asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what was the increase in percentage terms in the real weekly earnings of hired regular whole-time male workers of 20 years old and over in agriculture between 1972 and 1982.
Is the Parliamentary Secretary aware that over the same period labour productivity increased by 46 per cent., or double the increase in real earnings? Does she accept that this year's wage award of 7 per cent. is pathetically low when compared with the 45 per cent. rise in farm incomes?
The hon. Gentleman will know that pay is a matter for the independent agricultural wages board, not for Ministers. We have the greatest confidence in the chairman and the board. We know that they will take all considerations into account.
Will the Parliamentary Secretary take into account her right hon. Friend's welcome for an increase in farm incomes last year of 45 per cent? Would she welcome a similar increase in the incomes of farm workers, who, as she has acknowledged, make an important contribution to and are the basis of the industry? Would she welcome a 45 per cent. increase for such workers, and perhaps workers elsewhere—for example, in the water industry?
The hon. Gentleman would not welcome the same percentage increase for farm workers' incomes as for farmers' incomes, which in real terms have fallen by more than 27 per cent. since 1972. Despite an improvement in 1981 and 1982, farm incomes are still only 77 per cent. of the mid-1970s level.