HC Deb 20 November 1888 vol 330 cc1654-5
MR. HOWARD VINCENT (Sheffield, Central)

asked the Secretary of State for War, If his attention has been drawn to the allegations in an evening newspaper that Messrs. Wilkinson and Company, who recently obtained a contract for 50,000 bayonets, have discharged a number of their English workmen and replaced them by Germans brought for the purpose from Solingen; if there is any truth in this statement, and that while this is occurring the average wages of the bayonet hands at Enfield have, from want of occupation, fallen to 9s. a week; and, if there is any clause in War Office contracts providing that British Government orders should be executed, as far as possible, by British artizans.

THE SECRETARY OF STATE (Mr. E. STANHOPE) (Lincolnshire, Horncastle)

Certain skilled workmen have been brought over from Solingen to instruct English workmen in the art of sword forging. This art has almost died out in this country. In fact, I took the heavy responsibility last year of passing over certain firms at Solingen, who offered to do the work at a cheaper rate, in order to endeavour to revive this industry in England. Almost all of these German workmen are going home shortly. As regards the rate of wages at Enfield, the average for the past fortnight in the bayonet branch is 18s. 6d. a week and not 9s.; the average when in full work is 36s. a week. The want of occupation is due to preparation for the adoption of a new pattern of sword bayonet. The men have been allowed to stay on optionally, so as to avoid discharging any of them.