Catalogue description Records of Agricultural Labour, Wages and Farm Safety

Details of Division within MAF
Reference: Division within MAF
Title: Records of Agricultural Labour, Wages and Farm Safety

Records relating to agricultural labour, wages, and farm safety including pesticide use.

Files of the Manpower and Wages Division and its predecessors are in MAF 47, MAF 186 (labour supply), MAF 228 (agricultural wages, health and housing) and MAF 258 (agricultural wages and working conditions).

Files relating to farm safety and the safe use of pesticides are in MAF 284 and MAF 368.

Records relating to agricultural wage committees are in MAF 62, MAF 63 and MAF 64.

Records relating to the management and control of pesticides and the pesticides industry are in MAF 448, MAF 449, MAF 450 and MAF 451.

Agricultural Manpower and Related Matters are in MAF 796.

Date: 1900-1986
Legal status: Public Record(s)
Language: English

Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries, Agricultural Wages Division, 1942-1943

Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries, Economics Division, Labour Branch, 1919-1933

Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries, Labour Division, 1948-1955

Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries, Livestock Division, Labour Branch, 1933-1939

Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries, Manpower Division, 1939-1948

Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries, Wages and Building Division, 1944-1948

Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries, Wages and Housing Division, 1943-1944

Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, Agricultural Guarantees and Labour Division, 1964-1965

Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, Agricultural Safety, Training and Wages Division, 1974-1977

Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, Agricultural Training, Wages and Plant Health Division, 1977-1982

Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, Labour Division, 1955-1958

Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, Labour, Machinery and Seeds Division, 1958-1959

Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, Labour, Safety and Seeds Division, 1959-1964

Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, Safety, Pesticides and Infestation Control Division, 1970-1974

Physical description: 14 series
Administrative / biographical background:

Labour and Farm Safety Divisions

The concern of the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries with agricultural labour comprised two elements in the past: control of labour supply in wartime emergencies, and regulation of wages and conditions of service. When the Food Production Department was established in 1917 the Board set up a Women's Branch (otherwise Women's Labour Branch) to stimulate and administer the recruitment of women for work on the land. The branch was transferred to the Food Production Department when this became independent and absorbed again as the Labour Branch of the Economics Division in 1919.

In 1917 the Corn Production Act conceded the principle of a minimum agricultural wage and an Agricultural Wages Board was established to determine its level. When the corn subsidy ended in 1921, this wages board was dissolved and replaced by voluntary reconciliation committees. This system was in turn replaced when the Agricultural Wages (Regulation) Act 1924 re-established the Agricultural Wages Board, which now consisted of representatives of the ministry, employers and workers. It was given little jurisdiction, with the work of setting minimum wages being undertaken by forty-seven local Agricultural Wages Committees; the Board acted only when these failed to agree. Initially, in 1917, the Board of Agriculture had maintained a secretariat for the Board and its committees, with an Agricultural Wages Inspectorate to enforce the orders fixing the minimum wage rates, but in 1919 these were amalgamated with the Labour Branch. In 1933 the branch was transferred from the Economics Division to the Livestock Division.

During the Second World War the ministry was again much involved with labour supply and in the first year of the war a Manpower Division was created to organise the recruitment of labour from special sources, including the revived Women's Land Army and to negotiate postponement of or exemption from military service for farm workers. Initially this division also discharged the normal wages work as well, but in 1942 an Agricultural Wages Division (later the Wages and Housing Division and from 1944 the Wages and Building Division) was established to cover wages work and to see to the provision of accommodation for workers. After the war these functions were united under a Manpower and Wages Division. Many responsibilities of the local Agricultural Wages Committees had lapsed early in the war and under the Agricultural Wages Act 1948 responsibility for fixing national minimum wage rates was rested in the Agricultural Wages Board, the committees retaining only local administrative duties. The Manpower and Wages Division's name was changed to Labour Division at the same time. The Agricultural Wages Inspectorate was amalgamated with the Machinery Inspectorate when the Labour and Machinery. Divisions were merged in 1953, becoming the Safety and Wages Inspectorate (from 1963 the Safety Inspectorate). Since the Second World War the ministry's function in regard to labour supply has been largely confined to advising other departments on the needs of agricultural labour, and to related questions of safety, training and wage levels.

The divisions dealing with matters of agricultural labour supply and wages, farm safety and training were subject to frequent reorganisation. The Labour, Machinery and Seeds Division (1958-1959) was followed by the Labour, Safety and Seeds Division (1959-1964), after which the responsibilities were split between two hybrid divisions, Food Standards, Science and Safety (1964-1970) and Agricultural Guarantees and Labour (1964-1965). In 1970, the Safety, Pesticides and Infestation Control Division was created, uniting staff responsible for licensing pesticides and their safe usage. This division was abolished in 1974, and the safety aspects of the work were incorporated in an Agricultural Safety, Training and Wages Division. This division also covered farm labour policy, which after the demise of the Agricultural Guarantees and Labour Division had been successively the responsibility of the following divisions: Advisory Service, Labour and Livestock Improvement (1965-1969); Co-operation and Labour (1969-1972); Livestock Improvement, Forestry and Labour (1972-1974). The division was reformed in 1977 to become the Agricultural Training, Wages and Plant Health Division, and it continued in this form until 1982. At this point, plant health responsibilities were reallocated within the ministry, which ceased to exercise any responsibility for agricultural labour supply, wages and safety training though general policy questions were dealt with by the Agricultural Resources Policy Division (1982-). Training was still provided, both by the Agricultural Development and Advisory Service and the Agricultural Training Board, but without ministerial direction. Some work on farm safety was still carried out in the field of pesticide licensing.

Pesticides Safety Directorate

The Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries first became involved in control of pesticides in 1952. This followed the report of the Gowers Committee on Health, Welfare and Safety in Non-Industrial Employment, which was published in 1949 (Cmd 7664), which revealed amongst other things a high level of fatal accidents involving the spraying of pesticides to kill weeds. These concerns resulted in the passing of the Agriculture (Poisonous Substances) Act 1952 which empowered the minister to make regulations to specify protective clothing to be worn, procedures to be followed and the minimum age of workers to be employed when using pesticides.

Various divisions of the agriculture ministries have been responsible for administering this and subsequent acts and regulations concerning the safe use and licensing of pesticides. It was decided in 1993 that this work could be carried out by an executive agency of the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, and in April of that year the Pesticides Safety Directorate (PSD) was formed out of the former Pesticides Safety Division.

PSD is responsible for the administration of the systems of pesticide licensing and approval, and control of pesticide use after their approval, and it has control of the sale, supply, storage and advertisement of pesticides. It provides advice to the ministry on matters concerning pesticides and farm safety in their use. Its general aims are the protection of farm workers and consumers of farm products from harmful pesticides, the protection of wildlife and the prevention of contamination of plant life. PSD is organised under a Chief Executive into three divisions: an administrative directorate under a Finance Director, a Policy Division, and an Approvals Division.

Have you found an error with this catalogue description?

Help with your research