HC Deb 01 November 1979 vol 972 cc1431-2
11. Miss Maynard

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what are the latest available figures of the average earnings of farm workers.

Mr. Peter Walker

The latest available information is from the Ministry's wages and employment inquiry covering England and Wales. This shows that in the year ending June 1979 the average gross weekly earnings for all whole-time regular hired men of 20 and over were £66.45 for a 46.6 hour week.

Miss Maynard

I thank the Minister for his reply. Is he aware that those figures include overtime and that the average overtime each week for farm workers is between 6½and 7 hours, whereas in industry it is only 4 hours? Is he further aware that the gap between the average earnings of farm workers and industrial workers is now running at £20 to £25 per week? Will he accept from me that in the last 12 years the increase in production in agriculture has been twice that achieved in industry? In view of the fact that the Prime Minister is always saying that workers can have an increase only when there has been an increase in production, does the right hon. Gentleman support the farm workers' claim for £100 per week?

Mr. Walker

The figures that I provided cover both pay and the number of hours worked. The average wage is £66.45 for 46.6 hours' work. It is true that the gap between farm workers' and industrial workers' wages increased in the last year of the Labour Government. I hope that in the negotiations full consideration will be given to the good productivity record of farm workers.

Mr. Kenneth Lewis

Does my right hon. Friend agree that if the unions representing industrial workers would moderate their wage claims not only would there be more for the agricultural worker but their wages would go further?

Mr. Walker

As I said to the hon. Member for Sheffield, Brightside (Miss Maynard), it is true that in the last year of the Labour Government the gap between the earnings of industrial and agricultural workers widened.

Dr. David Clark

Does the right hon. Gentleman agree that those wages are ludicrously low for highly skilled men, especially in view of the Government's proposals vis-a-vis school transport, and so on?

Mr. Walker

It is an average wage which covers both skilled and unskilled workers. Different skills receive different wages.

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