§ MR. HAVELOCK WILSON (Middlesbrough)
I beg to ask the First Lord of the Admiralty whether it is a fact that the Admiralty, in issuing orders for contracts for their Department, have altered the form of order by leaving out of the terms of the Resolution of the House of Commons of February, 1891 (known as the Fair Wages Resolution), the words "current in the district;" whether he is aware that the proposed alteration destroys the full force of the Resolution; whether he has considered the effect of such alteration on the wages of the workmen of firms tendering for contracts; and whether the Government's proposal is final on this subject?
§ COLONEL DENNY (Kilmarnock Burghs)
asked whether it was not the fact that the wages paid by firms who were generally asked to tender for Admiralty work are settled by mutual consent between the employers and the employés, usually through their respective associations; and, as the wages are fixed for a period, of the determination of which notice must be given, what the probable effect upon wages expended on Admiralty work could be?
§ MR. R. ASCROFT (Oldham)
asked whether the alteration had been made in consequence of representations which had been sent in to the Admiralty; and, if so, whether there was any objection to a copy of the correspondence being supplied to Members of the House?
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE ADMIRALTY (Mr. GOSCHEN,) St. George's, Hanover Square
With reference to the question of my hon. Friend below the Gangway (Colonel Denny), I should certainly have thought that the workmen in the employment of great firms would have been able to make satisfactory arrangements with their employers without the intervention of Parliament. In regard to the Question of the hon. Member for Oldham, I am not sure that I could give the correspondence. Certain representations have been made that the words "current in the district" hampered London industry; but I will enter into the matter further. In reply to the Question on the Paper, I have to say that the suggestion in the first paragraph is the very reverse of the fact. I have already stated in the House, in reply to another hon. Member that, in issuing orders for contracts, the Admiralty observe the precise words of the Resolution of the House of Commons. After some words of preamble, the Resolution ran as follows:—To make every effort to secure the payment of such wages as are generally accepted as current in each trade for competent workmen.The words in our contracts are:—The wages paid in execution of such contracts shall be those generally accepted as current in each trade for competent workmen.It is, therefore, an entire misapprehension to say that we have departed from the decision of the House of Commons. The words current, "in the district where the work is carried out," were departmentally added, and have now been departmentally omitted; but it cannot be too widely known that the words "generally accepted as current in each trade for competent workmen" remain unchanged. I am not aware that the proposed alteration destroys the full force of the Resolution. The words "competent workmen" and "current in each trade" contained in the Resolution remain as the House intended them to remain. I have considered the effect of such alteration on the wages of workmen of firms tendering for contracts. I desire to place all parts of the country on an equal footing, with a fair field and no favour, so that workmen in all 1395 centres of shipbuilding industry might share in Government work. It appears that discussions touching this subject will take place both on the 17th and 24th of next month, when I shall be glad to state my views on this question. As regards the effect in London, I have asked weeks ago to be supplied with information bearing on this question, but it has not been supplied to me.