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

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Kitchen and Bathroom Installers

£18000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This provider of designer kitch...

Recruitment Genius: Office Manager

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: The infrastructure, support services and const...

Recruitment Genius: Personal Tax Senior

£28000 - £37000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join ...

Recruitment Genius: Customer and Markets Development Executive

£22000 - £29000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company's mission is to ma...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

My cousin drowned on a migrant boat – would he have been saved if a photo of him had gone viral?

Zena Agha
Air pollution in London has reached illegally high levels  

Boris Johnson is planning a cruise ship terminal for London - but what about his promise for cleaner air?

Mira Bar Hillel
Orthorexia nervosa: How becoming obsessed with healthy eating can lead to malnutrition

Orthorexia nervosa

How becoming obsessed with healthy eating can lead to malnutrition
Lady Chatterley is not obscene, says TV director

Lady Chatterley’s Lover

Director Jed Mercurio on why DH Lawrence's novel 'is not an obscene story'
Farmers in tropical forests are training ants to kill off bigger pests

Set a pest to catch a pest

Farmers in tropical forests are training ants to kill off bigger pests
Mexico: A culture that celebrates darkness as an essential part of life

The dark side of Mexico

A culture that celebrates darkness as an essential part of life
Being sexually assaulted was not your fault, Chrissie Hynde. Don't tell other victims it was theirs

Being sexually assaulted was not your fault, Chrissie Hynde

Please don't tell other victims it was theirs
A nap a day could save your life - and here's why

A nap a day could save your life

A midday nap is 'associated with reduced blood pressure'
If men are so obsessed by sex, why do they clam up when confronted with the grisly realities?

If men are so obsessed by sex...

...why do they clam up when confronted with the grisly realities?
The comedy titans of Avalon on their attempt to save BBC3

Jon Thoday and Richard Allen-Turner

The comedy titans of Avalon on their attempt to save BBC3
The bathing machine is back... but with a difference

Rolling in the deep

The bathing machine is back but with a difference
Part-privatised tests, new age limits, driverless cars: Tories plot motoring revolution

Conservatives plot a motoring revolution

Draft report reveals biggest reform to regulations since driving test introduced in 1935
The Silk Roads that trace civilisation: Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places

The Silk Roads that trace civilisation

Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places
House of Lords: Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled

The honours that shame Britain

Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled
When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race

'When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race'

Why are black men living the stereotypes and why are we letting them get away with it?
International Tap Festival: Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic

International Tap Festival comes to the UK

Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic
War with Isis: Is Turkey's buffer zone in Syria a matter of self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Turkey's buffer zone in Syria: self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Ankara accused of exacerbating racial division by allowing Turkmen minority to cross the border