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Wages Arrears (Prosecutions)

Volume 529: debated on Thursday 1 July 1954

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asked the Minister of Agriculture the number of cases of underpayment of farm workers investigated by his inspectors during the 12 months ended 31st May this year; the amount recovered; and the number of prosecutions involved.

During the 12 months ended 31st May last, 1,082 investigations into alleged infringements of the Agricultural Wages Act were carried out by my inspectors. £7,382 was recovered by way of arrears of wages. Prosecution was undertaken in 14 cases. In addition, 5,750 test inspections were made during this period resulting in the recovery of nearly £2,700. In three of these cases prosecution was instituted. All prosecutions were successful.

Is the Minister satisfied that he has a sufficient number of inspectors to undertake this work?

Yes, Sir. It may interest the House to know that underpayment is found in about 27 per cent. of the cases investigated as a result of complaints, whereas a very much larger number of test cases revealed about 2 per cent., which proves that the whole thing is working satisfactorily.

Will the Minister explain the small number of prosecutions initiated in relation to the presumably large number of cases revealed?

Yes, Sir. It is because in other cases when attention was drawn to them it was found that many were quite unintentional and that there was a settlement with the employers negotiated by the Ministry.

Is not the proportion of prosecutions in the cases discovered much the same as under the Factory Acts and similar Acts?

I could not answer that in replying to the Question on the Order Paper.

Can the right hon. Gentleman say if there would have been more prosecutions had there been more inspectors and if his inspectors are working overtime?

I feel that the matter is working very well. The large number of test inspections reveal that in only 2 per cent. were the workers found to be underpaid, whereas 27 per cent. of the cases investigated following complaints were found to require attention.

Would not the Minister agree that if the workers joined their appropriate trade organisations the work of his inspectors would be considerably lessened?