HC Deb 08 March 1886 vol 303 cc120-1
MR. CREMER (Shoreditch, Haggerston)

asked the honourable Member for Staffordshire (North Western Division), as a Lord of the Treasury, Whether the employés at the British Museum, the Houses of Parliament, and other Government Offices are servants of the Crown, or whether they are the servants of contractors; whether the sum allowed the contractors for skilled workmen is at the rate of 6d. per hour, and for unskilled workmen 5½d. per hour; whether the remuneration received by the employés is 1d. per hour less than the contractor receives from the Government; when the contracts expire; and, whether, on their expiration, the Government will undertake to engage the employés as servants of the Crown, and place them on the same footing as the higher officials, so that the employés may, in common with the higher officials, receive the full remuneration allowed by the Government for their services?


The workmen alluded to in my hon. Friend's Question are paid by the contractor, whose servants they are. The arrangements made by the men with their employers are a matter which it does not fall within the province of the Office of Works to interfere in. It must be remembered that the contractor, who has great expenses and runs considerable risk, has to make his profit on the whole contract, as other tradesmen do, and not upon materials only. If the principle advocated by my hon. Friend were pushed a step further the contractor must supply materials as well as labour at the prices charged by the sub-contractors. The present triennial contracts for the works for the London district expire two years hence. The effect of my hon. Friend's last proposal would be to convert the Office of Works into a vast builders' establishment, with this disadvantage—that it would be saddled with a large permanent staff of operatives, who would be maintained whether there were work for them or not, and entitled in the future to pensions or compassionate allowances. As regards the prices fixed in the schedule of the Office of Works, they range from 9½d. to 11d. per hour for mechanics, from 5½d. to 6½d. for mechanics' labourers, and for unskilled labourers are fixed at 5½d. The contract was taken, after competition, at a reduction of 15 per cent upon these prices.