Wales v Westminster: round 94 - this time, on farming


The Welsh government says it will fight plans to abolish the Agricultural Wages Board but UK ministers say it is obsolete

Another day, another row between Wales and Westminster: more precisely between Labour in Wales and the coalition at Westminster.

This time the argument is over the Agricultural Wages Board which fixes minimum wage rates and terms and conditions for agricultural workers in England and Wales.

The UK government wants to abolish the board as it believes it is obsolete when there is a national minimum wage covering every other industry. Ministers at Westminster believe removing restrictions could create jobs.

The Welsh government wants the board to continue to operate in Wales. The simplest solution, one that would keep both governments happy, would presumably be to abolish the board in England but let it continue in Wales.

Except. Agriculture may be devolved to Wales, wages control is not. David Heath, a (Liberal Democrat) Farming Minister, said it was "perfectly proper" for UK ministers to abolish the board. They do not appear to require the consent of the Welsh government to do so.

Mr Heath met Welsh (Labour) Agriculture Minister Alun Davies yesterday and promised to continue talking to him about the issue.

He told a debate in the alternative Commons debating chamber, Westminster Hall, this morning: "We will continue to discuss with him and with the Welsh Assembly Government (sic) what they have in mind. There are constitutional issues which I'm not going to go into. This is not a devolved matter at the moment - agriculture is but wages control is not.

"That doesn't stop us having a perfectly sensible dialogue with Welsh colleagues to see if we can find a way forward".

Labour spokesman Huw Irranca-Davies said: "If they abolish the AWB in Wales without consent and against explicit wishes of the Welsh government it shows complete disrespect for Wales & devolution".

Mr Heath said he was prepared to talk to the Wales Office (the UK government department representing Wales) about the constitutional issues - which may offer a way around the problem if it requires a tweaking of the devolution settlement.

David Cornock Article written by David Cornock David Cornock Parliamentary correspondent, Wales

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  • rate this

    Comment number 19.

    There are lots of benefits for the AWB paid workers not set up in the minimum wage.
    Guaranteed rates of pay when attaining certain qualifications
    extra pay if starting work early or working late
    guaranteed overtime rates
    Dog allowance if required for job
    bad weather payments, night payments
    and benefits in kind like if the worker is provided a home the cost of that home can be deducted from pay

  • rate this

    Comment number 18.

    I saw the graphic and half expected to see WAG's tractor production statistics for the last 5-year Plan...

    Not sure why we need the AWB - never could understand it. Since about 1972 the agricultural sector has been systematically taken over by foreign workers mostly used and abused by gang-masters and other agencies. Does anybody know if there are any British agricultural workers left?

  • rate this

    Comment number 17.

    #16, not asleep, although I am sure it happens, the speakers are embedded in the back of the seats, hence the posture.

    I don't agree with increasing the number of AM's, I would prefer our MP's and Lords to have a dual role, to become our second chamber.

    So no increases, just re-deployment in the interest of scrutiny ...

  • rate this

    Comment number 16.


    So, you'd probably agree with me, then, that there is a need for an increase in the number of AMs - personally, I have no problem with reducing the number of Welsh MPs - to increase the capacity for scrutiny.

    Every time I look at debates in the Lords, about a third of them are fast asleep!

  • rate this

    Comment number 15.

    #14, the great advantage Westminster has, when comparing it with the Assembly administration, is the House of Lords scrutiny ...

  • rate this

    Comment number 14.

    Re 8


    'The problem Westminster has is the quality of its (no apostrophe, dig!) members.'

  • rate this

    Comment number 13.

    Could it perhaps be that the Agricultural wages may be higher than the minimum wage and that is why the Westminster Government want to get rid of it. To drive down their wages. Maybe because all the owners of the big Farming Complexes are friends of the Tories. Just thinking as to why.

  • rate this

    Comment number 12.

    #11 Thank you Melli.
    So, if I understand this, we have a row about to go to the Supreme Court, paying lawyers £2000+ per day to decide if Wales can decide to keep an Agricultural Board that will award adult workers 2p per hour.
    Can someone suggest a legal way of giving the money to the Agricultural Labourers; not to the lawyers and bureaucrats ??

  • rate this

    Comment number 11.

    #9 - according to DEFRA the lowest, grade 1 non-flexible hours workers (of compulsary school age) is to receive £3.11 an hour, grade 1 above compulsary age is £6.21 an hour (£242.19 p/w). The current nmw is 3.68 for the former group and £6.19 for the latter. Flexible-hour workers get more from AWB pay rates. Hope that helps.

  • rate this

    Comment number 10.

    Yet another example of the unnecessary complexity that is 'Englandandwales', regardless of any political positioning taken by both governments.

    If devolution is to be as efficient as possible in serving the interests of the Welsh people the National Assembly needs the "reserved powers" system as per the current Scottish settlement.

  • rate this

    Comment number 9.

    Could anyone who likes a rational argument, based on facts, inform us what is the current minimum wage; what is the current AWB minimum wage; and what is the everage (preferably median) wage being paid in Wales ??

  • rate this

    Comment number 8.

    the problem the WAG has is the quality of it's members.

  • rate this

    Comment number 7.

    re mab
    the ramblings of a mad man re posts 5 and 4.What are you talking about mab?

    if wages are protected by existing legislation then why do we need another body to defend such legislation?
    seems to me WAG-the one I voted for,probably to young to remember that night mab-will disagree for the sake of disagreeing.
    WAG needs to realise that cooperation can do wonders.

  • rate this

    Comment number 6.

    AWB,underpins rural economy we can not do with out,
    so it should be devolved and or A minimum living wage agreed upon.

  • rate this

    Comment number 5.

    3: See I'm quite calm about the Con/Dems scrapping the AWB ending the repulsive England & Wales joined at the hip tag but we in Wales should create our own separate board for our Welsh farmers not retain an obsolete cast off. I know you're a little confused as a defender of the Bunion er.. Union, because it's a London inspired idea and you can't blame The WG in Cardiff. It's so funny... lol

  • rate this

    Comment number 4.

    3: What, insult you & noswipe? Heck, you do it all by yourselves by responding. But If the Agricultural Wages Board is not working for the our farmers and as a Devolved nation we should have the capability to do things our own way but If the powers are not there Devolve them. (P/S) And No little digs from the likes you will sway my thinking. It just hardens my opinion and distaste of your sort.

  • rate this

    Comment number 3.

    trust mab to dive straight in with the personal insults!lol

    if we have legislation for minimum wage protection then why do we need another quango doing the same job?

    what a waste of time and resources.I'd have to back Nospins sentiment.The WAG will disagree with HMG on principle.
    Jokers of the highest order.

  • Comment number 2.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1.

    The proposal is to abolish it in England & Wales, if WAG is wanting to keep it in Wales , it would also have to be kept in England ( it is not a devolved function), that would effectively put WAG in charge of the policy not HMG.

    It is a England & Wales measure therefore HMG can change it.

    Time for WAG to stop whinging and opposing everything just because there is a tory lead gov, very childish



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