HC Deb 25 March 1897 vol 47 cc1304-5
CAPTAIN NORTON (Newington, W.)

I beg to ask the Financial Secretary to the War Office whether he is aware that the women workers in the Army Clothing Factory at Pimlico, known as the outside division, numbering between 150 and 200, are to be discharged on the 31st instant; whether most of these women are the deserving widows of old soldiers, and have done the work satisfactorily for nearly a quarter of a century; whether the reason alleged for depriving these, in many instances, aged women of their only means of livelihood, is that it is to prevent sweating, whereas the work is to be given to sweating contractors; and, whether he will consider the advisability of allowing those now employed to die out, or at least give some little annuity to those over a certain age who have many years' service, so as to prevent them coming on the rates?


After the 31st, instant, the practice of giving out work to be executed in the workers' homes will be discontinued. This practice has been found to be very objectionable. The work is often done under conditions which are insanitary, and which involve a liability to infection on the part both of the troops and of the workpeople at the clothing factory; while strong suspicion exists of subletting on terms which amount to sweating. The number of people affected is 44 women and three men. Some of the women are widows of soldiers. None of the work taken from these people will be given to sweating contractors, nor are any sweating contractors allowed to take War Office contracts. The work hitherto given out will be done in the Factory, and all the workers in question who are under 65 years of age (namely, 36 women and two men) will have the option of coming into the Factory. Those who do not avail themselves of the option, or are over 65, will be given a gratuity. ["Hear, hear!"]


asked whether it would not be possible to make an exception in the case of the widows of soldiers who had fought in the Indian Mutiny and in the Crimea?


I am afraid that it would not be possible nor just to make any exceptions. The real difficulty is that, as long as this system obtains, we are doing ourselves what we absolutely forbid our contractors to do.


asked whether the change that was to be made would involve any alteration in the amount of work that was put out to contract?


No: I said before that the work that is now done by these old ladies will be done in the Factory.