Agricultural Workers (Earnings and Working Hours)

Oral Answers to Questions — Agriculture, Fisheries and Food – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 13th July 1964.

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Photo of Mr Albert Hilton Mr Albert Hilton , South West Norfolk 12:00 am, 13th July 1964

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he will state at current values and at constant values the average weekly earnings of regular whole-time adult male agricultural workers in England and Wales for the average of the three years 1954–55 to 1956–57 and for the 12 months ending September in the years 1961 to 1963, inclusive; and what the average weekly hours worked by those workers were for the same years.

Photo of Mr James Scott-Hopkins Mr James Scott-Hopkins , North Cornwall

As the reply contains a number of figures I will, with permission, circulate it in the OFFICIAL REPORT.

Photo of Mr Albert Hilton Mr Albert Hilton , South West Norfolk

Does not the Parliamentary Secretary agree that the figures which he will publish in the OFFICIAL REPORT reveal that there is a difference of £4 10s. a week between the average earnings of farm workers and those of other workers in the country? If that is so, how does it correspond with the boast made by his right hon. Friend only a fortnight ago in the debate on agriculture that agriculture in this country is having such a prosperous time? If this is so, is it not time that the farm workers had their share of the prosperity?

Photo of Mr James Scott-Hopkins Mr James Scott-Hopkins , North Cornwall

The level of wages is the responsibility of the Agricultural Wages Board, as the hon. Member knows. He also knows that the wages of agricultural workers have gone up by the same percentage as those of workers in other industries.

Photo of Mr Julian Snow Mr Julian Snow , Lichfield and Tamworth

Although we have not had the advantage of studying the figures to which the Parliamentary Secretary referred, may I ask whether he agrees that the general level of earnings in this industry is the main contributory cause of the reduction in overall manpower?

Photo of Mr James Scott-Hopkins Mr James Scott-Hopkins , North Cornwall

As the hon. Member realises, this is a matter for the Agricultural Wages Board, on which both sides of the industry are represented and which deals with this matter.

Photo of Mr Anthony Fell Mr Anthony Fell , Yarmouth

Is not my right hon. Friend aware that the Government, with all their great experience of these matters and their great record, can have some effect on the wages board, whether it be direct or indirect? Is it not time that some pressure was exerted in this matter? Is it any use saying that the wages have gone up by the same percentage as other wages when the starting figure was rather low?

Photo of Mr James Scott-Hopkins Mr James Scott-Hopkins , North Cornwall

I am sure that my hon. Friend agrees that the last thing the Government ought to do is to bring, any pressure to bear on independent wages boards.

Following is the information for adult male hired regular whole-time agricultural workers in England and Wales:

(Years ending 30th September)
Average weekly earningsAverage weekly hours worked
At current valuesAt constant values *
£s.d.£s.d.
Average 1954–55 to 1956–5788088052·0
Average 1960–61101639141151·2
Average 1961–621145915651·0
Average 1962–6311194104951·7
Average 1963–64†12671051051·4
* Adjusted by the Consumer Price Index to average 1954–55 to 1956–57 values.
† Year ended 31st March, 1964.