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?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Project Coordinator

£28000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Project Coordinator is requir...

Recruitment Genius: Area Sales Manager - Midlands

£20000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: PHP Developer - 3-4 Month Fixed Contract - £30-£35k pro rata

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a 3-4 month pro rata fi...

Recruitment Genius: Telesales Executive - OTE £26,000+

£16000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Telesales Executive is requir...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Don’t pity me for eating alone, just give me a better table

Rosie Millard
Aerial view of planned third runway at Heathrow  

Heathrow expansion: This final 'conclusion' has simply fanned the airport flames

Chris Blackhurst
John Palmer: 'Goldfinger' of British crime was murdered, say police

Murder of the Brink’s-MAT mastermind

'Goldfinger' of British crime's life ended in a blaze of bullets, say police
Bodyworlds museum: Dr Gunther von Hagens has battled legal threats, Parkinson's disease, and the threat of bankruptcy

Dying dream of Doctor Death

Dr Gunther von Hagens has battled legal threats, Parkinson's disease, and the threat of bankruptcy
UK heatwave: Temperature reaches 39.8 degrees on Central Line - the sweatiest place in London

39.8 degrees recorded on Tube

There's hot (London) and too damn hot (the Underground). Simon Usborne braved the Central line to discover what its passengers suffer
Jessie Cave interview: The Harry Potter star has published a feminist collection of cartoons

Jessie Cave's feminist cartoons

The Harry Potter star tells Alice Jones how a one-night stand changed her life
10 best barbecue books

Fire up the barbie: 10 best barbecue books

We've got Bibles to get you grilling and smoking like a true south American pro
Seifeddine Rezgui: What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?

Making of a killer

What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?
UK Heatwave: Temperatures on the tube are going to exceed the legal limit for transporting cattle

Just when you thought your commute couldn't get any worse...

Heatwave will see temperatures on the Tube exceed legal limit for transporting cattle
Exclusive - The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Swapping Bucharest for London

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Meet the man who swapped Romania for the UK in a bid to provide for his family, only to discover that the home he left behind wasn't quite what it seemed
Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

Solar power will help bring down electricity prices over the next five years, according to a new report. But it’s cheap imports of ‘dirty power’ that will lower them the most
Katy Perry prevented from buying California convent for $14.5m after nuns sell to local businesswoman instead

No grace of God for Katy Perry as sisters act to stop her buying convent

Archdiocese sues nuns who turned down star’s $14.5m because they don’t approve of her
Ajmer: The ancient Indian metropolis chosen to be a 'smart city' where residents would just be happy to have power and running water

Residents just want water and power in a city chosen to be a ‘smart’ metropolis

The Indian Government has launched an ambitious plan to transform 100 of its crumbling cities
Michael Fassbender in 'Macbeth': The Scottish play on film, from Welles to Cheggers

Something wicked?

Films of Macbeth don’t always end well - just ask Orson Welles... and Keith Chegwin
10 best sun creams for body

10 best sun creams for body

Make sure you’re protected from head to toe in the heatwave
Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - Milos Raonic has ability to get to the top but he must learn to handle pressure in big games

Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon files

Milos Raonic has ability to get to the top but he must learn to handle pressure in big games
Women's World Cup 2015: How England's semi-final success could do wonders for both sexes

There is more than a shiny trophy to be won by England’s World Cup women

The success of the decidedly non-famous females wearing the Three Lions could do wonders for a ‘man’s game’ riddled with cynicism and greed