HC Deb 09 October 1912 vol 42 cc326-8

asked if there is a strike of navvies at the Government works at Rosyth; whether the contractor refuses to pay wages at 6d. per hour; and, if the Government support him in this action, what steps have been taken to secure decent dwelling-houses and hospital accommodation for the workmen employed?


With regard to the earlier parts of the question, I think the replies I gave yesterday cover the points raised. I would only add that, from information I have received to-day, I am not without some hope of an early resumption of work. As regards the question of housing, we have, under the contract, placed a plot of land at the disposal of the contractor for the purpose of erecting housing accommodation if, in his opinion, the same appears to be necessary. So far he has not availed himself of this facility, being of the view that the existing accommodation in and about the locality is sufficient to meet the needs of the men. Although there is practically no contractual obligation upon us in this matter, yet the question is one concerning which we have not felt altogether absolved from some measure of concern, and we have therefore watched the matter from the commencement. In February, 1911, the medical officer of health for the County Council of Fife reported upon the housing in the locality, and, generally speaking, expressed the opinion that it was adequate to meet existing needs. In July, 1911, two officials of the Scotch Local Government Board reported again upon the matter, and it cannot be said that their report disclosed the view that housing accommodation was everywhere satisfactory. That report is now before the local authorities concerned at the instance of the Scotch Local Government Board, and certain action is being taken on it. In the meantime, in order to render existing accommodation more accessible, the contractors started workmen's trains to and from Dunfermline, Inverkeithing, and the works. As I have said, though we are under no contract obligation in the matter of housing, yet, now that the number of men employed has become considerable, I should not feel myself debarred—although the matter is one primarily for the Scotch Local Government Board and the local authorities—from making friendly representations as occasion seems to demand to the contractor in the interest of the men. As regards hospital accommodation, there is ample provision for rendering first aid. Two doctors are retained, one of whom is always at his surgery, about two and a half miles from the works, or within call; the other can reach the works in a few minutes by motor car. Hand stretchers and two fully equipped railway hospital wagons capable of holding twenty-six injured men on stretchers are kept on the works. For serious accident cases the Dunfermline and Western Fife Hospital, distant three and a half miles from the works, is available. Fifty-eight cases of injury have been admitted since the commencement of the contract. The hospital contains over sixty beds, and has never had to refuse a case from Rosyth Works. Contractors make a contribution to the funds of this institution. There is also the local Poor Law infirmary, an admirably equipped hospital, and also suitable infectious accommodation, provided by the local authorities. I have endeavoured to summarise this provision, but if my hon. Friend desires it, I will have a more detailed statement prepared and hand it to him.

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