HC Deb 21 March 1895 vol 31 cc1536-7

I beg to ask the President of the Board of Agriculture whether some of the so-called labourers in the Ordnance Survey Department are receiving as low a rate of wages as 16s. 6d. per week, and whether, although called labourers, their work is really that of surveyors' assistants, and when in the office they are chiefly employed as assistant printers; and, whether he will take steps to fix their minimum wage at 20s. per week, the same as is now paid to the Admiralty labourers at Deptford?


The rate of wages mentioned by the hon. Member is a probationary rate for men who are really learning their work. At the end of the probationary period, which has recently been reduced from three years to one, the labourers employed in the field receive 18s. per week, and the printers' labourers at Southampton and Dublin gradually rise from 18s. to 21s. a week. It would not be correct to describe the former as surveyors' assistants or the latter as assistant printers. I have on more than one occasion looked into the case of these men, at the request of hon. Members behind me, and, taking into account their other privileges and all the conditions under which they work, I do not think that they are insufficiently paid, or that their position compares unfavourably with that of any Admiralty labourers employed on similar duties.


I beg to ask the President of the Board of Agriculture what is the number of civilians employed in the Ordnance Survey Department, and how many are classed as permanent civil assistants entitled to pensions, and how many are called temporary civil assistants not so entitled, and if there is any difference in the nature of the work performed by these two classes; whether a distinction has lately been made in the temporary class, whereby those who joined before 4th January 1873 become entitled to pensions, while those who joined a few days later are excluded; and if he will make it a rule in future that 15 years' continuous service shall qualify an employé for a pension?


The number of civil assistants employed on the Ordnance Survey is 1,672, of whom 336 are entitled to pension and 1,336 are not so entitled. Under an arrangement sanctioned by the Treasury early last year a civil assistant appointed to any one of the 76 important and responsible situations on the Survey will be entitled to pension if he obtains the necessary certificate from the Civil Service Commissioners, but otherwise the right to pension depends not upon the nature of the duties, but upon the date of appointment. My hon. Friend behind me (Sir F. Evans) recently brought under notice the case of the civil assistants appointed between September 1870 and January 1873, and the right to pension has now been conceded by the Treasury to 57 of those assistants on the ground that it was not until the latter date that the final decision abolishing superannuation was notified to the Survey. It rests with the Treasury to say whether any modification of the conditions under which temporary civil assistants have joined the Survey since the 4th January 1873 should be made, but there can be no doubt that at the time of their appointment those assistants had no reason to suppose that their engagement carried with it any right to pension.