HC Deb 21 April 1879 vol 245 cc700-1

asked the Secretary of State for War, Under what circumstances and with what object the factory workers employed by the Army Clothing Department have been discharged; whether it is true that an attempt is being made to reduce the wages of many hundreds of women, said to be in numbers of instances the widows and orphans of soldiers, to "slop-shop" prices; and, whether he will lay upon the Table of the House a scale of the prices hitherto paid in the Clothing Department and the reduced list which it is proposed to pay?


Sir, before I reply to the hon. Member for Sheffield, it is but fair to my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Westminster (Sir Charles Russell), to say that he had given Notice of a Question upon this subject before Easter, and had, at my solicitation, postponed it until to-morrow, in order that inquiry might be made into the facts. I must apologize also to the hon. and learned Member for the Denbigh Boroughs (Mr. Watkin Williams), who had addressed a Question upon this subject to the Chancellor of the Exchequer, although not going into the same detail as the hon. Member for Sheffield, and who postponed it till further Notice. As regards the Question now put to me, I may say—1, Factory workers were discharged while the factory was closed for stocktaking, cleaning and overhauling machinery, &c., to prevent their claiming wages for the period; 2, prices of female labour, piece-work, have been re-arranged, and in some instances reduced, but not to "slop-shop" prices, and women are now receiving 15s. a-week on time-work, and can earn from 14s. to 22s. a-week on piece-work; 3, there will be no objection to produce the scale of past and present rates. It is right to add that, at the instance of the Director of Clothing, it is proposed to institute an inquiry by a small committee, consisting of gentlemen conversant with business, but in no way connected with the Department or with the Public Service.


In consequence of the answer which has just been given, and because I believe the noble Lord to be entirely misinformed as to the earnings of the workers, I beg to give Notice that on going into Committee of Supply I shall call attention to this subject.