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

Ashdown Group: Helpdesk Analyst

£25000 per annum: Ashdown Group: An established media firm based in Surrey is ...

Ashdown Group: Java Developer - Hertfordshire - £47,000 + bonus + benefits

£40000 - £470000 per annum + bonus: Ashdown Group: Java Developer / J2EE Devel...

Ashdown Group: Head of Finance - Financial Director - London - £70,000

£70000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Head of Finance - Financial Controller - Fina...

Recruitment Genius: Business Development Executive - Nationwide - OTE £65,000

£30000 - £65000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This small technology business ...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Ice skating in George Square, Glasgow  

How many Christmas cards have you sent this year?

Simon Kelner
 

Al-Sweady Inquiry: An exercise in greed that blights the lives of brave soldiers

Richard Kemp
Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas
La Famille Bélier is being touted as this year's Amelie - so why are many in the deaf community outraged by it?

Deaf community outraged by La Famille Bélier

The new film tells the story of a deaf-mute farming family and is being touted as this year's Amelie
Calls for a military mental health 'quality mark'

Homeless Veterans campaign

Expert calls for military mental health 'quality mark'
Racton Man: Analysis shows famous skeleton was a 6ft Bronze Age superman

Meet Racton Man

Analysis shows famous skeleton was a 6ft Bronze Age superman
Garden Bridge: St Paul’s adds to £175m project’s troubled waters

Garden Bridge

St Paul’s adds to £175m project’s troubled waters
Stuff your own Christmas mouse ornament: An evening class in taxidermy with a festive feel

Stuff your own Christmas mouse ornament

An evening class in taxidermy with a festive feel
Joint Enterprise: The legal doctrine which critics say has caused hundreds of miscarriages of justice

Joint Enterprise

The legal doctrine which critics say has caused hundreds of miscarriages of justice
Freud and Eros: Love, Lust and Longing at the Freud Museum: Objects of Desire

Freud and Eros

Love, Lust and Longing at the Freud Museum
France's Front National and the fear of a ‘gay lobby’ around Marine Le Pen

Front National fear of ‘gay lobby’

Marine Le Pen appoints Sébastien Chenu as cultural adviser
'Enhanced interrogation techniques?' When language is distorted to hide state crimes

Robert Fisk on the CIA 'torture report'

Once again language is distorted in order to hide US state wrongdoing
Radio 1’s new chart host must placate the Swifties and Azaleans

Radio 1 to mediate between the Swifties and Azaleans

New chart host Clara Amfo must placate pop's fan armies
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'It's life, and not the Forces, that gets you'

Homeless Veterans appeal: 'It's life, and not the Forces, that gets you'

The head of Veterans Aid on how his charity is changing perceptions of ex-servicemen and women in need