HC Deb 21 September 1948 vol 456 cc682-3
27. Mr. Niall Macpherson

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland how the hire charge for foreign agricultural workers is arrived at.

Mr. Woodburn

The hiring charge for both British and foreign labour employed by the Department of Agriculture for Scotland is based on the recovery of the cost of their wages and National Insurance, after making an allowance for the estimated period taken up by paid holidays, broken time and sickness, etc.

Mr. Macpherson

Is the Secretary of State aware that there are districts in which the rates of wages being paid to foreign workers are higher than those paid to our own workers in this country, and that I can supply him with details?

Mr. Woodburn

I shall be glad if the hon. Gentleman will supply particulars of cases in which the rates are higher.

Mr. Thornton-Kemsley

Is the Secretary of State aware that the farmers are finding great difficulty because the foreign agricultural workers in many cases do not understand our language, either Scottish or English, and, as this is a factor in their management, ought not the wages paid to them to be less than those for Scottish workers?

Mr. MacLeod

As these foreign workers are paid whether they work or not, could not the Secretary of State co-operate with the Ministry of Works, for instance, which has not yet de-requisitioned agricultural land, so as to allow these workers to clear that land?

Mr. Woodburn

These questions are all very interesting, but clearly agricultural work, as the hon. Member knows, is subject to all kinds of fluctuations and it is very awkward not to have workers on hand when the farmers need them, and that is the most important thing at this time of the year.