§ 13. Mr. Hamilton
asked the Secretary of State for Scotland whether, in view of his decision to sanction the continued employment of children for potato gathering, he will now review the wages paid, having regard to the continued rise in the cost of living.
§ Mr. J. Stuart
The rate of 1s. 3d. per hour recommended to be paid to school children, between 13 and 15 years of age, for potato gathering compares not unfavourably with the statutory rate of 1s. 3½ d. per hour for workers over 15 years and under 16 years. The rate for school children was reviewed in the light of all circumstances by the Departmental Committee on Assistance by Schools in April this year, and it unanimously recommended that the rate should be the same as last year. I have accepted the Committee's recommendation.
§ Mr. Hamilton
Is it not the case that the cost of living has risen since this rate was agreed a year ago last April? Would the right hon. Gentleman not consider tying these rates of wages to the cost of living, or, alternatively, and better still for the children, tying them to the retail price of potatoes?
§ Mr. Stuart
If we tied them to the cost of living it would raise very big questions throughout the industrial field. I think the fact that the rate is only a halfpenny less than the rate for children over 15 years of age, and the fact that the farmer concerned has to provide a mid-day meal, make it appear to be a fairly reasonable rate.
§ Mr. Rankin
Is it not a fact that potato lifting by children was introduced merely as a temporary expedient? Is it now to become a permanent feature of agricultural work in Scotland?
§ Mr. Stuart
That matter has been discussed before now. The hon. Member may or may not be aware that we are doing our best to get on with the development of a machine for the purpose.
§ Mr. Hubbard
Could the right hon. Gentleman say what he considers to be a mid-day meal? Is he aware that a mid-day meal consists sometimes of a cup of tea and some bread and butter?