HC Deb 02 January 1894 vol 20 cc653-4
MR. DALZIEL&c.) (Kirkcaldy,

I beg to ask the Secretary to the Treasury whether in the conditions laid down for the new contracts for vellum and account book binding for Her Majesty's Stationery Office any provision has been made against the employment of female labour upon what is recognised in the trade concerned as men's work; whether the employment of women upon work usually performed by men, the price for which is estimated upon the recognised prices for male labour, would constitute a breach of contract; whether the employment of men at a lower rate than that recognised by the trade concerned would constitute a breach of contract; and whether in considering the tenders submitted for vellum and account book binding the Controller will give preference to those firms recognised by Trade Unions as fair houses?


No stipulation in regard to the employment of female labour is inserted in the contracts referred to, but they contain the now usual conditions relative to the rate of wages generally accepted as current, and the prohibition of preference as between Union and non-Union workmen. The employment of women as such would not in my opinion be a breach of contract; but if it could be proved in any case that a contractor had based his tender on the recognised prices for men's labour, and subsequently employed women upon the same work at a lower rate of wages, I think there would be a case for the interference of the Stationery Office. If the wages paid to men are lower than those generally recognised as current in each trade for competent workmen, that would be a breach of contract. With regard to the last paragraph, I may say that I have no doubt that the Controller of the Stationery Office will, in considering tenders, naturally give favourable consideration to those of firms which are recognised as fair houses in respect of the conditions under which they employ their labour,


Will the Controller, in considering tenders, give preference to firms that employ their workmen on an eight hours' day?


I do not think that is within the lines of the Resolution passed by the House; but I think the Controller will give fair consideration to the question as to the mode in which labour is carried on under the firms competing for Government work.