Trade Boards Act 1909

The Trade Boards Act 1909 was a piece of social legislation passed in the United Kingdom in 1909. It provided for the creation of boards which could set minimum wage criteria that were legally enforceable. It was expanded and updated in the Trade Boards Act 1918.The main provision was to set minimum wages in certain trades with the history of low wages, because of surplus of available workers, the presence of women workers, or the lack of skills.[1]

At first it applied to four industries: chain-making, ready-made tailoring, paper-box making, and the machine-made lace and finishing trade.[2] It was later expanded in 1912: mining and then to other industries with a preponderance of unskilled manual labour.


Winston Churchill, MP, put the argument for the legislation as follows:[3]

It is a serious national evil that any class of His Majesty's subjects should receive less than a living wage in return for their utmost exertions. It was formerly supposed that the working of the laws of supply and demand would naturally regulate or eliminate that evil. The first clear division which we make on the question to-day is between healthy and unhealthy conditions of bargaining. That is the first broad division which we make in the general statement that the laws of supply and demand will ultimately produce a fair price. Where in the great staple trades in the country you have a powerful organisation on both sides, where you have responsible leaders able to bind their constituents to their decision, where that organisation is conjoint with an automatic scale of wages or arrangements for avoiding a deadlock by means of arbitration, there you have a healthy bargaining which increases the competitive power of the industry, enforces a progressive standard of life and the productive scale, and continually weaves capital and labour more closely together. But where you have what we call sweated trades, you have no organisation, no parity of bargaining, the good employer is undercut by the bad, and the bad employer is undercut by the worst; the worker, whose whole livelihood depends upon the industry, is undersold by the worker who only takes the trade up as a second string, his feebleness and ignorance generally renders the worker an easy prey to the tyranny; of the masters and middle-men, only a step higher up the ladder than the worker, and held in the same relentless grip of forces—where those conditions prevail you have not a condition of progress, but a condition of progressive degeneration.

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Wrigley, Chris, Winston Churchill: A Biographical Companion, p327, ISBN 0-87436-990-8
  2. ^ Sheila Blackburn, "Ideology and social policy: the origins of the Trade Boards Act." The Historical Journal 34#1 (1991): 43-64.
  3. ^ "Hansard Series 5, Vol 4, col 388". 28 April 1909. Archived from the original on 1 June 2019.

Further readingEdit

  • Blackburn, Sheila. "Ideology and social policy: the origins of the Trade Boards Act." The Historical Journal 34#1 (1991): 43-64.
  • S Webb and B Webb, Industrial Democracy (Longmans 1902)

External linksEdit