HC Deb 28 June 1905 vol 148 cc357-8
MR KEARLEY (Devonport)

To ask the Secretary to the Admiralty whether, in view of the undertaking recently given by the Admiralty that the rates of discharges in the Royal dockyards should be limited to twenty-five per week, he will explain why the average discharges at Devonport Yard for some weeks past amount to seventy per week, and that in addition ninety-three men received a week's notice on Friday last to terminate their employment.

(Answered by Mr. Pretyman.) It has been found necessary to increase the average discharges on reduction at Devonport to seventy instead of twenty-five per week as originally intended, as otherwise sufficient work could not be found for economical employment. In addition, ninety-two men received a week's notice on Friday last to terminate their employment, consequent on ninety-two apprentices coming out of their time who are entitled under contract to employment in the yard.

MR. BENN (Devonport)

To ask the Secretary to the Admiralty whether, in regard to the discharges now taking place at Devonport, in accordance with a recent notice from the Admiralty, that as apprentices completed their indentures, room was to be made for them by an equivalent dismissal of hired men, his attention has been directed to a system, now introduced for the first time, of selecting for dismissal, from gangs expressly formed for their fitness to carry out special work, experienced men of from thirteen to twenty-five years service, who, but for this new arrangement, would secure such continuity of employment as usually attaches to seniority and ability; and, if so, whether he proposes to take any, and, if any, what action in the matter.

(Answered by Mr. Pretyman.) In order to ensure that the necessary reductions in numbers borne are actually carried out, it is necessary to provide against automatic increases, such as the entry of apprentices completing their indentures. Under the existing dockyard regulations the Admiralty are under agreement with the apprentices that:—"On coming out of their time, and subject to their good behaviour, they will be entered for a period of two years as journeymen, and will not be discharged during that time. "This regulation is not recent, as suggested in the hon. Member's Question; nor would it be economical to discharge apprentices just when their services are beginning to justify the outlay on their training. The selection of men to be discharged is left to the discretion of the dockyard officers. The least efficient me a are the first to be discharged, but in course of time, owing to the numbers of discharges necessary, it is inevitable that desirable men come within the scope of the order. Men of the servitude named, however, would have earned a gratuity. It is not proposed to interfere in any way with the discretion of the dockyard officers in carrying out this duty.