In 1929 Labour formed a government under Ramsay MacDonald that coincided with the arrival of the greatest economic crisis the world had ever seen. Unemployment rose to terrifying levels, especially in areas where most workers traditionally worked in the heavy industries like shipbuilding, iron and steel or coal. The government responded with a mixture of measures to create jobs, and made efforts to cut back on spending. In the big industries employers either made workers redundant or cut wages, or both. The issue was raised by the Labour MP, Fenner Brockway. Brockway was a radical Labour MP with strong Socialist beliefs and a commitment to trade unions and workers.
18. The Minister of Labour brought to the notice of the Cabinet the following question to be put the same afternoon:-
Mr. Brockway, - To ask the Minister of Labour, whether it is the intention of the Government to introduce legislation to establish minimum wages in the mining, steel, textile, engineering, agricultural, and other industries, and in the railway and other services.
The Cabinet agreed -
That the Minister of Labour should be authorised to reply in the negative.