HC Deb 23 July 1897 vol 51 cc899-900
CAPTAIN NORTON (Newington, W.)

I beg to ask the First Lord of the Admiralty whether it has been brought to his notice that the firms of Messrs. Thorney croft, Penn, and Earle have approached the Government with reference to the finding of artificers or engineers for trial trips at Chatham and Devonport; and, whether he will see the advisability of declining to meet their wishes, on the ground that a conflict of the first importance was taking place between employers and employed in the engineering trade?


No application of the kind has been made to the Admiralty since the strike was declared. The hon. Member has perhaps been misled by statements appearing in the Press that certain engine-fitters had been lent from Keyham to the contractors to assist in the trials of the Arrogant, but that on finding that the contractors' men had been called out they had refused to work. The facts are that before the strike had been declared, as has been very usual in such trials, certain dockyard workmen were allowed to assist the contractors' workmen. Finding that the trials were postponed owing to the contractors' men having been called out the very morning when they presented themselves, these dockyard men took up their tickets in the usual manner before 7 o'clock and proceeded to their ordinary work at Keyham. There is no question of any disobedience of orders, as has been suggested in some quarters. With reference to the concluding part of the hon. and gallant Member's Question, I may generally say that no action has been taken by the Admiralty or by their officers in the dockyards in connection with the present difficulties, either in the interests of the contractors or their workmen. The Board of Admiralty will adhere to the same strict impartiality between the two parties as they have observed on similar occasions. At the same time, both sides to this unfortunate dispute should take note that this declaration must not be strained to mean that in any case of urgency the Admiralty would be debarred from taking such action as the exigencies of the public service might imperatively demand.