HL Deb 23 March 1937 vol 104 cc775-7

Constitution and Proceedings of Agricultural Wages Committees and the Agricultural Wages Board.

Agricultural Wages Committees.

1. A committee shall consist of not more than eight and not less than five members representing employers and an equal number of members representing workers in agriculture in the district for which the committee act (in this Act referred to as representative members), and of a chairman. In addition, the Department may, if at any time they deem it expedient, appoint two independent members.

2. The representative members shall be nominated or elected in the manner prescribed by regulations made under this Schedule.

LORD SALTOUN moved, in paragraph 1, after "employers," to insert "and being themselves employers in the district." The noble Lord said: My Lords, although the Amendments which I have put on the Paper do not precisely go together, I will with your Lordships' permission say all I have to say on the first Amendment. The point is that the method of election of these local committees has not yet been settled. There is a question whether there should be nomination by representative bodies or free election. I understand that the noble Lord in charge of the Bill has a statement to make on the subject, which I hope will be satisfactory, and therefore I will formally move this Amendment.

Amendment moved— Page 12, line 7, after ("employers") insert ("and being themselves employers in the district").—(Lord Saltoun.)


My Lords, these matters also have been discussed with the representative bodies to which I have just referred. The farmers would accept the position that the employers' representatives should be working farmers; but on the other hand it appears that the farmers agree with the workers' organisation that it would not be practicable to lay down any hard and fast rule with regard to the representation of the workers. I am assured that the Farm Servants' Union's policy would be to secure the appointment, wherever possible, of working farm servants, but it was pointed out that in many areas it would be difficult to secure a full representation of farm servants capable of regular attendance at the meet- ings. I am told that in some highland areas, under the Corn Production Act scheme, a local minister or schoolmaster was appointed to represent the workers, and that men of this kind proved to be the most valuable members of committees. Moreover, previous experience has shown that for smooth working of the committees it is often very desirable that one of the representative members of each side should be a person who can undertake secretarial work. In the case of the employees—and may be in that of the employers too—it might be found practically impossible for this duty to be undertaken efficiently by a man absorbed in the day-to-day work of the farm. In all the circumstances it seems desirable that the Bill should not deal categorically With this point.

It may, perhaps, assist the noble Lord if I now state in general terms the Government's position in this matter. It is the Government's desire that reasonable men on both sides, and as far as possible men closely conversant with the actual problems involved, should be selected. It is also the desire of the Government that those selected should really represent the opinion of those for whom they will speak, and that no organisation should consider that such appointments are in any way its perquisite. Perhaps I may mention that I emphasise that point because my attention was drawn to it in a letter I received from the noble Marquess, Lord Aberdeen, who at the same time expressed his regret that he was unable to be present to mention the matter himself in debate to-day. This will admittedly raise difficult questions in areas where membership of any organisation is non-existent or very small indeed, or where more than one organisation could claim to be representative. In such a case the rival claims would certainly have to receive fair consideration. The noble Lord's Amendment shows, however, how difficult it will be to bring these considerations within the four corners of a Statute. With the assurance of the Government's intention which I have just given it will perhaps be possible for the noble Lord to withdraw the Amendment.


My Lords, I thank the noble Lord for his statement. I should just like to say that I hope it will be possible for the chairman of a local committee to appoint his own secretary. Subject to that, I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.


My Lords, I do not move the other Amendments standing in my name on the Paper.