HC Deb 30 July 1891 vol 356 cc761-3
MR. J. ROWLANDS (Finsbury, E.)

I beg to ask the Secretary of State for War whether an order has been given from the War Office to Messrs. Hebbert and Co., of James Street, Haymarket, S.W., for 10,000 pouches and belts for telegraph messengers; if so, whether the contract permits Messrs. Ross & Co., of Grange Mills, Bermondsey, who were struck off the list of contractors, to cut and supply leather for the order; and if the factory clause is inserted in the above contract?


Messrs. Hebbert & Co. hold the contract for pouches and belts for telegraph messengers. Under the contract the contractors are required to have the cutting-out done on their own premises, but there is no restriction as to the source whence the materials are procured, provided they comply with the prescribed pattern. The Factory Clause is included in the contract.


Would it be illegal for Messrs. Ross to deal in any way with the material they supply in cutting out the articles, seeing that they have been struck off the list of contractors?


Messrs. Ross and Co. are prohibited from providing any manufactured goods of any sort or kind. But contractors for the War Office have-power to obtain the material in any market, provided the article complies with the terms of the contract.

MR. HOWELL (Bethnal Green, N.E.)

Is not that a violation of the pledge-given to the House when the question of contracts was under discussion?


Were not Messrs. Ross struck off the list of contractors because the material they used for their articles was not of the right quality?


The material can be purchased any where, provided that it is according to contract, and care is taken to see that the conditions laid down are carried out.


Is the standard rate of wages given by these contractors?


The rates of wages are agreed upon and are published in the workshop, where every man can see what he is entitled to.


Why was this proviso made in this contract? If the wages are to be arranged by the Director of Contracts, the whole plan mentioned in the House as having been adopted by the Government falls to the ground.


The proviso was made in this case because the trade is not a general one, but peculiar to the requirements of the War Department. There is no standard rate of wages, and no market for rejections. The War Office found that the wages offered to the people employed in this particular trade were what might be termed of a sweating description. It was felt that the Government ought to prevent their work being executed in that way, and for that reason a price was agreed upon between the contractors and the War Office—a price which is known to the workpeople, and which they can obtain.