HC Deb 06 June 1890 vol 345 cc153-4

I beg to ask the First Lord of the Admiralty what contracts, and to what amount, have, within the last 12 months, been given to Messrs. Marrian it Co., shipping brass-founders, of Slaney Street, Birmingham; whether in those contracts any provision was made against sub-contracting; whether the middleman, to whom these contracts or some of them were sub-let, is stated on sworn evidence, given before the police magistrate, to have largely and suddenly reduced the wages of his workmen, on the ground that he had taken a new Government contract from a firm at a low figure, and could not afford to pay the former wages any longer; and, if contractors are required to manufacture in their own factories, whose duty is it to see that such a requirement is duly observed, or is it, as was given in evidence before the Lords' Sweating Committee with reference to Army contracts, nobody's business to do so?


Contracts for gun-metal side scuttles, hinges, and other articles to the I value of nearly £5,000 have been given to Messrs. Marrian within the last 12 months, the bulk of the orders over £1,000 having been placed in April last. No definite provision against subcontracting was made in these contracts, because in many cases the contractor cannot make all the component parts of the articles he supplies. For instance, in the case of side-scuttles the contractor would not make the glass or indiarubber washers connected with them. Care is, however, taken that only boná fide manufacturers of the articles required are intrusted with a Government contract. There is no foundation for the report to which the third part of the question relates. Messrs. Marrian do not sub-lot the contracts intrusted to them by the Government, and no evidence in support of such a statement was adduced at the trial referred to. A dispute did arise in connection with the discharge of two workmen, who were specially entered by the foreman in charge of the foundry to complete a large private order; but the case did not involve any question of the sub-letting of the Government contract. Casters in a foundry of this kind are engaged and paid by the foreman, in accordance with the established practice of the trade. There is no special staff told off to visit contractors' works to see that all contracts are executed on the premises, but many articles are made under inspection, and the Director of Contracts frequently visits the contractor's premises, as opportunities occur, to satisfy himself that the orders are properly executed there.

In reply to a further question by Mr. J. ROWLANDS,


said: I understand that the Director of Contracts has not a sufficient staff to enable him to see that the contract clause is carried out in every case. Our contracts do not necessitate the insertion of such a clause.


It is inserted as a precaution against sweating. It renders the persons infringing it liable to a penalty of £100. Are there no means of enforcing the penalty?


The hon. Gentleman refers to the clothing contracts. We have no contract for clothing.