HC Deb 31 March 1898 vol 55 cc1481-2
MR. H. H. MARKS (Tower Hamlets, St. George's)

I beg to ask the Secretary to the Treasury whether he is aware that Customs watchers in the Port of London receive only 21s. per week for 54 hours' work, being at the rate of 4⅔d. per hour; whether these 54 hours have sometimes to be made up by giving an attendance of 12 hours one day (6 a.m. to 6 p.m.) and six hours the next day, and whether the Board count these days as two days of nine hours; whether, in consequence of the low rate of wages paid to these men, many of them are forced to take employment nightly at the post office and theatres until midnight to provide themselves with the necessities of life; and, whether he will consider the question of increasing the payment of the Customs watchers in the Port of London to a minimum wage of 24s. per week of 48 hours' work?


Customs watchers in the Port of London, in common with those at all other Customs Ports, are paid at the uniform rate of 21s. for a maximum attendance of 54 hours within a week of six days, or an average of nine hours a day. Cases such as those suggested in the second paragraph—viz., a full attendance of 12 hours on one day, with corresponding reduce- tions on subsequent days, occasionally arise through the necessities of the service, but are of very rare occurrence, and under the exact circumstances stated (an attendance of 12 hours—6 a.m. to 6 p.m.—one day, and six hours the next day), the average for the two days would, of course, be nine hours. In practice, however, on most of the stations on which watchers are employed, work does not begin before 8 or 9 a.m., according to season, and usually ends at or about 4 p.m. throughout the year, from which it results that the full attendance of 54 hours a week is not, in such cases, exacted. The occupations of these men when they are not required for Customs duty do not come under official cognisance. Having regard to the nature of the work which these men have to discharge, the Treasury and the Board of Customs do not consider that a higher rate of wages is required. I may add that they work shorter hours and are paid higher rates than other officers.


I beg to give notice that I will call attention to this matter on the Estimates.