Robbing the farm worker to pay the farmer
A vast transfer of wealth is soon to begin. A piece of legislation published this week will transfer £237 million over 10 years out of the pockets of one group and into another’s. The gainers will be farm owners. The losers will be those who work on the land.
Naturally, you will not find those figures in an announcement that went up on the Defra website yesterday, in which the Defra minister David Heath proudly flagged up that a little known quango called the Agricultural Wages Board is to be abolished, with effect from 1 October 2013. He says the decision is all about removing “outdated and bureaucratic farm labour restrictions”. The “restrictions” are a legal requirement to pay farm workers decent wages.
The Defra website also implies that there is some saving for the taxpayer in abolishing a quango. This is rubbish. Government departments are required to calculate and publish “impact assessments” of new legislation. In the little publicised impact assessment of this change in policy, you will find the bald statement that “the net benefit of changes in payments to workers is zero, as a cost to workers is a benefit to farmers.” The department’s “best guess” of that cost/benefit is £235.7m over 10 years, while the amount the state saves is a paltry £500,000 – or £50,000 a year.
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