HC Deb 24 July 1952 vol 504 cc732-3
24. Mr. J. Taylor

asked the Minister of Agriculture if he is aware that the Agricultural Wages Board for Scotland has rejected a motion for wage increases of 5s. and 4s. per week for men and women workers, respectively, although the Board for England and Wales have recommended approval of the same increases; that similar rejections by the Scottish Board in the past have penalised land workers in Scotland; and if he will consult with the Secretary of State for Scotland with a view to the establishment of one wages board for all agricultural workers in Britain.

Sir T. Moore

On a point of order and as a matter of interest. May I ask you, Mr. Speaker, why this Question was permitted to be addressed to the Minister of Agriculture instead of to the Secretary of State for Scotland? There is a Department of Agriculture in Scotland, and surely it is appropriate that this Question should have been addressed to him.

Mr. Speaker

Perhaps the answer will show it.

Sir T. Dugdale

The answer to the Question is: I am aware of the conclusions reached respectively by the Agricultural Wages Board for England and Wales and that for Scotland on recent applications for increased wages. These Boards have been given statutory powers by Parliament and neither I nor my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland are in any way responsible for their decisions.

I am always happy to consult my right hon. Friend on such matters, but even if the change suggested by the hon. Member were considered by both of us to be practicable and desirable it would require legislation, of which I can see no prospect at the present time.

Colonel Gomme-Duncan

Is my right hon. Friend aware that Scotland is perfectly well able to look after herself in this matter and that the Scottish agricultural worker, than whom there is none better in the world, will certainly have a fair deal?

Mr. Woodburn

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that when this has happened in the past it has had to be modified at a later stage, that it would be quite intolerable if increases in the wages of agricultural workers took place in England and not in Scotland, and that the farmers themselves would never dream of allowing such a situation to arise?

Mr. T. Williams

In view of the complications that can arise on a special price review, would not the right hon. Gentleman feel disposed to consult both the trade unions representing the agricultural workers to see whether or not the same machinery should not do the job for all?

Sir T. Dugdale

I think the first consultation must be between myself and my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland.

Mr. Taylor

Is the Minister aware that I was perfectly satisfied with his original answer and that I am only putting this supplementary because of the intervention of the hon. and gallant Member for Perth and East Perthshire (Colonel Gomme-Duncan)? Is he aware that in spite of what the hon. and gallant Member says, these conflicting decisions have caused agricultural workers in Scotland to lose faith in the present set-up of the wages board, and will he therefore keep in mind the advisability of legislation with a view to taking uniform action?