HC Deb 09 August 1911 vol 29 cc1130-2

asked the First Lord of the Admiralty, whether he could now state what action he proposed taking to secure the enforcement of the Fair-Wages Clause at Dowlais, where the moulders make the moulds for the ingots from which the plates for battleships are rolled, and also the various parts of the machinery employed in the rolling process, and where the pattern-makers make the patterns for the moulders, and are thus in both cases directly employed in connection with the contracts now being executed by Messrs. Guest, Keen, and Nettlefold on behalf of the Admiralty?

The FIRST LORD of the ADMIRALTY (Mr. McKenna)

The question has been referred to the Fair-Wages Advisory Committee, but their Report has not yet been received. I have, therefore, nothing to add to my previous replies on this subject.


Can the right hon. Gentleman say when the Report is likely to be received?


I am afraid I cannot. I hope it will be soon.


asked the First Lord of the Admiralty whether he has received a tabulated list of the hours of labour worked, and the rates of wages paid, to the various sections of unskilled and semi-skilled labourers in the employment of shipbuilding and armaments firms with Government contracts now in hand, ranging from as low as 17s. per week for 53 hours; whether he will take steps to see that in future all firms in receipt of Government contracts shall be asked immediately to pay all unskilled labourers the minimum wage of 5¼d. per hour, now being paid to Government unskilled labourers at Pembroke Dock, Devonport, Portsmouth, and Woolwich; whether he will undertake to insert a special clause in all future contracts, fixing the Government's dockyard and arsenal minimum wage for unskilled labourers as the minimum fair-wages rate to be observed by such contractors, stipulating also that the hours of labour shall in no case exceed fifty-three hours per week, with the Government's rates of overtime pay for all hours worked in. excess of the normal working week?


The answer to the first part of the question is in the affirmative. As regards the second, third and fourth parts of the question, the Admiralty embodies in its contracts the Resolution of this House of the 10th March, 1909, which stipulates that the contractor shall pay rates of wages and observe hours of labour not less favourable than those commonly recognised by employers and trade societies in the trade in the district where the work is carried out. In administering the funds voted by Parliament for the Navy, it would not be proper for me to incur additional expense by insisting upon conditions of employment in contractors' yards beyond what has been sanctioned by this House.


asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether he is aware that the Fair-Wages Clause is being systematically and continuously violated by Messrs. Guest, Keen, and Nettlefold whilst executing Colonial Office contracts at their Dowlais works; and what action he proposes taking to secure its enforcement?

The SECRETARY of STATE for the COLONIES (Mr. Harcourt)

As the hon. Member is aware reference has been made in this matter to the Board of Trade and the Fair-Wages Committee. I am not yet aware of the nature of their replies, and so regret that I am not in a position to give the hon. Member any further information to-day.


asked the President of the Board of Trade if he will say what decision, if any, has been arrived at by the Fair-Wages Advisory Committee concerning the position of certain classes of skilled workmen at Dowlais relative to Government contracts?

The PRESIDENT of the BOARD of TRADE (Mr. Buxton)

I am informed by the Chairman of the Advisory Committee that the matters referred to them by the India Office are under consideration and that he hopes they will be able to arrive at a decision within a few days.


asked the Undersecretary of State for India whether he is now in a position to state the result of his inquiries into the rates of pay to workmen engaged in connection with the Government contract for rails at Dowlais ironworks; and what action he proposes to take to secure the proper observance of the Fair-Wages Clause attached to this contract?


also asked what action the hon. Gentleman has taken, or is prepared to take, regarding the wages paid to moulders and others at the Dowlais works?


With the assistance of the Board of Trade and the Fair-Wages Committee I am obtaining all available information as to the rates of wages prevailing in similar works in the district. I hope to be in a position to answer hon. Members within a few days.