HC Deb 30 March 1905 vol 143 cc1709-10

To ask the Secretary of State for War if he is aware that a strike is in progress of boot and shoe operatives employed by Government contractors in Raunds in consequence of the employers' violation of the Fair Wages Clause governing contracts; and if he will inquire the cause and insist upon the Fair Wages Clause being observed in all contracts for boots for the use of His Majesty's Army.

(Answered by Mr. Secretary Arnold-Forster.) I am aware of a strike amongst some of the workpeople at Raunds. I do not understand that the strike is in consequence of any violation of the Wages Clause of the War Department contracts. I understand that the strike is caused by the refusal of certain manufacturers to adopt a schedule of prices which has been agreed to by some other manufacturers. Every endeavour is made to secure the strict observance of the Wages Clause in all War Department contracts. If and when I have reason to believe that the wages being paid are not those generally current in the district (as required by the Wages Clause), I will, in this as in all other cases, cause an inquiry to be instituted at once.

MR. CHANNING (Northamptonshire, E.)

To ask the Secretary of State for War whether he is aware that the statement of wages to be paid for Army boot work under Government contracts agreed on in June, 1904, at a meeting of Army contractors and workmen's representatives, signed in September, 1904, by the repressntatives on both sides, and accepted by the War Office at a deputation on 17th November as evidence of the current scale of wages, has been set aside by several contractors who have tendered for, and obtained, contracts, and are offering the work at prices lower than those agreed to, and even below those previously paid; and what steps he proposes to take to secure that the Fair or Current Wage Clause of Government contracts shall be observed.

(Answered by Mr. Secretary Arnold-Forster.) A statement was agreed to by certain of the contractors and signed by their representatives. It did not represent the whole of the contractors in the district, and it was afterwards partially repudiated. It was never accepted by this Department as a statement of wages to be paid. It was merely regarded as some evidence of a desire to arrive at a uniform scale. This was made quite clear at the time to the deputation. If, and when, the Department has reason to believe that the Wage Clause of War Department contracts is being infringed, steps will at once be taken to secure its due observance.