. All that must be considered. Similarly, it is to the advan- tage of the farmer, because if he can prove to the Wages Board that conditions are not such as to permit a wage of x shillings his case can be laid upon the official Table and Parliament will be able to deal with it.

This Amendment is in line with the wording of the English Bill, and, moreover, has the advantage of being a balancing factor between the two Measures. You cannot draw blood from a stone, nor can you pay wages out of industry which is not profitable. I seek an Amendment which will make this Bill workable. It will make this Bill acceptable to organised opinion in both sections. I think it was the hon. Member for Linlithgow (Mr. Mathers) who, on the last occasion, spoke so well on behalf of the Farm Servants' Union. He told the House that this Bill had the general support of that organisation, and the Secretary of State for Scotland led us to understand that it also had the support of the farmer. I feel that this Amendment ought to receive, indeed must receive, the support of both sides again, and if that be so I think the Bill will be more acceptable to industry. I think that that summarises what I have sought to address to the Committee, and I would merely remind the Committee again of the actual words so that there should be no misunderstanding. The Bill, if it is amended, would read: The Board, if they are of the opinion, having regard to the economic conditions of the industry, that any minimum rate of wages should be varied, may… I move that these words be inserted in order that the purpose of the original Bill and this Bill may be plainly stated in the Measure, and in order that both sides of the industry may have the assurance that the true state of their trade shall constantly be before the Wages Board, and on that account that never again shall this House permit an agricultural depression such as we suffered at the end of last year.

4,36 p.m.

Mr. Gallacher (Fife, West)

I think we have had this afternoon an extraordinary exemplification of Shakespeare's famous comedy "Much Ado About Nothing." These words in the Amendment are quite without meaning or value. The business of the Board is to consider the wages of agricultural workers in relation to the fact that agricultural workers have to live if they are to be on the land. I have had experience of a wages board and the attitude they adopted took the form of saying that there were so many things to be paid, that there was so little money left, and that they could not raise wages. When I proposed a rise in wages I suggested that we should pay wages first and then consider whether there was any money left to meet the other liabilities. I was told by this particular board that this was very bad economics I am quite sure that the hon. Member for East Fife (Mr. Henderson Stewart) would be prepared to support that suggestion. It is bad economy to feed the workers and good economy to starve them. That is the present attitude. If the Amendment had said that it was more important to pay wages to agricultural labourers than rent to a useless landlord, or interest to financial sharks, it might have had some value. I would like the Minister to consider, between now and the Report stage, whether he should not give the Board power to suspend the payment of rents and interests without permitting financial interests to go on strike and refuse loans. I would have liked the hon. Member for East Fife to have attached to his words the suggestions I have made; as it is without these added words, the Amendment means nothing.

4.40 p.m.

The Secretary of State for Scotland (Mr. Colville)

I am sorry that the Commitee is slightly divided on this matter, but I can say that there seems to be some merit in the Amendment moved by my hon. Friend. I agree that this proposal might in war-time, when there is a tendency for wages and costs to go upwards, and for wages in other industries round about to do the same, lead the Board to recommend that rates of wages in particular areas could be raised in order to conform with the economic state of the industry. Equally, as the hon. Member pointed out, there might be cases where it would be justifiable, in view of the economic conditions of the industry, to make the rate not so much. It cuts both ways, but in the time in front of us I think the tendency ought to be upward, and that consideration should be borne in mind. In framing this Bill I have not followed closely the English Measure. We have gone on our own entirely, but I do observe that in the English Measure this provision is incorporated and that our friends under Northern Ireland wages legislation have a similar provision. The hon. Member for West Fife (Mr. Gallacher) says he doubts whether the words are necessary. That is a debatable point. In framing the Bill I had in mind that the Board would take account of the economic conditions of the industry. However, there is merit in this instance in directing that the Board should pay attention to this aspect of the matter and I therefore suggest, on behalf of the Government, that we accept the Amendment.

4.43 p.m.

Mr. Westwood (Stirling and Falkirk)

We will not oppose the Amendment which has been moved and has been accepted by the Government, because although we do not think it will very much improve the Bill it will do no harm. Consequently, there will be no division so far as this side of the House is concerned, and it is obvious that if there was it would be carried because the Secretary of State has accepted the Amendment. But I think that the House and the country should understand that we on this side have the very deepest interest in the economic conditions of the agricultural industry. Unless they are considered by the Board and those directly responsible for the framing of wages and the wages scheme, and unless industry is in a good economic position, it can neither give a return for capital investment nor can it provide the wages which are necessary to keep men on the land. I believe, without putting it too highly, that we have the best farm workers in the world. I agree we have good land, although some of it is not too good, but the best of it is equal to the best in any country on earth. So that, with good land, good farmers and good labourers, we ought to get a higher standard of living for those engaged on the land in Scotland. I point these things out because they raise keen interest on all sides of the House to see that the economic conditions of this industry are as good as possible.

With all the powers of the Minister of Food, the Secretary of State for Scotland and the Minister for Agriculture, for price-fixing during the war there is no justification for prices being so low that they cannot give an adequate return to those engaged on the land, but the responsibility for war economics is entirely a responsibility of the Government; it is not ours; and I hope that farmers will see that the responsibility is shouldered and that justice is done to the agricultural industry. Too long have we looked at agriculture from an urban area point of view, too long has agriculture been the Cinderella of industry, too long have we delayed facing the problem that you cannot make the best use of the country's resources if you concentrate upon good wages for urban workers and neglect to provide decent wages for those engaged in the production of food. Therefore, I hope that every effort will be made to bring the rural areas and the urban areas together and make them realise that they are one unity, one people for success in this war. While we realise that the Amendment will not improve the Bill very much, it will do no harm, but if the spirit of it is carried into the industry there is no reason why its economic condition should not be raised to a higher standard and so provide a decent living for the agricultural worker. The farmer is entitled to his reward; under existing conditions the investor is entitled to his reward, but the man who has to give his labour is also entitled to a decent return for his work.

4.48 p.m.

Mr. Mathers (Linlithgow)

I am glad that the hon. Member for Stirling and Falkirk (Mr. Westwood) has emphasised the fact that at this particular time, with price fixing machinery so prevalent, the Government have a responsibility for the prosperity or otherwise of the agricultural industry. That takes me back to the words used by the hon. Member for East Fife (Mr. Henderson Stewart) when he echoed what had been said in another Debate by the hon. Member for Don Valley (Mr. T. Williams), that after the last war we forgot the agricultural worker whose wages came tumbling down to a very low level. It was not so much we on these benches or hon. Members generally in the House who forgot the agricultural workers of the country, or the industrial workers of the country who depend so much on agricultural products. It was the Government of that time who forgot the agricultural worker and took away the prop which had maintained agricultural wages at the level to which they had risen during the period of the war. These considerations are worth remembering.

I rather regret that the Secretary of State for Scotland has hastened to accept the Amendment, put forward, I must agree, in a reasonable and persuasive speech by the hon. Member for East Fife. I look upon the matter in this way: What is being said by the Amendment; to put it bluntly, is a word of reassurance to those in the agricultural industry in Scotland who have not had the full advantage which others have obtained from increased agricultural prices, and who have failed to make ends meet. The Amendment, in effect, is saying to them that if they are too hard up they will not be called upon to pay additional wages. That is what the acceptance of the Amendment amounts to. I believe that with a properly constituted wages committee one of their first considerations will be the economic conditions prevailing in the industry, and to me it is redundant to put these words in the Bill. I think it shows that there is in the Government a tendency to give this sop to the employing side of the industry.

There are other considerations than wages which must be taken into account, and one of those considerations, just as much deserving of mention and which must be taken into account in fixing wages, is the strength of the trade union organisation and the spirit of the men who are pleading for increased wages. I think that is just as much entitled to be mentioned in the Bill. I want to see the Measure work and work well. I am sorry this kind of bias should be carried into the deliberations of these wages committees by the words which have been accepted. I find no merit in the claim that they are found in the English Act. We pride ourselves not on being the same as England but on being different from England. We welcome this Bill not because it is identical with the English Act, but because in very important essentials it is different from the English one, and we hope that it will work out for agricultural workers and the agricultural industry in Scotland much better than the English Act, with its limited sphere of operations and influence over wages. I do not feel strongly enough about the Amendment to challenege its acceptance by the Secretary of State, but I thought it was necessary for me, as it were, to clear my conscience by making these observations about its acceptance.

Amendment agreed to.

4.54 p.m.

Mr. Gallacher (West Fife)

I beg to move, in page 1, line 13, to leave out "varied," and to insert "increased."

The reason why I am moving this Amendment is that I want the Board to have power to increase the wages of agricultural workers. It has been said that the Bill is different in some respects from the English Bill, and the impression is that in some respects it is better. That may be so, but I would remind the Secretary of State for Scotland that not only is the Scottish Bill different from the English Bill but that the agricultural situation in Scotland is fundamentally different from the agricultural situation in England. In no part of England have you such deplorable desolation as you find in many parts of Scotland, where the agricultural labourer has simply been swept off the land. It is only so far as the Bill will be used to improve the position of the agricultural labourer in Scotland that you are going to retain the agricultural population you have and bring other persons back to the land. The Secretary of State said correctly that considerable stretches of land are now being put under the plough. I myself, a couple of weeks ago, was looking at some of the land brought under the plough, and it will not produce much as a result of all the toil.

While it may be a fact that much more land is being brought under the plough it remains true that throughout Scotland, and especially in the Highlands, the land has been absolutely neglected and that the agricultural population have had to wander forth into all parts of the world, and, what is even more tragic, many of them are in our great cities haunting the portals of the public assistance committees. I want to see a real drive made to increase the wages of agricultural workers. Why use the word "varied"? The hon. Member for East Fife (Mr. Henderson Stewart) was taken by surprise when, on the Second Reading of the Bill, the hon. Member for Maryhill (Mr. Davidson) drew his attention to the fact that the Bill might be used for reducing wages. I hope he has got over his surprise and is now prepared to unite the disunited County of Fife. I understand that it is an agreed Measure and that the only hope of getting the Amendment accepted is to persuade the Secretary of State that it is a good and reasonable proposal. That is what I am trying to do, but I hope the hon. Member for East Fife will face his responsibilities to the agricultural workers in his constituency and make an agreement with me that on this point—it shall be Fife against the rest of the Kingdom.

I put this point to the Secretary of State in all seriousness. Can he contemplate a district committee coming forward with a recommendation to the Board without taking every conceivable factor into consideration? The district committee might be reluctant to increase wages up to the height it might be possible to increase them. We know what happens at these committees. In a particular area it might be possible for a member on the committee to propose that the wages in the district be increased by 2s. 6d. a week and another member to say that the situation in the area is so good that they should raise wages by 5s. per week. The district committee might be composed mainly of members who are conservative, not in the bad sense in which hon. Members opposite are Conservative, but in the general sense of being conservative; and the committee, after discussing the question of whether the increase should be 2s. 6d. or 5s., might say, "Do not let us go too far at a time; let us take one step at a time; let us give 2s. 6d. now and more a little later." That might be the tendency, and the Board, on receiving a recommendation for an increase of 2s. 6d., could, in those circumstances, easily take into account the discussion in the district committee, and say, "We are of opinion that, instead of increasing wages in that district by 2s. 6d., they should be increased by 3s. 6d. or 4s."

That is a conceivable position. But I ask the Secretary of State and those associated with him whether they can conceive of a district committee in any part of Scotland recommending an increase in wages which it would be impossible for the industry in that area to pay, or an increase that would in any circumstances call for a reduction being made by the Board. I appeal to the Secretary of State to take into account the difference in the position of agriculture in Scotland and the position of agriculture in England. I ask him to take into account the depopulation in Scotland, the necessity of retaining the small agricultural population that we have, the tremendous importance of getting people back to the land in Scotland; and I ask him to lay it dawn, as a measure for achieving those results, that the Board shall have power to increase wages, but no power to reduce them, when they have been recommended by the district committee.

5.2 p.m.

Mr. Colville

This Amendment, and the Amendments consequential to it, would preclude the Wages Board from taking action in any case except to vary wages in an upward direction. The hon. Member for West Fife (Mr. Gallacher) has urged that this Amendment should be accepted, but I see difficulty in doing so. It is recognised by both sides of the industry that one of the important principles of the Bill is to provide a means of preventing anomalous and unnecessary variations in wage rates between different districts. It is true that in the Debates that have taken place it has been recognised and emphasised that, particularly in a period of rising costs, the activities of the Board will be largely directed to levelling out such variations by raising rates which appear to them to be too low; but I would point out that the Caithness Committee, on the report of which this Measure is really based, recommended that the Board should have full power and should not be limited in the way suggested by the hon. Member for West Fife. That was the view unanimously put forward by a committee which represented both the farming and workers' interests, as well as having independent members on it. On this subject, the committee said: It should be made clear that statutory regulation in itself does not imply that wages will be fixed at a higher level. As we have shown, the main evils of the present situation"— this was written in 1936— are the difficulty of ascertaining exactly what wages are in fact being paid, the indefensibly low wages paid in many cases, and the wide range of remuneration for exactly similar work. The Committee put their finger on what was the great difficulty at that time, namely, the impossibility of getting accurate information as to the very wide variations throughout the country. The Committee went on to say: Regulation will eliminate these evils and will prevent any farmer from gaining an advantage over his fellow farmers by the payment of unduly low wages. What the Committee had in mind in giving full powers was that that was the best way of securing a reasonable degree of uniformity in the industry. I do not say that we can aim at complete uniformity, for that would be unwise and impossible. If the Board were prohibited by law—as this Amendment would prohibit them—from ever making a variation downward, one of two things would happen sooner or later: either they would have to raise the rates all over Scotland to keep pace with perhaps one or two committees which might in certain circumstances fix what appeared to be an unduly high rate; or they would have to abandon any attempt to obtain a reasonable degree of uniformity—and we attach importance to some degree of uniformity. I admit that what appears to be a high rate is often found to have some justification in the local circumstances, just as in some cases a low rate may have a local justification. To that extent, anything like complete uniformity is neither practicable nor desirable.

The basis of the Bill is the preservation of local machinery, subject to the safeguards which we have introduced. I cannot see any justification for imposing an arbitrary limit on the Board's power. Both sides of the industry, in my experience, have accepted the principle of the Bill and are prepared to give the Board these discretionary powers of revision. In the negotiations it has not been suggested by the workers' representatives that the discretion should be limited in the manner suggested in the Amendment. In these circumstances I am unable to accept the Amendment. I do not think it would make for the smooth operation of the Bill when it becomes an Act. I believe that, with good will on both sides, the Bill will be a very valuable instrument for dealing with the drift from the land and the depression of the conditions of the farm workers, to which the hon. Member for West Fife referred, but if we overload it with restrictions which may be unworkable, it may have the reverse effect.

5.9 p.m.

Mr. Mathers

I want to take the opportunity of approving the line taken by the Secretary of State in resisting the Amendment. I am sure that the desire of every hon. Member on this side of the Committee, and very many hon. Members opposite, is to carry out what is obviously the intention which the hon. Member for West Fife (Mr. Gallacher) had in moving the Amendment. We recognise the absolute necessity of raising agricultural wages, but what we are doing in this Bill is providing machinery which can be used by both sides in the industry for dealing with wages. From the precise knowledge which I have in this matter, I am certain that if the Amendment were accepted it would result in the machinery simply not being used, and I am very anxious that this improved machinery should be used. I have for many years been associated with wages boards and negotiating machinery in industry. We have always recognised that there were two sides to the arguments that were being made, we have always recognised that we could go to the wages boards and the negotiating machinery, state our case, put what organised power we had behind our demands, and obtain the best that we could for those who were dependent upon our efforts.

In the Second Reading Debate on this Bill, I used an expression which, on reflection, I realised could be misunderstood. I spoke about "ironing out" anomalies. When I used that expression, I did not mean the smoothing out of anomalies in the downward direction; I meant the smoothing out of the anomalies that appear on paper in respect of wage rates and conditions. What I hope will result from this Bill and the improved machinery here provided is a smoothing out by the filling in of gaps and the raising of wages in Scotland to a higher level. It is because I believe that process would be hindered and not advanced if this Amendment were accepted, that I think the Secretary of State is right in resisting it.

5.12 p.m.

Mr. Westwood

In dealing with this Amendment, the Secretary of State has pointed out a very important fact. Negotiations were carried on between the Secretary of State for Scotland and the trade union, and an agreement was arrived at. That was nothing new. This particular trade union was neither more advanced nor more reactionary than any other section of the trades union movement. There are scores of wages agreements in operation in the industries of this country, and in every case where an agreement has been made between the employers and the employés, one of the conditions has been the power to vary the wages. The only reason the trades union movement can make agreements of this kind is that they recognise the fact that we live under an economic system in which no one carries on production for the sake of production. People carry on production for profit, and when no profit can be made out of an industry, that industry will go to the dogs. If it cannot be proved that the industry is economic, and yet there is an attempt to increase wages, what will happen? The industry may go on at a loss, but only for a limited period, under the capitalist system; if it does so, it will finally close down, and there will be no wages of any kind for those engaged in that industry.

Because of my ideals, I would like to see a wages agreement under which there could be nothing but increases; but this reminds me of the story of Paddy applying for a job. He was told that the wage would be £1 a week. He asked the employer to call it a salary. The employer said, "No, a wage—£1 a week." Paddy insisted on its being called a salary, and at last the employer asked why it should be called a salary rather than a wage. Paddy replied, "A salary always increases, but a wage always goes down." It happens that we are dealing with wages at the present time, but I hope they will not always go down. If we make the industry economic, as it ought to be made, wages ought to go up. I do not put all my faith in this Bill, or in any Act of Parliament. When dealing with industrial conditions and wages negotiations, I put my faith in the trades union movement. It is up to the agricultural workers in Scotland to strengthen their trade union organisation to enable them to assist the industry to get on to an economic basis and to enable them to get the best wages possible. As this is an agreed Measure between the Government and the representatives of the trade unions, I shall support the agreement made by the trades union movement.


Mr. Henderson Stewart

In reference to my interjection in the speech of the hon. Member for Maryhill (Mr. Davidson) during the Second Reading Debate, may I say that having refreshed my memory by reading the report of the committee and having listened to the remarks of the two last speakers and particularly those of the hon. Member for Linlithgow (Mr. Mathers), who had had considerable experience in these matters, I am satisfied that the original committee and the Farm Servants' Union and now the Government were entitled to adopt this method; indeed, there was no other method to be adopted.

Mr. Gallacher

In view of the speeches which have been delivered, and the continued disunity of the Kingdom of Fife, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause, as amended, ordered to stand part of the Bill.