*MR. KEARLEY (Devonport) rose to move—
That, in the opinion of this House, it is expedient that the Government do pay in the Royal Dockyards and other naval establishments wages equivalent to the Trades Union rates of wages as are generally accepted as current in each trade, either of the district or of districts, where the work performed is of analogous character.
In moving that Amendment it would be necessary at the outset that he should refer to the Amendment which was moved on the corresponding occasion last year by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the University of Cambridge That Amendment was accepted by the Government, and had it been ad-
ministered in the spirit in which they were led to think it would be, his Motion would not to-day have been necessary. That Amendment provided that—
No person should, in Her Majesty's naval establishments, be engaged at wages insufficient for a proper maintenance, and that the conditions of labour as regards hours, wages, insurance against accident, provision for old age, &c., should be such as to afford an example to private employers throughout the country.
The Government, when accepting that Amendment, clearly defined their position, and he would quote from the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Minister for War, who was the mouthpiece of the Government on that occasion. He said—
With regard to the question of setting an example, we mean the Government should show themselves to be amongst the best employers in the country,
They should be in the first flight of employers.
The right hon. Gentleman went on to say—
I accept in the fullest sense the principle that the terms of Government employment should be beyond reproach.
Now, with regard to the question of hours, he had very little to say, as he understood the Government had practically decided to concede in the naval establishments, as well as in the military establishments, a 48 hours week; but it was with regard to wages he wished to address his remarks more especially. He understood the declaration of the Government, through the Secretary of State for War, to mean Trades Union wages. During the Debate several speakers defined, or expressed it as being their opinion, that that would be the necessary corollary. The right hon. Gentleman who introduced the Amendment also made it plain that that would be the natural result; and although some of them at the time took exception to the wording of the right hon. Gentleman's Amendment, yet, after the expression of the intention of the Government by the Secretary of State for War, they felt that there was no doubt as to what the effect would be. He would like to refer, in passing, to a few reasons which he thought would justify him in requiring that the Government should grant Trades Union rates of pay in their naval establishments. He did not know that he was correct in
assuming that the hon. Gentleman the Member for Poplar, in the Motion which he moved, and which was unanimously accepted by the House in 1891, meant to convey that the Government should pay the Trades Union rate of wages, but it certainly laid down that the Government contractors should pay rates of wages which before then they had not been in the habit of paying. The London County Council, at the outset of its career, endeavoured to grapple with the question of wages, and they at first laid down that "fair wages" should be paid, But they soon found out that their contractors managed to evade the paying of just wages, and, therefore, they resorted to the expedient of making a definite condition in all their contracts that contractors should pay the Trades Union rate of wages. But they went further, for they drew up a schedule of rates which should prevail within a radius of 20 miles of Charing Cross. Every contractor who undertook work under the Council was bound to specify that he intended to maintain these rates, which were the Trades Union rates of pay. He had only to refer, to show the feeling throughout the country on this matter, to the resolutions which had been passed unanimously at the last two Trades Union Congresses; at the one held in Glasgow, and, more recently, the one at Belfast. There were other reasons. The first was that the Government itself was the largest employer of labour in the land, its employment amounting, approximately, to 250,000 employés, and it, therefore, should set a good example. Secondly, the Government was not subject to the competition of private employers. He was quite aware that it had to conserve the interests of the taxpayers, but it was not subject to that pressing competition, which might be some sort of excuse to a private employer for not giving the fullest and most liberal wages. Then there was another reason. The Government exercised, naturally, over its employés a greater amount of dominance than could a private employer, and where the dominance was greater so there should be the consideration also greater. Further than these reasons, the working classes were in favour of the Government setting a good example, and, as they were the largest taxpayers, that
should remove any hesitancy that the Government might feel in coming to a decision favourable to the terms of his Amendment. In due course, after the declaration of the Government, they had a scheme presented to them which was intended to fulfil the undertaking they gave on that occasion, and he would like to thank them for what they had done and the concessions they had made, but he was sorry not to be able to congratulate them on having carried out to the full the undertaking they gave a year ago on an occasion similar to the present. When the scheme was presented to them there was along Debate in the House on it, and the general consensus of opinion was that it did not satisfy the conditions of the right hon. Gentleman's Amendment; and, whatever it might have done, it certainly did not satisfy those laid down by him as regarded wages. Several of the Members who took part in that Debate gave expression to the opinion that the only solution for the discontent that prevailed was to introduce Trade Union wages. That opinion was not confined to Members on this side of the House. He might mention amongst these Members the Member for Preston, who expressed himself in favour of Trades Union rates of wages, subject to notice being taken of the privileges which Government employés possessed.
§ MR. HANBURY (Preston)
said, what he did say was that he was willing that the Trades Union system should be adopted, but that the Motion did not provide for the privileges of Government employés being taken into consideration.
§ MR. KEARLEY
pointed out that his Amendment provided for that. He only asked that these men should receive an equivalent of the Trades Union wages. But there wore other hon. Members on the other side who expressed themselves favourable to the Trades Union wages. Amongst them he, might mention the hon. Member for Belfast, who was so largely connected with the shipbuilding industry, and who was so great an authority on the subject. His hon. Friend the Civil Lord of the Admiralty claimed that the various rates of pay had been fixed in accordance with local rates. He took exception to that, and he thought he succeeded in proving that in many cases no local comparison could be made, and that, moreover, where there 612 were Trades Union rates in a locality they were considerably higher than those paid inside the yards. His hon. Friend the Civil Lord claimed that the Government, with the assistance of a Departmental Committee, had fixed the rates of pay on the basis of local comparison, and that they had the advantage of the services of Mr. Burnett, the Labour Correspondent to the Board of Trade. He (Mr. Kearley) had taken exception to the composition of that Committee; and he said that while Mr. Burnett was no doubt a sympathetic member in the interests of labour, the rest of the Committee was composed of Admiral Superintendents, Staff Captains, and Admiralty private secretaries, and was not a fair tribunal to make inquiries, but that it should have included certainly some representatives of this House and of the men themselves, so that they might have been able to clear up any of the points which must have been raised during the inquiry. At the end of the Debate the Civil Lord promised to receive any information or evidence that he (Mr. Kearley) might be able to lay before him. They laid information before him, but they had no evidence that that information had any influence on the decision of the Admiralty towards enabling them to arrive at what they desired—namely, the Trades Union rate of wages. It was in the interest of the Government that this continual agitation should be avoided. Its cessation would have the effect of a saving of Parliamentary time, and, in addition, it would serve the country very largely by making the workmen more contented. The service of the State would be more attractive, and the Government would then sweep into their employment the very cream of the workmen of the country. He would like to give some details of the rates of pay prevailing, in order to support his contention. It was arranged under the new scheme that the unskilled labourers should receive a minimum wage of 19s. per week. He would not dilate upon the probational periods which were complained of, as he understood they had been abolished. But, as regarded pay, it was decided that at the establishments at Woolwich and Deptford the rate of wages should be 20s. a week in consideration of the rent conditions there being altogether different from anything in other 613 parts of the country where the Government had establishments. He was not going to complain that the 20s. at Deptford and Woolwich was too much; but when they were told, as they were told, by the Civil Lord that this decision was made on account of the rent conditions prevailing there, he thought he was fully entitled to prove that the rent conditions which prevailed at Devonport were altogether worse than those which existed at Deptford and Woolwich. The right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Forwood) smiled. He knew he was sceptical about this; but he would 1101 ask the Committee to take his bare word on the subject. He would read an extract from the Census Returns which were published quite recently. Under the heading of "Percentage of Population in Overcrowded Tenements" the Report pointed out the highest and lowest percentages respectively. In Gateshead the percentage was 40.7; Newcastle-on-Tyne, 35.8; Sunderland, 32.85; and fourth on the list of the towns of England came Plymouth with 26.27. Plymouth, of course, as the House was aware, included Devonport. At the very bottom of the list was Portsmouth with 1.74. The Report made special observations on the difference between two such apparently similar towns as Portsmouth and Plymouth, and said that possibly local knowledge might account for the difference. The explanation was the system of land tenure, which at Devonport was such that the bulk of the houses were let in weekly tenements, which were densely overcrowded, as many as 12 families living in a single house. The Census Returns went on to give the number of tenements of less than five rooms, and, according to this, the condition of Devonport was worse than London. In all England and Wales there were 47 per 1,000 dwellings of one room only. In London there were 184 per 1,000 of this class, while Plymouth had no less than 244 per 1,000, being the only large town in England with a higher ratio than London. This proved that the rent conditions in Devon-port wore such as entitled the men to, at all events, the same consideration as was given to the men at Woolwich and Deptford. Then he came to the local rate of wages as the standard. Deptford, as a matter of fact, was the geographical 614 centre of London, and he was informed that the employers in London paid 6d. per hour, while the London County Council paid a minimum rate of 24s. per week; therefore, if they were to be governed by local considerations, the rate at Deptford should be about 24s. per week, but it was Fixed by the Government at 20s. per week for unskilled labour. At Devonport the rate as fixed between the Master Builders Association and the labourers was 5d. per hour, which, at 54 hours per week, gave about 22s. 6d. per week. This reduced to dockyard hours—namely, 51 hours—would mean 21s. per week. Without going into detail, he might say that the recent Annual Report of the Medical Officer at Devonport as to overcrowding and the insanitary conditions which prevailed was very unpleasant reading. There was a large body of men engaged in the dockyards, who were described as skilled labourers, who were engaged at such work as rivetting, iron casting, drilling, &c, and who, if they were employed in private yards, would be classified by trades. The standard rate of wages for these men was 21s. a week, and there was introduced among them the objectionable probation period. For one year the men were probationers, and only received 20s. a week instead of 21s. It was stated that the rate of pay to skilled labourers rose by a graduated scale from 21s. to 27s. per week, but, if they examined the true facts, what did they find? They found that no less than 75 per cent. were in receipt of wages at the rate of 22s. per week and under. As an illustration of the way in which skilled labourers were treated, he held in his hand a specimen of the work performed by one of these so-called skilled labourers at Devonport, who was engaged in setting up from manuscript and machining the printed instructions put on ammunition cases. He not, only set up type from manuscript, but made ready the machines; and he (Mr. Kearley) did not know that he could give a more forcible argument than that as to the unfair rate of payment of these men employed under the term of "skilled labourers." The Trades Union rate of pay in the locality for this work was 30s. per week. In Loudon it was 38s. What he contended was that these men should enjoy a minimum rate of 6d. per hour. 615 Before going into the question of the mechanics' wages, he would once more refer to the question that had been debated at great length on many occasions in the House, and which, he was sure, interested many hon. Gentlemen, and that was the subject of classification in the dockyards. He hoped the hon. and learned Gentleman the late Solicitor General (Sir E. Clarke) would bear his testimony as to the apprehensions of the men in regard to the amended scheme which had been set up by the Government, and which professed to abolish the detestable system of classification. The Civil Lord of the Admiralty, in dealing with the question of classification, had made some very strong remarks; and if he (Mr. Kearley) read a few of these to the House, he should be able to put before the Committee in a nutshell what classification was, and the feeling that existed in relation to it amongst the workmen. The hon. Member said—I come now to the second great question with which we have to deal. I allude to the burning, and I may say blazing, question of classification. I do not know if hon. Members know what classification is. Classification means that members of a trade are sub-divided into classes, and receive different rates of wages, the selection and classification being' made by the dockyard officials on the grounds of economy, ability, and service. Mr. Forwood, in 1891, introduced the system into certain trades in which it was previously unknown, but the right hon. Gentleman could never have anticipated the effect which it would produce. The outcry against the system was instantaneous, and it had been continuous. The objections made are, that men employed on precisely the same work, and producing precisely the same results, get different rates of wages. They say it may be that a better man, producing better results, gets the lowest rate of wages, whilst an inferior man, producing inferior results, obtains the higher rate. The men say that the system opens the door to favouritism on the part of the Superintendents, and, of course, the mere suggestion of such a thing is most objectionable. They say there is no system of the kind in similar trades in private yards. In my opinion, there is a substantial justification for the line these men have taken. And over and above everything else you have this fact: that the men are prejudiced against the system of payment, and are utterly discontented with it. If you are going to have peace in the dockyards you must do away with the system of classification. However perfect the theoretical system may be, there is no good in forcing even the most perfect theoretical system down the throats of men. We have, therefore, decided to put an end to the system of classification.616 That was a very good decision if it had been acted upon; but the Government had not only not abolished classification, they had revived it in many ways, and had allowed all the glaring inequalities to continue to exist. He would give them one illustration. The most powerful trade in the yard, numerically speaking, was that of shipwrights. Under the present system the established shipwrights had four rates of pay—31s., 32s., 32s. 6d., and 33s. Under the new scheme which came into operation in April, which professed to abolish classification, 32s. was put as the standard to which all men below it were to be raised. But new men coming in were not put on the establishment at 32s.—the standard rate—but for some reason which he could not fathom they were put on the establishment at 31s. 6d. per week. Thus there would be two rates of pay. But, in addition to this, there were many who would be in receipt of rates of pay higher than the standard, and it had been decided that those who were in the enjoyment of higher rates than the standard should continue to enjoy them. The result was, that there would be two more rates—one 32s. 6d. and the other 33s.; therefore, we had arrived at this result—that the upshot of the agitation was that the Government declared that they had abolished classification; but when the facts were analysed, it was found that there were four rates of pay, and so the outcome was practically the same. Precisely the same thing applied to the hired men, with the exception that whereas in their case there were at present four rates of pay, in the future there would continue to be three rates, and so all the old objections would remain in free force. What the men claimed was clearly expressed by his hon. Friend's statement—That as they were members of the same trade they should be in the enjoyment of the same rates of pay.Every one of these men had served an apprenticeship of at least seven years, and every single man had had to pass, to the satisfaction of the Government officials, a practical examination and practical test with his tools before he was allowed to be enrolled at all in the Government service. Now he would say a few words with regard to the justice of the rates of pay. The Trades Union average for the past 10 years for shipwrights in Trades 617 Union yards where Government eon-tracts were executed, working 54 hours a week, was 37s. 6d., and those figures worked out at 51 hours, which were dockyard horns, at 35s. 6d. per week in the Government establishments. Instead of that, the average paid during the whole, of the 10 years to established shipwrights in Her Majesty's yards had been at the rate of 30s. 6d. a, week. And seeing the very large divergence between the rates of pay current in private yards, where precisely the same work was going on and where Government ships were being built by contract, he would point out it was scarcely a fair comparison to make between shipwrights in the Government employment and shipwrights in private yards, for this reason—that the men employed by Government had not to work in wood alone, but to adapt themselves to the new conditions, and work in iron as well as wood. In private yards the shipwright was a worker in wood alone, those men who were workers in iron being termed iron-shipbuilders, and having a much higher rate of pay. The same thing applied to shipjoiners. The Trades Union rates for shipjoiners throughout the country was substantially the same as shipwrights. But during the past 10 years the Government workmen had been in receipt of 29s. 6d. per week. He took occasion, a week or two ago, to make a trip round to several dockyards, and took the opportunity to inspect the quality of the work done by joiners in Government employment. He must say it was work of a very high character, and he failed to see why its value should not be recognised. He noticed that they were engaged in panelling expensive woods, and in carving in the Admiral's and Commander's saloons, also in turning out tables, chairs, sideboards, and other articles in an excellent manner. He had stronger arguments to urge, if necessary, against their existing rate of pay. His hon. Friend had urged that in all cases local rates of pay were always taken into consideration. He failed to sec why these men should not be entitled to receive a wage equivalent to that prevailing in private yards where precisely the same work was carried on, but the local rate of pay of joiners employed in the building trade in the neighbourhood of Devonport and Portsmouth was 7½d. per 618 hour. That was the Trades Union rate of pay for 54 hours per week. This would give at dockyard hours 31s. 6d. per week, but the Government men only received 29s. There were many trades where there were no local rates, and for these men he urged there should be a comparison drawn as to the rate of pay prevailing in the districts, where work of an analagous character was performed, so that they should have a rate equivalent to the work they did. But there were other trades strictly local in character which he would quote. The local Trades Union rate of pay for carpenters was 32s. per week, computed on a basis of 51 hours per week. The carpenters in the works department got a rate of pay ranging from 22s. to 27s. a week. Take masons, again—precisely the same thing applied. The Trades Union rate of wages for masons was 32s. per week. The rate of pay in the works department ranged from 22s. to 27s. per week. He might go on to mention many other trades, but he thought he had spoken enough to prove his contention that the rates of pay in the dockyards did not compare with the rates of pay prevailing in the localities, and that the rates of pay for men where there was no local comparison did not compare with the Trades Union rates in the shipbuilding yards where Government work was put out to contract. Now, he wanted to make one or two observations with regard to the systems which prevailed in Government dockyards. These systems would not be tolerated by any Trades Union body of men in private yards. In the first place, men were called upon to work on piece work, but it would be scarcely credited that these men had no knowledge whatever of the prices at which their work was assessed and valued. He had noticed in the Government statement that for the future this was to be abolished. It had been protested against year after year, but men were still forced to work on terms and scales of pay which were concealed from them altogether. He had stated all this to his hon. Friend, who said it should be altered at once. The hon. Member said that seven months ago, but it had not been altered yet. One would have thought that the Government would have taken immediate steps to have had this simple act of justice done to their 619 own employés. But he was satisfied by his hon. Friend's statement, that in the future there would be no further cause for complaint. Then there was the system of check measurement, which was this: men were compelled to work at piecework rates of speed, but were not paid at the piecework rates of pay. They were harassed by the measurer perpetually coming round and taking stock of their work, and, after all this, it frequently happened that at the end of the week, instead of keeping up their weekly standard rate of pay, they were what was called "chocked," and had to accept several shillings less than their standard rate of pay. He had become a convert to the view that piecework in Government establishments ought to be discontinued. [Cries of "Why?"] He would tell them why. At the present moment there were mechanics in many yards working at piecework. Of course, they put forth a supreme effort, encouraged by the prospect of earning more money, but the labourers, who by reason of the scanty pay they received could not have too much stamina, were on day pay. These day labourers, who had to wait upon these mechanics and could not feed themselves very highly on a wage of 19s. a week, were expected to work, if he might use the expression, "full steam ahead," but they were not entitled to receive any additional benefit for their enhanced energy. Then there was the question of systematic overtime. The latest statement which had been put before the House of Commons, if he might say so, was very ingeniously contrived in view of the charges which had recently taken place. It promised the rectification of many of these abuses of which they had complained. It said that—Pressure is to be met, when practicable, by entering additional men, and by employing night shifts in preference to resorting to overtime.That decision had been arrived at at a very significant moment. Over and over again they had contended that the systematic overtime which had been worked for the past two or three years was discreditable to the Government and most hurtful to the health of the men. The constitutions of the men were being wrecked and shattered by the fearfully long hours they were working. And all the while those men 620 were being compelled to work time and a-half or time and three-quarters they had thousands of men in the country who were unemployed and were starving for the want of work, and yet the Government had not opened their doors to take in a sufficient number of workmen to perform the vast accumulation of work on hand. It was not a question of mere temporary pressure. It had been going on for the last two or three years, and from his knowledge of the dockyards he was perfectly well aware that the torpedo and machine shops would be compelled to continue working overtime unless better machinery were introduced and more men employed in the works. He therefore entered his protest against this system of overtime, and unless his hon. Friends would give some assurance that they really meant what they said in their statement, it would be found when next year came round that overtime was still existing as it had been for the last two or three years. His hon. Friend the Member for Preston had made a remark just now as to how he would regard Trades Union rates of pay, and had referred to the privileges of the Government employés. With regard to those privileges, 25 per cent. of the men were receiving pensions, and each man gave from his wages what was computed as being equivalent to half the amount of the pension provided by the Government. The "establishment," as it was called, was not brought into existence at the request of the men, hut because the Government wanted to make sure that in time of war or difficulty it would have a firm control over a certain set of men in its employment. But, whatever the advantages of Government employment were, he contended that they should be actuarially computed and their exact value ascertained. His Amendment simply asked that, after having taken into consideration the value of these privileges, then the Trades Union rates of wages should prevail. In addition to pensions, the men had four days' holiday—Good Friday, Christmas Day, Coronation Day, and Queen's Birthday—but they were not worth anything more than 6d. per week. Then, as to hurt pay, it was right to remind the House that until the last Employers Liability Bill was before the House the 621 Government employés were always excluded from the benefits of all preceding Acts. Naturally, then, it was necessary that some provision should be made to compensate those who suffered injury in the Government service. It was urged that the men in Government employment continued at work in the slips, being sheltered from the weather, whereas in I private yards men were subject to suspension on account of bad weather, and so on. But many ships were now being built outside the slips, and the men were exposed to all sorts of weather, He had seen men at work on the new ship the Majestic the other day under those conditions.
§ * MR. KEARLEY
said, the men could hardly be expected to work without pay. That was why he said the argument was not fair that the men continued at work. Take the case of the building of a battleship. How long was it after the keel was laid until at least one deck was covered in? It was not right to urge that the men had continuous work irrespective of weather in the Government dockyards, but that men in private yards had not the same privilege. In conclusion, he desired to thank the House for the patient hearing they had accorded him. He was quite aware that it was not an attractive subject—[Admiral FIELD: Hear, hear!] —especially to naval Members, who had axes of their own to grind.
ADMIRAL FIELD (Sussex, Eastbourne)
objected to any imputation being made that naval officers had axes to grind.
§ MR. KEARLEY
hoped the Admiralty would see its way to accepting his Amendment. If it were accepted, a Committee should be appointed to ascertain how the rates paid in the Government dockyards compared with those in private yards where Government work of a precisely similar class was actually being carried out.
MR. E. J. C.MORTON (Devonport),
in seconding the Resolution, said, after the long and exhaustive speech which his hon. Friend had just delivered, he would not trouble the House long. He urged upon the Admiralty and upon the Government the extreme importance of carrying out their promise with regard 622 to notices being put up in the shops. Some of the minor trades in the yards were even worse paid than the others in proportion to the rates of wages paid in similar trades at, other works. For instance, riggers, according to the Government scale, were paid 25s. 6d. a week for establishment men and 27s. a week for hired men; whereas he could not find that anywhere else riggers were paid less than 80s. a week, even in Belfast, where he understood the rate of wages was lower than in any other city in the United Kingdom.
§ MR. E. J. C. MORTON
was saying that, taking trades all round, the rates of wages in Belfast were lower than anywhere else. That would operate, of course, indirectly on the shipbuilding trade. In some of the ports wages were up to as high as 42s. per week. In another small trade, the sailmakers, the wages paid in the Government dockyards were 25s. 6d. for the establishment men and 27s. for the hired men, and again, in comparison, in private yards the rates ran up from 30s. to 40s. a week. Passing on to the minor skilled trades classed as skilled labourers, they had one grievance which his hon. Friend had not mentioned. These were described as separate trades, In particular, he would mention the hand - trimmers, who were paid, under the Government scale of wages, from 20s. to 22s. a week, whereas the lowest wages he could find paid them in private yards was 24s., running up to 39s. a week. That was an enormous difference, and was an instance of the result of minor trades being classified as skilled labourers in the Government dockyards. For shipwrights in the various shipbuilding districts where the hours were in some cases less than those worked in the Government dockyards the least wage paid was 36s., as against 33s. for the hired men in the latter. As regarded the ordinary labourers, he and his hon. Friends were met with the argument, in comparing rates of wages, that rents were higher in northern than in southern districts. But he believed it was the case that in the town of Devonport a room could not be obtained for less than 4s. 6d. a week. 623 That represented a condition of things as bad as could be found even in London, and was, of course, due to the abominable system of land tenure. In that regard, therefore, he could assure hon. Members that a grievance existed in that district as bad as could be found anywhere in Ireland or the East End of London. Dr. May, the Medical Officer of Health, said in his Report, speaking of the houses of the working classes, that the rents were far too high to admit of but one family occupying them, although so planned as to give proper accommodation for only one family; and he went on to mention cases of 10 families living in a single house, and even more than one in a single room; adding that such habitations were the plague-spots of a town, and were centres of disease. He further said that in many instances cases of infectious disease were found where the patients were kept in crowded rooms—cases which certainly should have been isolated. That was something to take into consideration with the fact that wages in the South of England were commonly lower than in the North. But the real reason for the existing low rate of wages among the ordinary Labourers employed in Government dockyards was that they were mostly pensioned men—they had earned those rewards for previous public service. He wished to press on the House what he regarded as a matter of extreme importance. It should be recognised that when am an was receiving a pension he had earned it by work already done; and that the rate of wages offered by the Government to those men in any subsequent employment ought not to be fixed upon any scale in which the pensions were taken into account. That was a matter of extreme importance to the inhabitants of whole districts, because the fact of men having received only 16s. 6d. a week as labourers and now only 19s.—the fact that that wage was so small was owing to the circumstance that the men were pensioners, and the fixing of a wage so small lowered the whole rate of wages in the district for that employment. He therefore trusted the Government would get out of the rut into which previous Governments had fallen in this matter, and would boldly say that in future they would not take pensions into account in fixing rates of wages.
Amendment proposed, to leave out from the word "That," to the end of the Question, in order to add the words—
In the opinion of this House, it is expedient that the Government do pay in the Royal dockyards and other Naval establishments wages equivalent to the trades unions' rates of wages as are generally accepted as current in each trade, either of the district or of districts, where the work performed is of analogous character,"—(Mr. Kearley,)
§ Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."
§ THE CIVIL LORD OF THE ADMIRALTY (Mr. E. ROBERTSON,) Dundee
said, before he dealt with the speeches of the hon. Members who had spoken or with the object of the Amendment, which was to issue a new instruction to the Admiralty with regard to labour in the dockyards, he would remind the House that the Admiralty were already acting upon two former instructions of the Government, and he was sure it was not the desire of the House that they should keep adding to the existing instructions unnecessarily. The House had passed two instructions recently, one last year and one in 1891; and the conclusion at which he should wish the House to arrive was that it was not desirable to multiply instructions needlessly. That of last year laid down that no one was to be engaged on wages insufficient for proper maintenance, and that the conditions as to wages and insurance against accidents were to be such as to prevent abuses arising. Every effort was to be made to secure the payment of such wages as were generally accepted as current in similar trades in the district.
§ MR. E. ROBERTSON
said, that was the Motion of 1891, accepted before the present Administration came into Office. It was not applicable in terms to work done under the Admiralty. If his hon. Friend had proposed to make it so applicable he certainly would not have had a word to say against it, because they regarded that principle as binding upon them just as much as it could be on any other Department. The instruction of 1891 was directed against sweating and subletting. He 625 would formulate the rule followed at the Admiralty thus—and he had the authority of the First Lord for so formulating it. The Rule of the Admiralty was that the remuneration of their workmen should not be inferior, taking everything into consideration, to that of outside workmen in analogous employment, and that if it could be shown that in any trade men were receiving less than they ought to receive, it was the duty of the Department to supplement that wage. Allusion had been made to the Return, showing how far the Admiralty had gone under the existing instructions. The revised scheme provided for the ultimate abolition of classification, and it added last year the sum of £38,512 to the wages paid to dockyard men. His hon. Friend talked as if by doing this they considered they had exhausted their measures; but he protested against this being assumed to be a complete discharge of the obligations of the Department under the instructions. At the present moment there were before the Department 154 Petitions from all classes of workmen in the yards, raising probably every question that had now been mentioned in the House. In the consideration of these hon. Members might rest assured that all they had said would not be neglected. The hon. Member who had moved the Amendment would not expect him to go into the various figures which he had placed before them that evening for the first time.
§ MR. KEARLEY
remarked that the hon. Gentleman had received a deputation the other day upon the question.
§ MR. E. ROBERTSON
said, the views of the deputation should be considered along with the views of the other petitioners. Much that the hon. Member had said would have been more á propos upon the Estimates. The Admiralty paid in the Royal Dockyards and other naval establishments wages equivalent to the current Trades Union rates. The Resolution as it stood was meaningless, and would have to be recast if it was to be, adopted. The hon. Member asked them to enforce what he called the Trades Union rates paid in analogous trade3 in the locality; hut the Mover had himself destroyed the possibility of adopting the local Trade Union rates of wages A Report by the Labour Department of the Board of Trade on the 626 rates of wages in the dockyard districts showed that in every case the mean rate was lower than that paid in the dockyards. Cabinetmakers, for example, had from 29s. to 42s. in the dockyards, and outside 30s. to 40s. for 54 hours a week, 50 hours forming a week in the dockyards. Moulders in the dockyards had from 32s. to 42s., and outside from 32s. to 38s., also for a 54 as against a 50 hours week. The Trades Union rate of wages was very well for County Councils or other large Local Bodies to adopt for their own locality; but it was a very different matter when establishments over the whole country had to be dealt with, ranging from Devonport to the Orkneys. His hon. Friend was proposing to introduce a new criterion and standard for dockyard wages, but had he satisfied himself that the dockyard men wanted that standard? Out of the 154 Petitions they had sent in, how many did he suppose asked for the Trades Union rate of wages? Only three. Some labourers at Sheerness asked also for Trades Union wages. He thought that the House, which had not yet lost its caution in dealing with public interests, would pause before adopting this Motion. The adoption of the Union rate might have the effect in some cases of actually lowering wages. No Trade Union could maintain a level of wages always; powerful as Trades Unions were they were subject to reduction in times of depression, as he could show if time permitted. Then, if they were going to introduce Union rates at all, he hoped the House would consider the proposal of the Member for Battersea. He was alluding to the proposal that all dockyard privileges and peculiarities should be swept away, and that a plain, straightforward, ordinary market wage on Trade Union lines should be given. [Cheers.] He was glad to find that received with favour on both sides of the House as the logical way of introducing the Trade Union criterion. He did not believe the House would do it by piecemeal. If they did it at all they would do it on broad lines, and he was sure they would first of all consult the men. There might be good reasons for the men preferring the present system, and there were good reasons, too, why it was of advantage to the Government, for it enabled them to keep together a great 627 Civil army upon which, not less than upon the military, the prosperity of the country depended. The hon. Member for Devonport seemed to make very light of the value of the permanence of dockyard employment. He regarded it as of incalculable value, of inestimable value. What the workman's family thought of was not so much the weekly rate but the annual income actually earned by him. Many questions had still to be considered. There was one great question of surpassing interest. Last year the War Office decided to introduce the eight hours day, or 48 hours week, in its various establishments. Last week the Secretary of State declared to the House the satisfactory results already assured, or likely to be obtained, from the new system. The Admiralty had watched the progress of this great experiment with the keenest interest and sympathy. The naval establishments were not in all respects similar to the arsenals, and their normal hours of labour were already below those of the arsenals, and in fact very little above the standard of the eight hours day. The Admiralty had considered the whole question on the light of the instruction received from the House of Commons, and had decided to introduce the normal 48 hours week in the naval establishments. Some little time would be required for the consideration of the proposed scheme. The conditions of the yards varied on several points, and it would be necessary to look carefully into the details. The Admiralty expected to be able to adopt a scheme on the lines of that established by the War Office, with such modifications as might be necessary to meet the special circumstances of the various dockyards. He trusted the House would be satisfied that they had interpreted its instructions at once accurately and liberally, and that it was not necessary or desirable to add another instruction at the present time.
§ SIR J. GORST
said, he entirely agreed with the Civil Lord of the Admiralty that the Amendment was a very narrow one; and if it had become the main question he should have endeavoured to have broadened its area with regard to the hours of labour in the dockyards. The announcement of the Civil Lord of the Admiralty, however, had rendered superfluous both the Amendment and the addition to it which he had intended to propose. 628 He must say the announcement the hon. Member had made was perfectly satisfactory. He could not say he thought the Admiralty were under two instructions from the House, for the instruction of 1891, to which the Civil Lord of the Admiralty referred, was an instruction with reference to contractors only. It, was an instruction specially given in consequence of the revelations of the Sweating Commission, and it was a Resolution intended to prevent the Public Departments, in contracts they made outside, giving countenance in any way to under-paid labour. The Admiralty had adopted it as an instruction to themselves entirely of their own accord. The statement which the hon. Member read out was a statement of the First Lord of the Admiralty as to the interpretation to be put on his own policy. It was a perfectly sound one, and as long as the Admiralty and the other Departments of the Government continued to act in a spirit of that kind the persons they employed had no just ground of complaint. The hon. Member had been able to add the concession which the Admiralty were prepared to make about the hours of labour in the dockyards. They must congratulate him on being the Minister of the Crown who had arrived at that extremely just, and, he thought, extremely satisfactory conclusion. The Government ought, in his humble opinion, to set an example to other employers of labour. Every week they found large employers reducing the hours of their men, and it was only right and desirable that Her Majesty's Government should take part in this movement, which was a general one throughout the country. In fact, they should lead the way it limiting the hours of labour to such as the men could work without injury to their health, and which gave them a sufficient amount of leisure. It was most satisfactory to hear the report the Secretary for War was able to give them as to the effect of this movement in the arsenals, and he was very glad indeed that the Board of Admiralty had found themselves able to carry the same principle into effect in the dockyards. It was quite possible that henceforth workmen who were employed regularly in the dockyards, for short and reasonable hours, when they found them selyes at the age which had hitherto been the age 629 of superannuation, and at which men had found themselves exhausted and unfit for work, would he strong enough to continue for a time in the Government service. He would suggest to the Civil Lord that when proposing that 48 hours should he worked in the dockyards, the Government should raise the age at which compulsory superannuation of the workmen should take place A man was now superannuated at the ago of 60, but it was quite conceivable that under the new Regulations, and when the hours of labour were shorter, a man on attaining the age of 60 might find himself in a very much stronger and more robust condition than he did at present. The arrangement he proposed, therefore, would be an extremely advantageous thing for the men themselves, who very often wanted to continue their employment after attaining the age of 60; and, from a public point of view, it would be a great advantage to have the service of able and experienced men for some time after reaching the age of 60. It would give a greater return to the State for all the advantages which had been enjoyed during the period of service. He did not approve the proposal which came from that (the Opposition) side of the House, to sweep away the privileges of the dockyards, which increased the attachment of the workmen to the service of the State. If those privileges were abolished—such as the superannuation allowances—and the employment were treated as a merely commercial bargain between employer and employed, the State, in his opinion, would not be served half as well or as economienlly as at present. A private employer bad not nearly as great a stake in the continuance of his employment as the nation had in the continuance of the work at the dockyards. A good deal of sacrifice might economically be made by a Public Department in order to secure in skilled trades a body of workers in whom perfect reliance could be placed, who could be depended upon to serve continuously and vigorously in cases of emergency, putting aside their own comfort and convenience. So long as the Government were attached to their servants in the dockyards by relations like those that now subsisted, be thought that any small expenditure beyond what might be called a commercial wage would be money extremely well laid out. On the whole, he thought the statement 630 of the Civil Lord extremely satisfactory, and he was sure the hon. Member (Mr. Kearley) would do well under the circumstances to withdraw the Motion.
§ MR. BAKER (Portsmouth)
said, he would not trespass on the time of the House for more than a few moments after the statements which had been made by the hon. Member for Devonport and by the Civil Lord of the Admiralty. He was not at all unmindful of what had been done by the present Government with regard to improving the conditions of labour in Her Majesty's dockyards. he was aware that last year a sum of nearly £40,000 was given for this purpose, but he was still compelled to point out to the House and to the Admiralty especially what might possibly have been overlooked—namely, that there was a largo amount of dissatisfaction existing at the present time amongst the workmen in the dockyards on the ground which had been urged by the hon. Member for Devonport—namely, because at the present moment the rate of wages paid was far less than that which was laid down by the Unions as the standard rate through the country. It was quite true the men's Petitions did not all specifically mention the Union rate of wages. But if anyone would examine the Petitions they would find that while only three referred to the Union rate of wage specifically, nearly everyone was based on the complaint that the men were underpaid according to the Union rate of wage. With regard to the increase promised, be ventured to submit to the Admiralty that it would very much simplify their work if they were to adopt the Union rate of wage. As to the men. being dissatisfied with it, he was sure they would be content, because it was the basis on which their Petitions had been formulated. With regard to the temper of men in the Metropolis, they were not discontented to the extent that had been suggested. As to security for the nation and protection for themselves being swept away, and a hiring from year to year substituted for it without the certainty and continuity of employment they were now afforded, he could speak from his own observation, and say that that was not the feeling in the dockyards. If in large shipbuilding yards the Union rate of wages was paid in spite of establishment charges, and yards which had 631 not these charges could not pay the same rate of wages, there must be some mismanagement of dockyard labour. Great battleships had been built in the Government dockyards at a saving of £40,000 or £50,000 as compared with ships built by contract. So the Union rate of wages was not asked for as a gift, but as a return for labour honestly given. With regard to the advantages that were promised, he not only thanked the Admiralty for what they did for his constituents last year, but for what they had now promised. It had been given generously in a way that would be most acceptable. He also congratulated the Admiralty on the outlook which they had afforded of a higher and more satisfactory rate of wage being given in the future. He did not at all look at the question as establishing a rule which would act either prejudicially to the Government or to the men. If the men could obtain the higher rate of wage after reasonable reductions for the privileges they enjoyed and the bonuses and pensions they received—unless they died before they were entitled to the latter—they should continue on the scale now established in the dockyards. He hoped the spirit of this Resolution would be carried out, and that a fair rate of wages would be afforded to those who worked so well for the Government.
§ * MR. J. BURNS (Battersea)
said, whatever might have been his views on this particular question, they had been strengthened by the announcement of the eight hours day for the Admiralty men. Before he stated what his views were he had a right to remind the House of what he predicted last year, and which many Members approved—namely, that unless the Trade Union rates, wages, and conditions were observed in the Government dockyards the Government would be confronted every year by long speeches from Members who were driven by political pressure, first, to waste the time of the House, and, secondly, to introduce ideas and inequitable conditions that could not be applied to everyone of the Government establishments throughout the country, and which were framed mainly with the desire of pleasing a particular locality which was strong enough to bully the local Member. He ventured the more unreservedly on this question, 632 because he was not the Representative of a dockyard constituency, and was, therefore, not bound to look to the interest of a particular group of the community; but he felt that he had a claim to speak on any subject directly affecting the labour question generally. From this point of view, he contended that the Amendment, referring as it did to the local condition of one particular trade only—namely, that, of shipwrights, and exclusively to naval establishments—was too narrow in its scope. It was, if he might so describe it, a one-eyed Amendment, and one which could not be looked at from the standpoint of national uniformity. It ignored the conditions in other Government Departments—besides confining its scope to one district alone, and it did not apply to the conditions of labour existing in private yards, which were the conditions formulated by the Trades Unions. If the House settled satisfactorily and permanently the question of wages, hours of labour, and conditions of labour, it must do so on a scientific basis, and from the point of view of national uniformity. On the one hand, the Amendment went too far if it was intended to retain under it the emoluments, pensions, and privileges of Government employment; and it did not go far enough if all the Trades Union conditions were to be conceded. What did the Amendment mean? It said that the wages should be equivalent to the Trades-Union rates of wages generally accepted as current in each trade. What did "equivalent" mean? It meant that the Superintendent of Devonport Dockyard should say that 34s. per week, plus holidays and extras, was equal to 37s. a week Trades Union wages in some or other districts. They would then have a conflict of opinion as to the interpretation of "equivalent," and as to "the wages current in each trade." he must say that nothing had caused greater friction between employers and workmen than the miscellaneous way in which the words "fair wages," "current wages," and "equivalents" had been interpreted. They were rapidly approaching the condition of things when the old pension system with privileges and emoluments must be swept away. The system was disappearing, and the sooner it disappeared altogether the better. If 633 the eight hours day would help its abolition, let them ask the Government to extend the eight hours to every Department, and when the eight hours system was universally applied and settled let the House appoint a Committee to see that the system of classification was really abolished. It was not fair while the eight hours system was a tentative experiment, and before other Departments had secured it, for the Member for Devonport to speak for one district irrespective of what, applied to the whole of the 70,000 or 80,000 in all Government Departments. The men could not have all the benefits of the Trades Union system plus the advantages, emoluments, and privileges of employments where the rate of wages was lower than the Union rate in consequence of these privileges. There were also many Civil servants and Local Government Bodies who would find it desirable to terminate the pension system and to secure the current Trade Union rate of wages, which it was hoped would be sufficient to enable the men to make arrangements for themselves to meet the requirements of old age. He objected to the employment of men under the conditions the Member for Devonport had described. This versatility of occupation did nor mean excellence of work. As things now stood shipwrights could go in and work for a, week on wood, then for a week on iron, and perhaps the next week on copper. Work turned out under such a régime could not be satisfactory either to the employer or the employed, and he felt confident that if it was examined into much of the weakness of the machinery of our ironclads must be attributed to a system that prevented that sub-division of work which meant good, reliable machinery, and the avoidance of disasters which would be sure to arise whenever a critical time came for the Navy if the present system continued. The programme which he should stand by would he "Hours first, classification second, and wages third." As sensible men they ought to deal with hours first, classification second, and wages third. If they dealt with the matter in that way they would get a better ship and better engines, and give greater satisfaction both to the Superintendent and the men. The best ship would be that on which gangs of specialist workmen were employed in their own particular work. At 634 Sheerness the most delicate and complex electrical engineering work was being made by apprentice shipwrights hut 12 mouths out of their time. It was simply absurd to think that those apprentices were competent men to place in charge of electrical machinery on board a large ironclad. He would not vote in that House for any reconsideration of the wages of shipwrights or engineers in Her Majesty's Dockyards until the question of the overlapping of work was settled, either by experts in the Department or by a Special Committee of expert engineers from the House. In the meantime the eight hours system had no right to be vitiated at its inception by mixing up with it the question of wages and other conditions that should he dealt with when the shorter day was generally applied. When this happened he intended to move that Trades Union wages should be paid. Till then the present Resolution should be enforced, and the experience gained on the shorter day would enable them to settle wages once and for all. It was because he wanted to be fair both to the Department and the men, because he wanted to see the best ironclad turned out that it was possible for human hands to turn out, that he asked the Government not to accept the Amendment of the hon. Member for Devonport. He was for uniformity, discipline, good work, and Trade Union hours and wages. These the Amendment did not secure, and he should vote against it.
§ SIR E. CLARKE (Plymouth)
said, he could not allow the speech of the hon. Member to pass without taking notice of it. The hon. Member had violently attacked the hon. Member for Devonport for venturing to put this matter before the House. He was not going to vote for the Motion, but he could not see why Dockyard Members alone of all Members of the House were not to be allowed to discuss matters of this kind; and he must enter his protest against such an idea. The hon. Member for Battersea contended that the most important question was the proper distribution of work among the different classes of artizans.
§ MR. J. BURNS
The hon. Gentleman is entirely mistaken. I said that, the Government having introduced a reduction of hours for the War Office and 635 Admiralty, it was only fair that the men who had not got the eight hours should be included before classification, overlapping of work, and revision of wages were entered upon.
§ SIR E. CLARKE
said, that was so; but the hon. Member went on to say that the distribution of work was a more important question than any. That might be a very important question, but he would point out that the work done in the Government Dockyards had been found equal to the best work done in private yards. If there had been improper employment of persons not qualified to do the work, it was a very odd thing that no fault was found with the work turned out. As far as his constituents were concerned, many of them had told him that they cared much less about the hours of labour than the wages. As a rule, the men had not felt the hours to be burdensome, and many told him that they desired rather to press the question of wages. So far as the Admiralty were concerned, the 48 hours week was announced for the dockyards, and though the change might take some time to work out, still it was going on, and therefore the hours question was out of the way. Why in the world should they not go on to discuss classification and wages? He should not have taken part in the Debate but for the speech of the hon. Member. He felt obliged to say that Members for the dockyards were entitled to speak in that House without the imputation being cast upon them that they had been bullied by their constituents.
§ MR. KNATCHBULL-HUGESSEN (Kent, Faversham)
said, he must protest against the imputation made by the hon. Member for Battersea that the Dockyard Members were actuated by unworthy motives. He would ask the hon. Member whether he never spoke for the gallery outside? The hon. Gentleman seemed to be surprised that important work was done by young hands at Sheerness. But he did not say there was any defect in the work. He thought it was highly satisfactory that the work could be carried out so well. Although he could not agree with the actual terms of the Resolution moved by the hon. Member for Devonport, it was his intention to vote for it should a Division 636 be taken, because it was in favour of the views which he had always upheld—namely, the just claims of the dockyard workmen for additional payment. He wished entirely to dissociate himself from that part of the speech of the pro-poser of the Motion which referred to Trades Unions. He denied the right of Trades Unions to dictate what wages should be paid to workmen, and he thought that their action of late had shown that they were animated not with a desire to help the workmen, but with a wish to forward their own ends by what he could not but call tyranny and coercion. He thought, however, that, on the ground of abstract justice, the men for whom he was now speaking had a right to an increase of pay. The concessions that had been made by the Government regarding rates of pay, classification, and other matters had not given satisfaction. The Civil Lord of the Admiralty (Mr. Robertson) said that these concessions were still in course of being carried out, but the complaint of the men was that the promises made by the Government were not acted upon. All classes of men employed in the dockyards complained that they were not paid at the same rate as the men employed in private yards. They contended that if they made a fair deduction for the privileges of pensions and continuity of work they were still not paid at as high a rate as men in private employment. He believed that the dockyard men were willing to absolutely forego some of their privileges if they could be placed on the same level as the workmen of private firms. The men were very much disappointed that the hopes that had been held out to them, notably at election times, by gentlemen opposite respecting the abolition of the system of classification had not been justified. They said that the present system of classification of work was more objectionable than classification of men, and they pointed out that everywhere except in the Government dockyards all shipwrights were paid at a uniform rate. He thought his constituents would be grateful for the concession of a 48 hours week, although he was bound to say that he could not under any circumstances support an Eight Hours Bill, which he thought would be an unjust and tyrannical interference with the right of everyone to work as long as he pleased. 637 He wished to allude to the claims of the engineer officers in respect of pay.
§ MR. KNATCHBULL-HUGESSEN
bowed to this ruling, and proceeded to refer to the grievances of the engineer artificers. They formed, he said, a most important and useful body of men, and they were labouring under great grievances. Although the class was introduced in 1868, there had been up to this time, he believed, no increase of pay, and, what was more astonishing, the men were ineligible for promotion. Then there was the question of pensions. Men on the establishment were entitled at the age of 60 to a pension calculated on the number of years' service they had had; but if a man died just before attaining that age, all his pension fund, half of which he had contributed out of his wages, was forfeited, and nothing at all went to his widow. During the past month a very sad case had occurred at Sheerness, where a most excellent workman, who was forced to retire under the ago of 60, had died, with the result that unless the Government made a grant the widow would be absolutely deprived of any assistance. He called that a cruel and bitter injustice, and he was surprised that it should have been so long un-redressed. In the case of the hired man it was almost worse, He might be from 8 to 10 years working as a hired man before he got a place on the establishment, and it was not until he got on the establishment that he began to count time for pension. The hired man was entitled to a bonus at the end of his period of service instead of a pension, but that bonus he forfeited if he came on the establishment. It appeared to him most reasonable that the period of hired service should be counted for pension, and that the bonus should not be forfeited.
§ An hon. MEMBER: Do they get higher wages as hired men?
§ MR. KNATCHBULL-HUGESSEN
said, no doubt they did, as they were denied the advantages possessed by the men of the establishment. But the point was that the men when they came on the establishment should be able to count the whole of their service for pension. He 638 hoped the Government would be able to pay some attention to the points he had ventured to bring before them.
* MR. EGERTON ALLEN (Pembroke, &c.)
said, that as a Dockyard Member he was not at all ashamed to say in this House what he said in his constituency, that he would take every opportunity he could of bringing forward public questions relating to his constituents on every proper and reasonable occasion. he did not intend to take up the time of the House by bringing forward the grievances of individuals, but he would be wanting in his duty if he did not bring forward public grievances relating to the administration of the dockyards, concerning which this House was called upon to give a final decision between the Admiralty and their employés. Here they had an occasion, on moving the Deputy Speaker out of the Chair, where the pay and position of the Government employés in dockyards was directly before the House. Mo protested against being told by the Member for Battersea that he was driven by political pressure to waste the time of the House. The prime grievance of the Member for Battersea was the interference of the shipwrights in electrical workshops, but in the Return published by the Admiralty on Saturday one of the provisions made was that shipwrights were not to be employed in those shops. His was a grievance, therefore, which was provided for by the Admiralty themselves. But the matters which he wanted to bring before the House were matters which had not been provided for by the Admiralty, and which formed a just ground of complaint. If the Admiralty were only as good as their word they would have little to complain of. They spoke with a very soft voice when they had to meet the complaints of Dockyard Members, and they were told that everything that could be done should be done. Nothing could be sweeter and clearer than the declaration to-night of the Civil Lord of the Admiralty, but was it to be carried out? It was his duty to say, on behalf of his constituents, that the classification scheme which the country was told was to be abolished was not being abolished, and would not be abolished by the measures which the Admiralty had taken. The Civil Lord of the Admiralty had said that it would 639 ultimately lead to abolition, but "ultimately" meant from 10 to 12 or 15 years hence, and during all that time the classification would subsist and exist as it had done in the past. It had given rise to grievances in the past, and would not be altered by the present scheme of the Admiralty. What length of life did the Admiralty suppose their new scheme was going to have? Was it going to have five, or, at the outside, 10 years? Did the House suppose that 10 years hence the Admiralty would find it unnecessary to alter the conditions of labour in the dockyards—the conditions of which classification had formed one in the past and would form one in the future? If the present objectionable system was not got rid of during the whole length of the life of the Admiralty scheme, what benefit was there in the smooth words of the Admiralty, that they had abolished classification? They had done nothing of the sort; and not only had they done nothing of the sort at present, but the abolition would not come in for so many years in the future that by the time it did come in they might fully expect a new scheme in operation. They had, moreover, started a brand-new system of classification by allocating certain extra pay for certain extra work, which had raised a storm of disapproval from the men in every dockyard. The men believed that it was intended to give local officials a loophole for choosing one man more than another for extra pay, and they all said, "We will willingly give it up, and let us have the money which the Admiralty propose to spend upon that part of their scheme in order to raise the all-round rates of wages." The amount of extra pay to be given to shipwrights for special work was upwards of £3,000, and the men said that it would be much better to spend the money in raising pro tan to the weekly wages of the shipwrights. It was no use the Admiralty attempting to bring in a new scheme for the benefit of the dockyards if the dockyards themselves did not consider that that scheme was of any benefit to them, and although they might be right in theory, in practice it would not work. There were other difficulties which the men found in the administration to which he was bound to 640 call attention. The Admiralty did not act fairly towards their men. he would adduce two instances. One was the case of men who acquired a certain position under the Admiralty Regulations in the years 1881, 1882, and 1883. That position was connected with the daughtsmen's work. They held that position till the year 1890; then a new scheme was brought forward by the Admiralty, and in 1891 the Admiralty superseded those men without the slightest reference, of course, to them, without in any way getting their consent to the supersession, and in 1891 they were clearly told they had lost their position. Now, no private employer would dare to alter a contract entered into by him with his men at his own will and pleasure without reference to, or without the consent of, his men. A County Court Judge would not for a moment allow an employer to do such a thing. If that was so, he challenged the Admiralty publicly in his place to deny that they had done what was unfair and unjust, and what no private employer would be able to do without making himself liable to an action. Another instance of unfair treatment was the way in which the Admiralty and Treasury between them worked what was called a system of acting pay. When a man was unable to do his work it was only proper that a person who did his work for him temporarily should be paid extra, supposing he did work which was paid higher than his ordinary work. And it was also right and fair that that extra pay should carry no fresh privilege with it beyond the extra pay for extra work and for a higher kind of work. But in certain circumstances this so-called acting pay was given not for temporary but for permanent work, and in those circumstances it should be treated as substantive, not as acting, pay. Men were wanted in larger numbers than were available for doing certain work in the dockyards; for instance, say that more Inspectors of Shipwrights were wanted than were in the yards, the Admiralty did not appoint more Inspectors of Shipwrights, but made so-called acting Inspectors of Shipwrights, who were not men who acted for others, but who were brought in on the strength of Inspectors of Shipwrights, they not being in sufficient numbers. These acting Inspectors worked some- 641 times for 12 and 14 years consecutively, and they ought to have all the advantages of their position. When a man was pensioned his pension was a certain proportion of the pay he had been earning. Acting pay, as it was called, was not pensionable; that was to say, was not taken into account when the amount of the pension came to be fixed, even when it was really substantive pay, under the circumstances above stated. He asserted that that was a monstrous and flagrant injustice. If a man's pay were increased for a short period, clearly he would not be entitled to be pensioned on that temporary increase. But if the increase had been going on for years as part of the regular needs of the establishment, it was clear that that acting pay was substantive pay, and ought to carry with it pensionable rights. Two or three years ago he brought this matter to the attention of the Admiralty—not once nor twice; in fact, he bad done so ever since he had had the honour to be a Member for a dockyard constituency, and he was informed that the Treasury had a Rule as to what class of pay was pensionable. That would be a very good Rule if acting pay and temporary pay was, as it professed to be under its name, of a temporary character, but it was not to be used to shut out men who for years had been receiving substantial pay which the Admiralty chose to call acting pay. The Treasury acted to the Admiralty like the hard man in the city acted to the benevolent member of the firm, who was not allowed to do what he wished on account of his partner. They were told the Treasury Rule was like the laws of the Medes and Persians—unalterable; but it seemed they might be evaded by the Admiralty. The Treasury Rule for acting pay did not apply to "charge" pay. Call it "charge" pay and it would be pensionable. That sounded reasonable, so far as the men were concerned; it did not matter to them whether it was called acting pay or "charge" pay so long as it was pensionable; but if the Admiralty considered the Treasury Rule unjustifiable and unfair, they should insist upon having it altered, or abolish such absurd nomenclature, and cease to call the men "acting" Inspectors when they really were permanent. However, the difficulty with the "charge" pay was this—that a 642 "charge" man's appointment was very much less permanent than an acting Inspector's appointment; therefore, if for the sake of getting pensionable pay the men allowed themselves to be called "charge" men, the officials could turn round and say they had no right to keep the work, and they would give it to someone else. Acting Inspectors could not have their work taken from them in this rough-and-ready way. It was right that the House and the country should know that the root grievance of the dockyard men against the Admiralty was the system by which the local officials had the lives and fortunes of the men in their own hands. The head of them was either an Admiral or Captain Superintendent, and all these officials were saturated with the idea of naval discipline. The men were told, if they made complaint, they were mutinous and insubordinate. A man who made a complaint to him was had up and reprimanded for having made it. It was like an employer who would call up and reprimand one of his workmen because he wrote to a Trades Union Secretary. He (Mr. Allen) acted as a Union Secretary for the men, and he was sorry to hear the Civil Lord of the Admiralty speak of these men as a large civil army. The grievances of the men were very much aggravated by the fact that these local authorities had the power in their own hands to reward subserviency in a way which was prejudicial to independence of character. And, what was more—and he did not suppose it would for a moment be denied—favour was shown in the matter of selection for different posts and appointments. From the point of view of the local authorities it was right that it should be shown; it kept men, as it were, in hand, but if was this as much as anything that led to all the grievances between the men and the Admiralty. The men had no other opportunity, except occasions of this sort when the House sat to consider the question of dockyard employment, of bringing their grievances forward. He had not brought forward to-night a single individual grievance, only those relating to the system of administration. The system of administration had to be decided by this House, and in this House the men submitted they ought to be heard through their Repre- 643 sentatives, without it being imputed to those Representatives that they were wasting the time of the House, and were merely actuated by tenderness for the safety of their seats if they ventured to bring forward the grievances under which their constituents laboured.
§ MR. FORWOOD (Lancashire, Ormskirk)
said, he would have regard to the fact that they had before them much more important national questions than the one they were now discussing, and would, therefore, be as brief as possible in his remarks. They had heard a great deal of discussion that evening from the working men's point of view. Ho, for one, did not object to it; but they had never heard the employers' or the taxpayers' point, of view alluded to, and he thought the superior of the dockyard labourer, through the taxpayer, was entitled to be heard as well as the advocates of the workmen. There was one feature about the present controversy which, to his mind, was most unsatisfactory. It seemed to have become a perennial question, with no settlement—no ending to it. As the Estimates were brought before the House so year by year did these various points crop up—the same questions arose and the same discussions. He sympathised very much with a great deal in the Civil Lord's speech. He thought that the two years' experience which the hon. Member had had in connection with the dockyard work had made a serious impression on his mind, and that he was not so ready to concede everything asked as he was at the start of his official career. It was quite clear from what they had heard tonight that the present scheme was not regarded as a complete or final settlement, and that it would only be used as a lever for further agitation. In fact, they were told by the Civil Lord that already he had received something like 154 Petitions, to which he was going to give his careful attention. Many of these petitioners would make further requests for advances in wages and other modifications of the existing system. It had become a most serious matter for the House. It was now three or four years since the question of improving the position of the employés of the dockyards was brought prominently forward. For 17 years nothing had been done in connection with an advance in the wages of the 644 men. Four years ago it was his duty, on behalf of the late Board of Admiralty, to submit a proposal for an advance of wages, and that proposal increased the wages by a sum of £80,000 a year. The basis on which that advance was granted was taking the main rate of Trades Union wages at the different private yards in different parts of the country, and getting at the average between what those wages were in good times and what they were in bad times. He thought that was as fair a way as possible to approach the matter. The present Government came into Office, and he understood from the Civil Lord that in April last the scheme brought in for advancing the dockyard wages added something like £28,000 a year, and this year the advance would be £38,000. He did not quite understand whether the proposal to-day involved an advance in £38,000, in addition to the £28,000 advanced in April last.
§ MR. FORWOOD
said, he understood, then, that the advance was £38,000, making, together with what the late Government did, an advance of £118,000 to the general wages of dockyard men. In addition to that direct advance, they were told to-day that the hours of labour had been reduced from 50 hours and 20 minutes per week to 48 hours per week. He should not be doing justice to the character of the workmen to suppose that in the 48 hours they were going to do as much work as they had hitherto done in 50 hours, and though the Civil Lord did not tell them so, be assumed it was not the intention of the Government to make any modification of the wages, having regard to the reduction of hours; in other words, the same would be paid for 48 hours as hitherto had been paid for 50 hours. He had made a calculation, and if that were so the cost to the country in the small loss of hours as it appeared would amount to £50,000 a year, so that in the last four years they should have paid in meal or malt the substantial sum of £168,000 upon a pay roll of £ 1,000,000 sterling a year. This was only setting the ball rolling for further and increased agitation, and that must be unsatisfactory to all Members of the House. The hon. Member for Battersea (Mr. Burns) said that the proper 645 principle was Trade Union wages and conditions. He would say at once if that was admitted there would be an end to these discussions. The Civil Lord very properly took up the question of Trades Unions, and asked what was to be the guiding spirit of the wages regulated by the Trades Unions. They knew that the wages varied very considerably between good times and bad times. He had a statement before him which showed that they varied to the extent of something like 6s., 7s., and even 8s. a week between good and bad times. Then, again, they had a great variety between one district in the country and another. Shipwrights made an average of 80s. in one place, 33s. in another, and as much as 37s. 6d. in another. If they were to have Trades Union wages, which of these places was to be the guiding spirit? If there were to be Trades Union wages, all the advantages dockyard men now had must go by the board, and they would make the dockyards the rendezvous of all the unemployed men engaged in the shipbuilding work in the country, and every one who went to the yards for employment was as much entitled to obtain it as any of the men occupied in their duties in the yard. That was one point for the consideration of the Dockyard Members. Another was the higher they raised the cost of shipbuilding at the dockyards the keener became the competition with the private yards, and he believed that this House was not going to allow work to be done at the dockyards if the cost of performing it was much higher than would be the cost of performing similar work at private yards on the Tyne and the Clyde. As he had said, this scheme put before them would not be a settlement. Much had been said of what was called classified or graduated pay. But this scheme, except as regarded shipwrights and joiners, was one succession of classified or graduated pay. Take the two first headings of the scheme—there was 710 less a difference between trimmers and stokers than from 21s. to 27s. What was that but a graduated scale of payment according to their skill and intelligence? That it meant classification on page 9 of the Return the Admiralty said they could not admit the necessity, but seniority would always be taken into consideration in making selections for an advance; 646 therefore, it was idle to say this scheme did away with any grievances of classification. What he ventured to say to the House was this—that there ought to be an end put to this constant and regular yearly agitation, and this constant demand on the Government. It was a system that was most demoralising to the men in the yards; it produced an unsatisfactory state of feeling there, for each of the men in the several trades were trying how best to obtain some advantage from the next House of Commons or the next Government. His feeling was that they should not get this matter settled unless the House took it up itself, and he thought the best course would be to refer this question of the men, their privileges and emoluments, to be considered by a Committee of this I louse. Let the Committee be fairly constituted, having upon it the Labour Representatives; let them hear the men from the dockyards, the officers of the Admiralty, and then come to the House and say, "We think so-and-so should be the scale of pay." If that were done, he thought they would have a, scheme that would have sufficient acceptance to prevent this constant recurrence of these Debates from year to year.
§ MR. W. ALLEN (Newcastle-under-Lyme)
thought that no one could have heard the statement of an intention to adopt the eight hours day in the Government dockyards without satisfaction; but he did not agree with the last speaker, that it would mean a decrease in the amount of work per week that would be turned out. The experience of those who had already adopted the eight hours day was that the men turned out, as much work in the eight hours as they formerly turned out in the longer period, and he saw no reason why in the case of the dockyards the same thing should not hold good. But while he welcomed the statement of the Civil Lord of the Admiralty and thoroughly agreed with him, that was not what the hon. Member for Devonport (Mr. Kearley) asked for; the hon. Member asked for bread, and the Civil Lord of the Admiralty had given him a stone. Far be it from him, however, from saying the stone was not of as much value as the bread, for he was as strong an advocate of an eight hours day as well could be, but it was not what the hon. Member had asked for. 647 What the hon. Member asked for seemed to him to be fair and reasonable—namely, that the Government should pay the Trades Union rate of wages in their dockyards. And why had he to ask that? Because the Resolution that the House carried last year, on the proposal of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Cambridge University (Sir J. Gorst), had not been carried out. If that Resolution had been carried out there would have been no need for the hon. Member to have moved his Motion. The hon. Member for Battersea (Mr. Burns) last year objected to this Resolution on the ground that it was too wide and too indefinite, and now he objected to the narrower Resolution on the ground that an eight hours day was being introduced, and that the two issues ought not to be confused. But why should it confuse the two issues? The hon. Member for Battersea seemed to him to take up a line that he was not used to. The hon. Member seemed to advocate the side of the employer of labour, and did not appear, as he usually did, as the Representative of labour.
§ * MR. J. BURNS
said, he must protest against this misrepresentation of his speech. The whole of his contention was that they wanted a Trade Union wage, and because the hon. Member for Devonport (Mr. Kearley) did not ask for that but its equivalent, whatever that vague phrase meant, he protested against it.
§ MR. W. ALLEN
said, at any rate, the hon. Member said he would vote against it, whilst they who supported this Motion said they called on the Government to adopt a Trade Union rate of wages. The hon. Member for Battersea might not agree with that, but if they were right the hon. Member was voting against a Trade Union rate of wages in the dockyards. Then the hon. Member for Battersea asked if they would advocate the labourers in the dockyard giving up the privileges they now had if granted Trades Union wages? The hon. Member for Devonport (Mr. Kearley) practically stated that the employés were willing to give up their present privileges if they were granted a Trade Union rate of wages. It seemed to him of vast importance that they should pay the workmen in the Government yards the current rate of wages in the trade, 648 when in the contracts that the Government sent out for various things they inserted a clause that the employer of labour must pay to those who worked on those articles the current Trades Union rate of wages. If the Government did not pay the Trades Union rate of wages, then it would be natural for the employer to turn round and tell them to put their own house in order. But if the Government were to pay the Trades Union rate of wages and at the same time give continuous employment, the consequences would be that they would get the pick of the men, and have their work better done. Surely it was not unreasonable to ask the Government to pay the Union rate of wages? A private employer had to make a profit, or, if a company, to pay a dividend; but the Government were under no such obligation. The Resolution asked them, in the first place, to pay a living wage, and, in the second place, to set a good example to private employers. But the Government were not doing either one or the other. For instance, the coopers at Devonport were paid from 10 to 25 per cent. less than the prices agreed upon by the London masters and the Coopers' Trade Union. Surely that was not carrying out the spirit of the Resolution adopted by the House of Commons. Surely the Government, as a large employer of labour, should respect the agreement come to between the Representatives of the men and the masters. Again, it was stated in evidence before the Labour Commission that while the average pay of ship-riggers in the Government yards was 4s. 4d. per day, the average pay in the great commercial centres of London, Liverpool, Hull and Newcastle-on-Tyne was 5s. 8d. per day. If the Government had carried out the spirit of the Resolution adopted by the House, it would have increased the wages of the ship-riggers by 1s. 4d. per day and the wages of the coopers by 10 to 25 per cent. per week. The Government would only treat their employés in a fair and generous manner when they carried out the wishes of by far the largest majority in the House. It was all very well to look at the question from the taxpayers' point of view; but the working-classes' point of view was clearly indicated during the recent struggle in the coal trade, when all working men sub- 649 scribed largely to help those who were out of work, and his opinion was that the taxpayers would not object to this small addition to the taxes when they would know that the money would go into the pockets of the employés of the Government. He believed the Resolution to be a just and fair one, and if his hon. Friend pressed it to a Division he would certainly support him by his vote.
§ MR. HANBURY (Preston)
said, he could not go into the details of this dockyard question like the hon. Members who represented the dockyards, but he would give his views as to the general principles which he thought ought to guide the Government in fixing the wages in the dockyards on grounds that were fair and right. He entirely concurred in what had been said by his hon. Friend the Member for Battersea. There was very little in the speech of his hon. Friend that he did not find himself in complete agreement with, and he thought his hon. Friend had put the question on a sound and solid basis. There could be no doubt whatever that the time had come when they ought to put this question on some firm and definite basis, for they could no longer tolerate these constant appeals to the House by Representatives of the dockyards. From the taxpayers' point of view, he heartily supported the recommendation of the hon. Member for Battersea. The Civil Lord of the Admiralty had said that in a great many respects the wages of the dockyard men wore above Trades Union wages, and yet the hon. Member for Devonport asked that his constituents were to have not only the advantage of Trades Union wages, but also the privileges and advantages which they enjoyed under the whole system. [Cries of "No!"] It was impossible that that could happen. The dockyard men could not have their cake and eat it, and it was unfair to working men in other parts of the country that dockyard men should out of Government money be paid higher wages than other working men received. That was an utterly impossible position, but undoubtedly it was the claim made by the hon. Member for Devonport. [Mr. KEARLEY: No, no.] At any rate, that was the view he took of the Resolution before the House. He thought the establishment system in the dockyards a bad one. It was said it had many 650 advantages, but he was sure that it had more disadvantages. For instance, a great number of men were kept upon the establishment who would not be retained in private yards. There was also too much of family influence in the dockyards. Jobs were frequently done owing to family influence. What was worse, there were also Party jobs, and one of the worst Party jobs was committed by his own Party in 1878, when they put a large number of men on the dockyard establishment previous to a General Election. But both sides were in this respect tarred with the same brush, and either Party was 110 better and no worse than the other. He would like to see the establishment system abolished altogether, because then the jobs could not be perpetrated. The dockyards ought to be placed more in competition with the private yards, and he was certain that much of the work would be better done in the latter than in the former. he was sure that if they did away with the establishment system and put the Government yards under the same conditions as the private yards it would be much better for the country. It was said that there were privileges granted to the men by employers in private firms. Any concessions made to the men in private firms ought certainly to be retained, but there were exceptional privileges in the dockyards which ought to be abolished. The fact was, that they had gone on long enough trying to work the two systems side by side. He would advise the Government to give up the old establishment system and pay Trades Union wages. The Secretary to the Admiralty had said they were trying to give wages which represented the average of Trades Union wages. But that system would not work, for they would have the Dockyard Representatives coming to the House and insisting that the men should be paid the highest point reached in wages by the Trades Unions. The proper thing was to pay Trades Union wages pure and simple. He did not complain of the action of the Dockyard Representatives, but he should say that the pressure which was brought to bear upon Members of Parliament, by dockyard men and by Civil servants had become intolerable. He once served on a Commission where every member, regardless of Party, was so impressed with this fact that they were inclined to recommend that Civil servants 651 should be disfranchised. He believed that was what would happen if they had year after year this constant pressure brought to bear on the Dockyard Members, and then those Members using their political influence with the Government, especially when majorities were small, in order to raise the wages of dockyard employés. It was a form of bribery which ought not to be tolerated. Private bribery was bad enough, but bribing constituencies for the Member's own private advantage with, public money was the worst possible sort of bribery. There was another matter to which he would like to call attention. He was afraid one of the tendencies of this system would be to drive out of our dockyards and Government factories a great many old soldiers and sailors. He thought this House ought, as far as possible, to find employment for these men. He had never been able to see why these men, if they were good men and able to do the work—and if otherwise they ought not to be employed at all—should have their pensions practically deducted from their wages. A man's pension earned in the service of the State was his own property, and he ought to have the same wages as if he had not the pension. He did not, believe the remedy suggested by the late Secretary to the Admiralty—namely, a Committee of this House, would stop the evil for a single year. At least it would very soon be argued that the circumstances had altered since the Committee had met. What they wanted was some self-adjusting arrangement like Trades Union wages, and for that reason he heartily agreed with the suggestion of the hon. Member for Battersea.
§ SIR E. J. REED (Cardiff)
said, that if this Motion was put to the House he should record his vote against it, and he should do so in the interests of the dockyard workers themselves. There could be but one outcome from this perpetual movement in behalf of the dockyards—and although it might not be a very near one, it would come—and that was, to give a vast deal more work to the private establishments, and to bring about a great reduction in the construction staff of the dockyards, be should not be sorry to see that take place, because, looking to the spirit which animated these Debates, and seeing the dockyard 652 men were so excessively dissatisfied with their lot, he saw no reason why this House should maintain the dockyards in a stronger position. Why were the establishments set up and maintained? Entirely because they had a body of workmen working under very considerable privileges such as constant employment and constant income. But, if the dockyard men came to the House and asked that the differences between them and men employed outside should be removed, then the very ground on which the dockyard establishments were set up was taken away, and there was no reason why ships required for the Public Service should not be constructed in the private yards of the country. He agreed very much with what the hon. Member for Preston had said. This question had taken such an acute form that it seemed impossible in the House of Commons to give attention to any adequate and liberal scale to the great naval affairs of the country because of this eternal cropping-up of dockyard grievances.
§ * MR. CAMPBELL-BANNERMAN
Notwithstanding that this discussion has lasted perhaps as long as time will very conveniently allow for it, it may not be out of place if I say a few words before we come to a conclusion on the matter. Although I have no direct connection with the Admiralty and its workers, yet as last year I was the mouthpiece of the Government on the question raised by the right hon. Gentleman opposite, I can say a few words with some degree of authority on the part of the Government. There are two subjects connected with this matter, upon neither of which I intend to say anything. First, as to the conduct and position of the Dockyard Members. There may be a good deal to be said on both sides of that question, but it is not a pleasant question on which to embark, and therefore I will leave it aside. The other subject is the question of the grievances which workmen in the dockyards complain of. That would be a proper question to deal with on the Navy Estimates, but it has no immediate connection with the Resolution before the House. That Resolution asks the House of Commons to determine that the men employed in the dockyards shall receive, according to some vague sort of definition, Trades Union rates of wages. There is one 653 condition which ought to attach to any such Resolution as that before the House, and that is that it should, if possible, unanimously commend itself to the Members of the House. The two previous Instructions that have been passed by the House have been agreed to unanimously, as it is very desirable that such Instructions should be. But it is apparent that this Resolution cannot be carried unanimously. The Motion has been strongly supported by some hon. Gentlemen who represent dockyard constituencies, but it has been attacked by others. It, has been by no one more forcibly opposed than by my hon. Friend the Member for Battersea; and I venture to think that on a question like this my hon. Friend the Member for Battersea is a great authority, even a greater authority than some of those who have found fault with what he has said. My hon. Friend pointed out that the Resolution is at once vague and narrow in its effect. I do not think myself, speaking frankly, that it is a Motion which the Government of the day should be justified in accepting. We have fully accepted the principle that the current rate of wages in a district ought to be paid both in the Government workshops and by its contractors. The Civil Lord of the Admiralty cited the carefully-considered terms—which, I think, I may quote again—stating the present view of the Admiralty's position under the Instructions of the House. The words are:—That the Admiralty should remunerate its workmen on a scale which, taking everything into consideration, is not inferior to that of outside workmen of the same or an analogous class; and, if at any time if be shown that any trade or section of a trade is receiving less than it ought to receive, it is the duty of the Department to set the matter right.Now, how have we carried out this direction? I challenge any Member of the House to mention a case in which, when the Departments have been informed that lower wages than those stated are being paid by the contractor, the matter has not been immediately investigated, and, if it has been found a fair complaint, has not been at once set right. This course has been carried out with the greatest fidelity by every Department of the Government. The workmen directly employed by the Government have from time to time received a considerable in- 654 crease of wages, and we have in that way given proof that it is our desire to do exactly what is prescribed. If we were to accept a Union rate of wages we should have to know, as has been abundantly pointed out to-night, whether it is to be the Union rate in the locality or a general average Union rate, the payment of which would probably cause as much discontent as if you were to put Union rates of wages aside altogether. This being the way in which the Government have carried out, and will continue to carry out, the Instructions of the House, is it desirable to fetter their hands by passing this vague Resolution? I agree with the hon. Member for Cardiff that the men in the dockyard, and those who here plead their cause, ought to take care that they do not push matters a little too far. We are all ready to maintain these great establishments in full efficiency. At the same time, our principle is to give a fair share of work to private workshops and the great shipbuilding yards in other parts of the country; and if the establishments in the South of England become too costly or make work difficult and inconvenient, there is an easy remedy, which is to transfer the larger part of the shipbuilding to the private yards. I do not say it would be desirable to do this to too largo an extent; and it is certainly not the policy of the Government, or likely to be that of any Government, to displace large quantities of labour in the Government establishments; but it is worth the while of the workmen concerned to take to heart the warning given to-night that if repeated efforts are made under Parliamentary pressure to raise the scale of wages to an undue extent, there is always a simple remedy, which, however, I believe the House of Commons would be reluctant to adopt. There is another reason why I think the Government may be trusted to act reasonably in this matter. The hon. Member for Battersea took that line, and the hon. Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme, I observe, from his greater knowledge and wider experience, proceeded to lecture my hon. Friend and to point out the line he ought to have taken. But we have done more than this—we have acted in a remarkable manner in other respects than in regard to this matter of fair wages. The announcement that my hon. Friend 655 has made to-night as to the introduction of a 48 hours week is a very remarkable and significant announcement. No one has had a larger share in pushing forward that question than my hon. Friend and countryman who sits below the Gangway. I was able some time ago to announce this policy in connection with the War Office. I was not surprised that the Admiralty hesitated or delayed a little in following that example, because, as is well known, the factories with which I have to deal are the very kind of factories or shops that lend themselves easily and without much complication, to the adoption of shorter hours, whereas the establishments of the Admiralty are more scattered and various, and render necessary great circumspection and careful inquiry. The hon. Member for Preston has spoken of the conditions we have had to impose in introducing shorter hours. I think he a little exaggerated what has happened. In making concessions of this kind the Government have a right to ask from the men in their employment some concession in return. There is no denying the fact that in Government factories there is a little more indulgence and laxity than there is in private yards. There are little indulgences and irregularities allowed in Government establishments which are not permitted in private yards, and all that has been done is to reduce those little privileges which the workman can very well give up when so much is being done for him; and I am glad to say that, to the best of my information, there has been no substantial complaint whatever from any of the men. Of course, when the question of wages is dealt with, we come at once to the whole question of establishments. I am of opinion, and have never failed to express the opinion in this House, that establishments are the greatest mistake in the world. The country would be much better served if there were no establishments at all, if there were no established men—no men going on for pension—and if the whole of the men could be treated in the same way as they were in private yards. But there would be a great deal of difficulty in introducing a new system and discontinuing the old. There would be a long time during which there would be men under each system. If, however 656 there is a strong feeling in the direction of a uniform arrangement, I can see no objection to carrying further the movement towards what I should call the liberation of labour in public dockyards. I have only one word more to say. With regard to the employment of old soldiers and sailors, which my hon. Friend has referred to, I very much sympathise with the desire to employ them, and am also opposed to counting their pensions as any part of their pay, but in many cases they are not fit to perform the ordinary day's work of an able-bodied man. The work will be very loyal and honest work so far as it goes, but old soldiers and sailors are not fitted for every kind of employment. Therefore, much is not to be expected in that direction, but I should be very sorry if any trade movement should have the effect of making the employment of such men in Government establishments impossible. Having said this much, and after the speech of my hon. Friend the Civil Lord, and the general expression of the opinion of the House, I would appeal to my hon. Friend the Member for Devon-port to withdraw his Motion. He has gained the advantage of having the matter discussed at great length, and, on the whole, I think in a sympathetic spirit. I would venture to ask any hon. Friend whether it would not be better, in the interests of those for whom he acts, to withdraw his Motion.
§ LORD G. HAMILTON (Middlesex, Ealing)
I should not have taken any part in this protracted Debate if it had not been for one or two observations of the right hon. Gentleman who has just sat down. He sounded what I thought a timely note of warning to the dockyard employés. He said that if the pressure to which the House is year by year subjected becomes intolerable, there is a very simple remedy—namely, to gradually reduce the Government establishments and put the work out elsewhere. Some six or seven years ago, in conjunction with my right hon. Friend near me, I had to face the very difficulty which the right hon. Gentleman anticipates. I was suddenly called upon to undertake the affairs of the Admiralty at a time when the dockyards were in much disfavour. Their work, though good, was costly and dilatory, and there was a strong move 657 ment made, particularly among those to whom I am politically opposed, to bring; about the abolition of the dockyards as building establishments, and their maintenance for repairs only. I want the dockyard employés dearly to understand that if such a proposition is ever made, for every political vote the dockyard employés can command the shipwrights in other parts of England can command 10. Therefore, if any attempts are made by political pressure and influence to improve the position of the dockyard employés at the expense of the rest of the community, it is very easy to see that there is a practical and effectual remedy. My right hon. Friend and I had a very unpleasant task to try and reform the dockyards and place them on such a basis as would enable them to compete with modern appliances in private yards. I am bound to say that the results of the reforms we have carried out have boon most remarkable. The work of the dockyards during the past five or six years has been such that it holds its own well with that of the best private yards in the country. But dockyard employés must not presume too much on the good work they have done in the past. I agree with everything the Minister for War has said. The Government as employers of labour ought to set an example. I am glad the hours have been reduced. I believe that whore proper supervision is exercised and men are made to do their best, eight hours are about as much as an able-bodied man can do; but, of course, under the exigencies of the Public Service overtime has been and may be necessary, and the present reduction ought to be associated with the understanding that overtime may occasionally have to be worked, though it ought not to be the chronic condition of the Public Service. The right hon. Gentleman went on to say that he thought establishments were a mistake. On that the opinion of those in the employ of the Admiralty must, to a large extent, be consulted, and almost all the 20,000 employed are in favour of the continuous employment the establishments afford. I believe it would be a mistake to attempt their reduction. There is no desire on the part of the great majority of the House to treat otherwise than fairly all those employed 658 in the dockyards: but I hope the moral of this Debate will be taken to heart by the Dockyard Representatives and those they represent. What, is wanted is a little, more backbone in Parliamentary candidates. I think the results of the Debate will be to this effect—that, whilst the dockyard employés, whom I am bound to look upon as amongst the pick of the artizans of the United Kingdom, will be fairly dealt with, if their Representatives yield unduly to political pressure, the House will be stiff-backed enough to pay no attention to them.
§ MR. KEARLEY
said, that after listening attentively to the remarks of the Secretary for War, which he understood to be practically a repetition of what the Civil Lord had said—for he was unfortunate enough not to be able to catch the full purport of his remarks—he felt the undertaking given by the Government to have these matters, whenever they might be proved to be worthy of reconsideration, thoroughly inquired into perfectly satisfactory. He did not abate from the position he had taken up—that it would be beneficial that Trades Union wages should be introduced. But he felt satisfied with the undertaking given by the Secretary for War. He asked to be allowed to withdraw his Motion, and he took the opportunity of thanking the Government for their great concession so far as regarded the reduction of the hours of labour to 48 was concerned.
§ MR. WOLFF (Belfast, E.)
said, that in successive years he had heard the hon. Member opposite (Mr. Kearley) and his Colleagues, and the Members of the Government, make the same identical speeches, and it seemed to him that, unless some step was taken to bring about a fixed arrangement, with the dockyard men, they would every Session waste at least one day over these matters. It depended upon how pliable the House was, or how much backbone it exhibited, whether wages were raised or were continued as at, present. He thought that the system in operation in the dockyards was a bad one—altogether out of date according to present ideas of labour and relations between employers and employed. Public shipbuilding yards might have been absolutely necessary at one time, when there were no private 659 yards to compete with them, and when men, if they left the Government service, could not be replaced; but now the work in the private yards was done quite as well as that carried out in the dockyards. He saw no reason why the regulations in force in private yards should not be adopted in the dockyards. If a man did a certain amount of work why not pay him for it accordingly? If the votes for candidates in dockyard constituencies were to be given according to the number of gratuities obtained for the men these Debates would take place every year. So long as money could be squeezed out of the Public Exchequer by Parliamentary pressure, so long would the dockyard men remain dissatisfied. As for classification, no doubt, theoretically, it was a good thing, but, practically, it could not be carried out. The practice of paying men on a different scale on the ground that some were more skilled than others was fast dying out in private yards, one universal rate of wages being paid. He would abolish the establishment system altogether, and pay the men the rates customary in the Trades Unions. he had had many fights with the Trades Unions, sometimes having beaten them and sometimes having been beaten, and he had no doubt he should have other fights with them. Generally speaking, however, he got on very well with them; and if he had any influence at the Admiralty he should advise the adoption of the system whereby men would be taken on when they were required, paid the Trades Union rate of wages, and sent away when they were not wanted. That system worked well in the private yards, and he did not see why it should not work equally well in the Government dockyards.
§ MAJOR RASCH (Essex, S.E.)
said, that the hon. Member for Preston had talked about employing old soldiers in the dockyards, but he had not meant decrepit individuals of 70 or 80, such as were in the mind of the Secretary for War, but Reservists averaging from 25 to 30 years of age. Such men were as fit for employment in the dockyards as any workmen could be.
§ Question put, and agreed to.
§ Main Question again proposed.