HC Deb 31 October 1957 vol 575 cc368-9
1. Mr. Gresham Cooke

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what additional total costs are placed on the farming industry by the wage award announced in July; and what effect he expects the award to have on productivity.

The Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (Mr. Derick Heathcoat Amory)

It is estimated that the award of the Agricultural Wages Board for England and Wales which came into effect on 28th October would add about £14½ million to the costs of the industry in a full year if the use of labour did not alter. Of this amount, about £11½ million would fall on price guaranteed commodities. It is not possible to forecast the effect of this award on productivity but I am confident that output per man will continue to improve.

Mr. Gooch

Is the Minister aware that farm workers have not yet received a single penny of the millions mentioned by him? Is the right hon. Gentleman also aware of the threats of many farmers to discharge men so as to avoid the obligation of paying them the additional 9s.? Does not the Minister agree that, measured in terms of output, farm workers are entitled to every penny of the 9s., and more?

Mr. Amory

I am not quite sure that I understand the first part of the hon. Gentleman's supplementary question, because the award has only just come into operation and, therefore, they would not yet have received a penny of this extra money. As regards the last part of the hon. Gentleman's supplementary question, I should like to pay a tribute to the increased productivity achieved by the industry in the past ten years. The index of production has gone up from 124 per cent. of the pre-war level to 158 per cent., and during that period the total number employed in the industry has dropped from about 980,000 to something like 755,000, which is a great tribute to the productivity per worker.

Mr. Gresham Cooke

Would not my right hon. Friend agree that, as the additional charges are going up by £14½ million, unless we get an increase in production in the forthcoming year—[HON. MEMBERS: "We are getting it now."]—a wage award of this kind would really be inflationary?

Mr. Amory

I think that the record of the industry so far, showing a steady annual increase in productivity, has been encouraging.