[Mr. WILLIAM NICHOLSON in the Chair.]
Any expenses of the Minister and any expenses of the Agricultural Wages Board, or any agricultural wages committee or subcommittee, which are sanctioned by the Minister, including any expenses incurred with such sanction by any members of the Board, or of such committee or sub-committee in the performance of their duties, and any sums paid with such sanction to any such members by way of compensation for loss of time, in each case up to an amount approved by the Treasury, shall be defrayed out of moneys provided by Parliament.
Sir J. Horsbrugh-Porter (Clerk) read the Resolution of the House of the 23rd July, as followeth:— "That, for carrying out the provisions of any Act of the present Session to provide for the regulation of wages of workers in agriculture and for purposes incidental thereto, it is expedient to authorise the payment out of moneys provided by Parliament of the expenses of the Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries under the said Act, and any expenses which are sanctioned by him of any agricultural wages board, or agricultural wages committee, or sub-committee established under the said Act, including any expenses incurred with such sanction by members of any such board, committee, or sub-committee in the performance of their duties, and any sums paid with such sanction to any such members by way of compensation for loss of time, in each case up to an amount approved by the Treasury, but not exceeding in the aggregate the sum of seventy thousand pounds in any one year."
Captain FITZROY: Before it is finally decided to add this Clause to the Bill, I should like to make a few remarks so as to make it quite clear what is our position with regard to this Bill. When the Bill was originally introduced it was quite obvious that, as it was then drafted, there was a very considerable difference of opinion among parties on the Committee. It soon became apparent that if, 1424 as we all desired, the Bill was to be passed, and passed without undue delay, there must be some measure of agreement, and that the Bill would have to be passed as an agreed Bill. It is quite true that there are some Members of Parliament who dislike very much any form of compromise. No doubt that is a heroic attitude to take up. As a rather old member of Parliament, however, I have evermore become convinced that Bills which have in them great controversial issues are seldom passed satisfactorily into law without some form of a compromise. I go further. I say that one of the great things in the character of the country is its willingness to compromise on great matters of controversy. That is one of the reasons why controversial Measures often become law and are worked with good will afterwards. There never was a Bill that, in my judgment, needed a measure of goodwill more than this one. If it is ever to work satisfactorily, it must at its very outset have a measure of goodwill from all parties. But in any compromise arrived at, it is necessary for both parties to give way on some particular point. The side that takes up the attitude, "I am willing that you should give way, but I will not give way myself," is not really a party to a compromise at all. The only way to make a compromise, or agreement, in this House is for the accredited leaders of the different parties for the time being to come together and to come to some form of agreement. It was with that idea that the Minister who is in charge of this Bill invited some of us sitting on this side of the Committee to come to him and confer, and see whether we could not come to a measure of agreement so that this Bill might pass as an agreed Measure. After a considerable amount of discussion, and many conferences, we did come to what we thought was a very reasonable amount of agreement. I, and of course, I am sure, those who sit with me on this side of the Committee, put absolutely implicit trust in any undertaking that the Minister makes. We are quite convinced if he gives an undertaking, he is absolutely sure, to the best of his ability, to carry it out. I was unfortunately not able to be present at yesterday's proceedings, but I gather from the OFFICIAL REPORT, which I have just been able to study for a few moments, that there seemed some 1425 amount of doubt over a Division which took place. Although the Minister himself, and indeed the Parliamentary Secretary, who is equally responsible with him, are absolutely sure to carry out their undertaking, they might not be able to, what I may call, "deliver the goods," because some of their followers would not be willing to support them. I should like just to state what was the nature of the compromise at which we arrived, and what it was we were both prepared to do. Those of us on this side of the Committee gave an undertaking that if the various conditions which were arrived at were adhered to we would give every possible facility to the Minister to carry his Bill through the House without any delay whatsoever. We are prepared to carry out that undertaking, if the Minister is able to assure us that he, on his part, can carry out the undertaking that he gave. The undertaking which the Minister gave was that he would oppose the insertion in the Bill of a minimum wage being set up by the Central Wages Board, and—he will correct me if I am wrong—that carried with it an undertaking that a minimum wage in the form of a figure would not be inserted in the Bill. A further undertaking he gave us was that he would resist all efforts of his followers, so far as he could control them, to modify the form of the Bill when it came up on Report. This Bill is very shortly going to leave this Committee room. So far as we are concerned, unless that undertaking can be carried out by the Minister we shall, to all intents and purposes, lose any control we have of it. Therefore, it is at this stage of the proceedings that I would respectfully ask the Minister if he can give us an assurance that he is able to carry out the undertaking that he gave. I can again assure him that I, and all of us, realise that he will do his best in this direction, because we thoroughly trust him, so far as he is concerned, to carry out his part of the bargain. If he can give us that assurance, we can assure him that the remaining stages of this Bill shall be passed through this Committee as speedily as possible with, of course, the necessary Debate on questions of importance. Unless, however, we can have that asurance, we feel it our duty not to lose control of the Bill in this Committee.1426
The MINISTER of AGRICULTURE (Mr. Noel Buxton): I think that the hon. and gallant Member (Captain Fitzroy) has exactly stated what was agreed between us. We arrived at that agreement, naturally, with some pain and reluctance on our part—
Captain FITZROY: And on ours!
Mr. BUXTON: But we decided that there must, of course, be give and take; and the general ground of agreement was embodied in the form that the hon. and gallant Member has mentioned. He will correct me if I am wrong, but he did not mention the further item which the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Ripon (Mr. E. Wood) mentioned yesterday, in regard to their using their best endeavours to help the passage of the Bill on the part of the Conservative party in another place. I do not want to exaggerate that in the least—
Captain FITZROY: I did not mention that, because I did not think it was necessary.
Mr. BUXTON: It was quite unnecessary, but I thought the hon. and gallant Member would not mind my just alluding to it. On our part, the undertaking was quite explicit, and my hon. Friends know what it was. It was that we, the Government and the Cabinet, would oppose the modification of the Bill when it gets back to the House in any way, and, in particular, on the point, which was naturally debated, in regard to a minimum figure. We were obliged to give an explicit undertaking, and I may say, on behalf of the Cabinet, that it will use all its powers in regard to that matter, so that I confirm what has been said without any qualification at all.
Amendment made: After the word "Treasury" insert the words, "but not exceeding in the aggregate the sum of seventy thousand pounds in any one year."—[Mr. Buxton.]
Clause, as amended, ordered to stand part of the Bill.
Clauses 13 (Annual Report), 14 (Evidence of resolutions and orders of committee and Board), 15 (Saving of agreements, etc.) and 16 (Application to county of London) ordered to stand part of the Bill.1427
In this Act unless the context otherwise requires— The expression "agriculture" includes dairy-farming and the use of land as grazing, meadow, or pasture land or orchard or osier land or woodland or for market gardens or nursery grounds;
The expression "county" means an administrative county, and for the purposes of this Act a county borough which is surrounded by an administrative county shall be deemed to be included in that county, and a county borough which adjoins two or more administrative counties shall be deemed to be included in such of those counties as the Minister may direct, and any detached part of an administrative county which is surrounded by another administrative county, shall be deemed to be within the administrative county by which it is so surrounded; The expression "prescribed" means prescribed by regulations made under this Act.
Leave out the words "which is surrounded by another administrative county, shall be deemed to be within the administrative county by which it is so surrounded," and insert instead thereof the words "shall be deemed to be included in the adjoining administrative county or if it adjoins two or more administrative counties shall be deemed to be included in such of those counties as the Minister may direct."
At the end of the Clause add a new Sub-section— "(2) A resolution passed at a meeting of an agricultural wages committee unanimously by the representative members of the committee present and voting, shall be deemed to be a resolution of the representative members for the purposes of this Act."—[Mr. Buxton.]
Clause, as amended, ordered to stand part of the Bill.
Clauses 18 (Repeal) and 19 (Short title and extent) ordered to stand part of the Bill.
The CHAIRMAN: The two new Clauses on the Paper—(Relief of employer under tenancy agreement made before passing of the Act)—(Power to establish a children's fund)—in the names respectively of the hon. Member for Newbury (Mr. Stranger) and the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Tiverton (Mr. Acland) are both out of order, being beyond the scope of the Bill.1428
Mr. ACLAND: Naturally, I have to accept that ruling. I take it that my Clause is out of order in view of the title of the Bill—that this matter of providing an alternative way of paying wages is beyond the scope of a Bill, "To provide for the regulation of wages of workers in agriculture and for purposes incidental thereto"?
The CHAIRMAN: I think it is clearly outside the scope of the Bill, as it embodies a principle which was not before the House when the Bill received a Second Reading.
1. An agricultural wages committee shall consist of members representing employers and members representing workers in agriculture in the county for which the committee act (in this Act referred to as representative members), in equal proportions, and of a chairman.
5. A committee may, if they think fit, resolve that the chairman or the vice-chairman, or either of them, shall have an original or a casting vote, or both an original and casting vote, either generally or on any particular occasion, but except where authorised by such resolution, the chairman or vice-chairman shall not have a vote on any question arising in the committee.
7. The Agricultural Wages Board shall consist of members representing employers and members representing workers in agriculture (in this Act referred to as representative members) in equal proportions together with such number of members (in this Act referred to as appointed members) as the Minister may think fit to appoint, but so that the number of appointed members shall not exceed one-quarter of the total number of members of the Board when fully constituted.
10. At least one member of the Board shall be a woman.
11. The proceedings of an agricultural wages committee or sub-committee or of the Agricultural Wages Board shall not be invalidated by any vacancy in their number or by any defect in the appointment, nomination or election of the chairman, vice chairman or any member of the committee, sub-committee or Board.1429
Mr. BUXTON: I beg to move, in paragraph 1, after the word "proportions" to insert the words, "of two members appointed by the Minister."
Mrs. WINTRINGHAM: I beg to move, as an Amendment to the proposed Amendment, after the word "Minister" to add the words "one of whom may be a woman." Seeing that one-tenth of the workers in agriculture are women, I should like it to be made possible, if the Local Committee wish it, for them to have one woman member. The term "agriculture" includes nine branches, and six at least of these involve the work of women. One often feels also, that on these committees, when the question of a living wage is being determined, the presence of a woman with a knowledge of agricultural workers' difficulties would be of great advantage in determining what would be a sufficient wage.
Mr. BUXTON: When the hon. Member suggested this to me yesterday, I thought it might be useful, if hon. Members on both sides of the Committee agreed; but it has been pointed out to me that it is really unnecessary, because there is no restriction to males in regard to the appointments, and there will be a perfectly free hand to appoint a woman.
Mrs. WINTRINGHAM: If that be understood, I am quite satisfied, and I beg to ask leave to withdraw my Amendment.
Amendment to the proposed Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Amendment agreed to.
Further Amendment made: Leave out paragraph (5), and insert instead thereof a new paragraph. "5. At a meeting of a committee the chairman or vice-chairman presiding at the meeting in his absence shall be entitled to vote, and in case of equality of votes shall have a second or casting vote, but before exercising his right to vote the chairman or vice-chairman, if so authorised by a resolution of the representative members of the committee, may obtain the advice of the Agricultural Wages Board or a committee of that Board as to the exercise of such right, and may adjourn the meeting in order to enable him to do so."—[Mr. Buxton.]
Mr. STRANGER: I beg to move, at the end of paragraph (7), to insert the words: "Provided always that when the Agricultural Wages Committee in any district fails 1430 to agree on the minimum wage payable in that district and the Agricultural Wages Board is called upon to decide the minimum wage in that district, two of the members of the Agricultural Wages Committee in that district shall be nominated to represent the employers of that district and two of the members of the Agricultural Wages Committee in that district shall be nominated to represent the workers of that district, and these four members shall be added to the Agricultural Wages Board when sitting to decide the minimum wages in that district." The object of this Amendment, which, I suggest, would be a very useful one, is that there shall be local representation on the Central Wages Board when the Board is considering the rate of wages to be paid in any district. It has been a very strong, and, I think, reasonable, criticism of this Bill, that when the Central Wages Board is considering, as it must from time to time, the rates of wages in a district, it will not include in its number those who are acquainted with the conditions of agriculture in the district, and, therefore, will not have the local knowledge which it is so valuable that it should have before it, and should actually discuss, when questions of wages are being settled. I have had put before me the view of the farmers in my district that on the Central Wages Board they may have no representation, and, similarly, I have had the view of the workers that, when the Central Wages Board is sitting, their particular difficulties will not be before the Board. I think there can be no doubt that it cannot harm the working of this Bill to have included in it a provision for the representation of the local wages committees on the Central Wages Board when it is settling the wages of a particular district. I invite the Minister to accept the Amendment, which I do not think interferes in any way with any private arrangement that may have been made between the Conservative party and the Liberal party, of which I myself know nothing; but it would, in my submission, assist the smooth working of the Bill when it comes to be dealt with by the Central Wages Board.
The PARLIAMENTARY SECRETARY to the MINISTRY of AGRICULTURE (Mr. W. R. Smith): I think one can fully appreciate the idea that lies behind this Amendment, because, if I understand it correctly, it seeks to give the Local Committee an opportunity of representing the local views when the Central 1431 Board is dealing with any question affecting their particular area that may have been referred to the Board under the Bill. I am rather of the opinion, however, that this is not the most effective way of doing it. After all, what would be done would be just to add two to each side on the Board. I would suggest to the Committee that the practice of the old Wages Board is better. Whenever the Ceneral Wages Board was reviewing any decision that had been come to by the District Wages Committee, it was always the practice for a deputation to come up and put the Local Committee's point of view in regard to the particular matter in question. In that way we used not merely to get the representatives of the farmers and of the men, but the appointed member came also. All three of them came, and they put before the Ceneral Board their particular view, and argued as to why their decision should not be disturbed. I think that that meets the object of the hon. Member so far as regards giving an opportunity to the Local Committee to have its point of view properly represented and expressed to the Central Board, and, as I have not the slightest doubt that the same thing would be done again by the Central Board, because it is a practice that has been established by custom, I venture to suggest that that would be the better way, rather than to add numbers to each side, which, after all, would leave the position very much as it was, the employers' representatives merely advising their side, and the workmen's representatives merely advising theirs. On the other hand, by a deputation you get the complete view of the Committee, and the Chairman generally used to come, so that the Central Board got even fuller information than could be obtained by this method.
Mr. STRANGER: After what the hon. Gentleman has said, I do not wish to press the Amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Further Amendments made:
At the end of Paragraph (10) insert a new paragraph:— 1432 "11. The Board may, in accordance with regulations under this Schedule, appoint one or more committees consisting of members representing employers and members representing workers in agriculture in equal proportions and of one or more appointed members, and may refer to any such committee for report and recommendations any matter which they think it expedient so to refer, and may also, if they think fit, delegate to any such committee any of their powers and duties under this Act, other than any power or duty to fix, cancel, or vary minimum rates of wages."
In Paragraph (11), after the word "Board" ("or of the Agricultural Wages Board"), insert the words "or any committee thereof."
Two consequential Amendments made.—[Mr. Buxton.]
Schedule, as amended, agreed to.
Title (a Bill to Provide for the Regulation of Wages of Workers in Agriculture, and for purposes incidental thereto) agreed to.
Bill, with Amendments, ordered to be reported to the House.
Mr. BUXTON: I should like, on behalf of myself and my friends, to express our gratitude to you, Sir, for your work in the Chair. It may have been some consolation for refreshment to you that at all events the time you have spent in the Chair has not been without incident, and I hope your work has been made less tedious than on some occasions by the fact that the subject we have been dealing with is a gravely important and urgent one.
Sir HENRY CAUTLEY: On behalf of Members who sit on this side of the Committee, I desire to re-echo the thanks the Minister has tendered to you.
Mr. ACLAND: I should like to associate myself with what has been said. At any rate, there must be this consolation, that I am sure you would have liked nothing more than several months of the same occupation, but the arrangement which was come to has greatly lessened the labour you would otherwise delightedly have given.
Committee rose at Twenty-eight Minutes before Twelve o'Clock.1433
THE FOLLOWING MEMBERS ATTENDED THE COMMITTEE:
Nicholson, Mr. William (Chairman)
Cautley, Sir Henry
Davies, Major George
Davies, Sir Thomas
Gould, Mr. Frederick
Grenfell, Mr. David
Martin, Mr. William
Mitchell, Mr. Foot
Newton, Sir Douglas
Smith, Mr. Walter
Titchfield, Major the Marquess of
Williams, Mr. Thomas
Wood, Mr. Edward