The Coalition’s £235m wages are robbery down on the farm

Our diarist notes that the minimum wage is a recent innovation; notes the value of family connections ahead of award ceremonies; and offers a spinning corrective

Share
Related Topics

We are so used to the national minimum wage by now that it is easy to forget that 15 years ago there was no legislation that set a floor on low wages, except in one industry. When John Major’s government abolished all other forms of minimum wage legislation in 1993, they toyed with the idea of scrapping the Agricultural Wages Board, which has protected farm workers from exploitation since 1948. That hit fierce opposition from Tory MPs with rural seats, such as Sir Patrick Cormack and Edward Garnier.

A consultation produced 3,555 responses against abolition to 11 in favour. The Agriculture minister, Gillian Shephard, decided to leave well alone. But where the last Conservative government feared to tread, the Coalition has moved in. The AWB is to be abolished on the grounds that it interferes in the free market and discourages farmers taking being hiring staff.

It is not being suggested that it an ineffective or expensive quango. Its disappearance will reduce administrative costs by a negligible £0.5m over 10 years. That is £50,000 a year.

What it will cost farm workers in lower wages is, on the other hand, spectacular – as illustrated in the Environment Department’s own “impact assessment” published this week. The Department’s “best estimate” is that, over 10 years, the cost in lost wages will be £235.7m and the overall gain will be £236.2m £0.5m gained by the taxpayer, the rest by farmers.

That is a hefty transfer of wealth from those who work on farms to those who own them. Labour’s Mary Creagh, the shadow Environment Secretary, calls it “a race to the bottom in pay in our towns and villages”.

Fabricant is the chief quip

David Cameron should never have let the ex-whip Michael Fabricant out of the whips’ office. Whips have to mind what they say.

Now that Fabricant is a vice-chairman of the Conservative Party, he has taken to entertaining Westminster with a string of Twitter messages, like this one yesterday: “I think I should make a personal statement to the House about my 35mph speeding penalty. I am guilty. I am a pleb.”

An in-house award for Spackman

Well done to the comment section of our rival paper, The Times, on securing a string of victories in the annual awards announced yesterday by the networking business, Editorial Intelligence. They won the Political Commentator, Sketch Commentator, Media Commentator and Commentariat of the Year awards, much to the credit of The Times Comment Editor, Anne Spackman. She is married to Charlie Burgess, formerly of this parish, who is a director of Editorial Intelligence, by the way.

Murdoch press in a spin over sexism

The Australian Prime Minister, Julia Gillard has become a star of the internet through her assault on the alleged sexism of the opposition leader, Tony Abbott, which has seriously annoyed commentators on Rupert Murdoch’s paper, The Australian, one of whom, Arthur Sinodinos, had this to say yesterday: “Labor’s decision to go negative on steroids is no accident… its high priest is the director of communications, the ex-Blair spinmeister John McTernan….’”

It is odd that McTernan is picking up this ferocious reputation in Oz, because he was never a “Blair spinmeister”, let alone a High Priest of Negativity on Steroids in the UK. He was a Blairite who worked for a time as a Downing Street adviser, and acted at different times as a spin doctor for some Cabinet ministers. He was never seen as a major practitioner of the dark arts.

He is not mentioned in the first 1,400 pages of Alastair Campbell’s diaries.

React Now

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Accounts Administrator

£14000 - £16000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a security software com...

Recruitment Genius: Telemarketing / Sales Co-ordinator - OTE £25,000+

£10000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This provider of staffing and r...

Recruitment Genius: Kitchen Porter

£19000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: One of the four inns of Court is seeking...

Recruitment Genius: Chef De Partie

£20000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: One of the four inns of Court i...

Day In a Page

Read Next
A memorial to the1982 war between Great Britain and Argentina in Buenos Aires  

Argentina poses no military threat to the Malvinas Islands. So why is the UK ratcheting up tension?

Alicia Castro
 

Daily catch-up: religion, politics and roads named after dictators

John Rentoul
War with Isis: Iraq declares victory in the battle for Tikrit - but militants make make ominous advances in neighbouring Syria's capital

War with Isis

Iraq declares victory in the battle for Tikrit - but militants make make ominous advances in neighbouring Syria
Scientists develop mechanical spring-loaded leg brace to improve walking

A spring in your step?

Scientists develop mechanical leg brace to help take a load off
Peter Ackroyd on Alfred Hitchcock: How London shaped the director's art and obsessions

Peter Ackroyd on Alfred Hitchcock

Ackroyd has devoted his literary career to chronicling the capital and its characters. He tells John Walsh why he chose the master of suspense as his latest subject
Ryan Reynolds interview: The actor is branching out with Nazi art-theft drama Woman in Gold

Ryan Reynolds branches out in Woman in Gold

For every box-office smash in Ryan Reynolds' Hollywood career, there's always been a misconceived let-down. It's time for a rethink and a reboot, the actor tells James Mottram
Why Robin Williams safeguarded himself against a morbid trend in advertising

Stars safeguard against morbid advertising

As film-makers and advertisers make increasing posthumous use of celebrities' images, some stars are finding new ways of ensuring that they rest in peace
The UK horticulture industry is facing a skills crisis - but Great Dixter aims to change all that

UK horticulture industry facing skills crisis

Great Dixter manor house in East Sussex is encouraging people to work in the industry by offering three scholarships a year to students, as well as generous placements
Hack Circus aims to turn the rule-abiding approach of TED talks on its head

Hack Circus: Technology, art and learning

Hack Circus aims to turn the rule-abiding approach of TED talks on its head. Rhodri Marsden meets mistress of ceremonies Leila Johnston
Sevenoaks is split over much-delayed decision on controversial grammar school annexe

Sevenoaks split over grammar school annexe

If Weald of Kent Grammar School is given the go-ahead for an annexe in leafy Sevenoaks, it will be the first selective state school to open in 50 years
10 best compact cameras

A look through the lens: 10 best compact cameras

If your smartphone won’t quite cut it, it’s time to invest in a new portable gadget
Paul Scholes column: Ross Barkley played well against Italy but he must build on that. His time to step up and seize that England No 10 shirt is now

Paul Scholes column

Ross Barkley played well against Italy but he must build on that. His time to step up and seize that England No 10 shirt is now
Why Michael Carrick is still proving an enigma for England

Why Carrick is still proving an enigma for England

Manchester United's talented midfielder has played international football for almost 14 years yet, frustratingly, has won only 32 caps, says Sam Wallace
Tracey Neville: The netball coach who is just as busy as her brothers, Gary and Phil

Tracey Neville is just as busy as her brothers, Gary and Phil

The former player on how she is finding time to coach both Manchester Thunder in the Superleague and England in this year's World Cup
General Election 2015: The masterminds behind the scenes

The masterminds behind the election

How do you get your party leader to embrace a message and then stick to it? By employing these people
Machine Gun America: The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons

Machine Gun America

The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons
The ethics of pet food: Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?

The ethics of pet food

Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?