§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That a sum, not exceeding £4,063,100, be granted to His Majesty, to defray the Expenses of the Personnel for Shipbuilding, Repairs, Maintenance, etc., including the cost of Establishments of Dockyards and Naval Yards at Home and Abroad, which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1914."
§ Sir C. KINLOCH-COOKE
It will be within the recollection of most Members of the House that barely a month ago the Secretary to the Admiralty made an interesting statement, in which he said it was the intention of the Admiralty to comply with the request made from this side of the House to give early answers to the annual petitions.
§ Sir C. KINLOCH-COOKE
I must be allowed to have my own recollection of what the right hon. Gentleman said. If he can produce evidence to the effect that he mentioned wages and wages only I shall give way. My recollection is that he did nut do so. He may have had other matters in mind besides wages, but I remember no reference being made to them. Now is it not a fact that for a great number of years several items, other than wages, in these petitions have been marked "Not acceded to." On some of these items the men employed in the dockyards set great value, and when they get the answer, "Not acceded to," naturally they get vexed, and this often leads to unrest in the yards. I could give instances going over five 978 years where requests have been made, to my mind very proper requests, to the Admiralty, but no notice has been taken of them so far as the men are concerned. No doubt the Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty consider them, but they do not explain their answers, "This and that is net acceded to," and there the matter ends. There ought to be some official board to whom the men could have direct access on each occasion.
Some of the requisitions have received the consideration of the Department, but, what irritates the men is the secrecy of the whole thing, and whatever the Parliamentary Secretary may say, he cannot deny the whole thing is done in secret. When the men have their points conceded you hear no more about them, it is only the points that are not acceded to that you hear about again. The men in the dockyards do not like the system of the annual petitions, and that is the reason why there is unrest in the dockyards and why it is fostered. The right hon. Gentleman says the men appreciate the opportunities they have of coming to him and to the other Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty to place before them their grievances, but I can assure him that he is very much mistaken; they would appreciate far more a board to whom they could go and get an answer within a reasonable time and in a businesslike manner. I will pass on to one or two points connected with the work of the dockyard. This afternoon I asked a question with regard to the naval storehousemen, very important employés in the yard, and I expected a much more sympathetic answer than I received. I regret that the right hon. Gentleman dismissed the inquiry rather harshly, and I was obliged to say that I would bring the matter up in the course of debate. No doubt he has looked up the matter in the meantime, and he will be in a position to give me an answer with regard to my question about the naval storehousemen.
I want to know if he has yet answered their petition which was delivered to him last August. Are these men going to get any answer before next August? Their case is a very simple one. They have had no rise in wages for ten years. How do they enter the Service? At first they enter from the dockyard apprentice lists. I do not think there has ever been a Debate on this particular Navy Vote when the right hon. Gentleman has not told us, and quite rightly, of the great interest which he fakes in dockyard apprentices. A man in the 979 naval store should not be placed in a different position to a man who is a fitter or a shipwright, and I take it the right hon. Gentleman takes the same interest in the naval store boys as he does in the boys who become fitters and shipwrights, because they serve an apprenticeship equal to the fitter. What happens as they go on? On reaching the age of twenty the lad only gets 23s., the minimum wage of the ordinary dockyard labourer, whereas when the dockyard apprentice finishes his time he receives mechanic's pay, which is 38s. a week. I put that to the right hon. Gentleman as a case which he ought to bear in mind. There cannot be a large number of these men, and, after all, we look to the Admiralty for justice. These men have to pass an examination before they become naval store assistants. They have to wait their turn to get an appointment and they start at 23s. a week, with annual increments of 6d. until they reach 25s. While they are waiting to get 25s. a week they have to look after a certain number of skilled and unskilled labourers in their own store, and very often the wages of these labourers are in excess of the naval store assistant.
Take the second grade naval storehouseman. His pay is 26s. a week, rising to 32s. by annual increments of is. It will not take long to understand that in about six years he reaches the top figure, and then what results? He must remain all his life, or at any rate until he becomes a first grade man, as a second grade man at 32s. a week. The first grade man does not get very much more. His wages are not very high. The duties of the first and second grade storehousemen are practically identical. They are very heavy, onerous, and very responsible. They have to look after stores of the value of from £50,000 to £100,000, representing from 12,000 to 15,000 items. Their work in recent years has become heavier and more responsible, and yet the highest pay of second grade storehousemen doing the same as first grade storehousemen is something like 32s. per week. If a storehouseman takes a holiday he has to pay for it. You may say, "So do the labourers." That is all very well, but it does not assist the storehouseman. The labourer when he takes a holiday is free to look after himself and nobody else, but the storehouseman is not. He does not leave his responsibility behind him. He carries it with him. Although you put another 980 man in his place, the man on holiday is responsible, and, if anything goes wrong, he is the one dismissed. The time has arrived when you should at any rate add to the number of first grade storehouse-men, and, if you cannot do that, you should adopt the alternative of doing away with the two grades. I think you ought to increase the pay and give the men proper holidays and pay them for them.
The Inspectors of Trades sent in a petition last August, and I cannot find that any reply has reached them. Perhaps you are replying next August. These men appear to have had an increase as far back as 1904. Since then their work and responsibility have increased by leaps and bounds. They have to ensure the continuous supply of stores and see that the surplus stores are returned. Look how the work of speeding-up has increased during the last four years! A ship which is finished now in two years would have taken a very much longer time a few years ago. There is on that ground alone some reason for thinking that they should receive some concession. Pneumatic machinery has increased very much in recent years. Who looks after it but inspectors of trades? That necessitates more preparation on their part and involves much greater responsibility. The House probably knows that the monthly re-fits have now to be done in four instead of six weeks. One would suppose that being the case, these men were paid something extra for overtime, but no such thing. The inspectors of trades are allowed no extra emoluments whatsoever, although every workman in the yard gets some extra emoluments for being engaged in what is known as dangerous employment. The chargemen who are under the inspectors in some cases even draw more money than the inspectors themselves. I was told the other day that if a man is promoted from chargeman to inspector he runs the risk of losing 18s. per week. The Parliamentary Secretary will be able to correct me if that statement is wrong. If it is right, I think he cannot deny that the inspector's case deserves every consideration. Formerly, the inspector was a free man, but now he is a bondman. He is obliged to pay 4d. per week, and to come under the Insurance Act. I have no doubt that the Financial Secretary to the Treasury would tell us it is a great thing to come under the Act, that it means an improvement in the position of the men; but the inspectors do not think so. They do not 981 want to be under the insurance Act. They think that it does not assist their position or prestige by being brought under it. They want to be free men, and not bondmen. Other people may like to be bondmen, but they do not. An Inspector of Trades ought to be, and in the private yards is regarded in the light of an official. Why should these men be brought under the Insurance Act at all? They would not be if you paid them properly. I submit that they should have a considerable increase in their stipend, and be placed in a more important position than they occupy now. It would, I think, be very much in the cause of efficiency in the Royal dockyard.
I pass on to the case of Pensioner Writers, Second Class. They ought, I think, to be on the establishment. Every dockyard clerk is placed on the establishment, except the Pensioner Writers, Second Class. Dockyard Clerks, Third Grade, receive annual increments. Pensioner Clerks, Second Grade, still remain on the old scale of biennial increments, and are the only class, among the whole clerical staffs, not receiving annual increments. Their work has been vastly increased by the Insurance Act, and yet their pay has not been increased since 1879. I should like to ask the right hon. Gentleman if he cannot see his way to place these men on the establishment, and to grant them the same increases granted to other dockyard clerks. I feel sure it would be appreciated by them, and would add very much to the efficiency of the Service. The chargemen of trades have also sent in a petition, and they are waiting the pleasure of the Parliamentary Secretary when it may please him to go down himself or to send by post the answer to their petition. They ask that an increase of 6d. a day should be granted to all chargemen and that they be confirmed in their rank after three years' service, that they be granted leave with pay in proportion to the time served from appointment as chargemen. Lastly, they ask that chargemen shall be allowed to participate in the maximum rates of their respective trades. I do not think it can be said that these demands are excessive, and I am sure, after the sympathy he has shown with the shipwrights' chargemen, the right hon. Gentleman will not consider that we are asking too much in requesting that all chargemen shall be paid 1s. 6d. per day charge pay, and after five years 2s. per day charge pay, and that they also be granted sick leave with pay.
982 I pass now to the engineering trades. I am sorry the hon. Members for Barrow and Blackfriars are not in their places. Surely two such stalwart supporters of the engineering trades might have been expected to have been here. Only a little while ago the hon. Member for Barrow (Mr. Duncan), accompanied by the hon. Member for the Blackfriars Division of Glasgow (Mr. Barnes), went down into the West Country, and addressed a very large audience in a very excitable manner, telling them that they cared nothing about the Government, that they had nothing to do with it, and that they were all for the dockyard men. In fact the hon. Member for Barrow almost burst himself with his interest in dockyard men and with his antagonism to the Government. He asked, what were the forty Labour Members in this House for if they were not going to do something for the dockyard men, who were the very breath of their nostrils? They did not care about the Liberal Government! That was the attitude which the hon. Member for Barrow assumed in the West, but to-day butter will not melt in his mouth. His tone is of quite a different character. He asked just now what did these terrible dockyard men want anything extra for, and why should they have the privileges they were demanding? Who were they, he inquired, that they should demand privileges from the Admiralty. Thus the hon. Member played into the hands of the Government in the same way as when he was in the West he played into the hands of the dockyard men. It is to be regretted he is not present to-night, and that we shall hear nothing presumably from the Labour Benches about the engineering trades, because there is nobody on those benches qualified to speak on the subject. The minimum wage in the engineering trade was 36s. The other day the Admiralty brought it up to 38s., and I would like to point out that this did not constitute any great advantage, as the majority of the men employed in the engineering trades already were receiving 38s. Moreover, the effect of raising the minimum will be that new men and men coming out of their time are placed on the same footing as men who have served for twelve to twenty years. It would have been far better if the new scheme had provided, as in the case of the shipwrights, that every man in the engineering trade should get a rise. I should like to see the principle of annual 983 increments introduced with regard to these trades, for then the men would get a steady rise at fixed periods, according to service. I throw that out as a suggestion for the Secretary to the Admiralty to consider.
The next question is that of the labourers. Here, again, the Admiralty have given a concession in regard to wages. They gave one shilling to the unskilled labourers, bringing them up to 23s., and, under certain conditions, they gave a rise to the skilled labourers. But that is hardly sufficient; it does not meet the case. It seems to me that the minimum wage for the ordinary unskilled labourer should not be less than 24s., and that 26s. should be the minimum for skilled labour. There are a variety of opinions as to the cost of living. Some say it has gone up 10 per cent.; others claim it is 15 per cent higher, and still others hold that the increase represents 20 per cent. At any rate it has gone up very considerably, and it will be conceded by most hon. Members that 24s. is not an excessive wage upon which to bring up a family. I remember the case quoted by the right hon. Gentleman in last year's Debate—and quoted with very much sympathy, for he said it was practically impossible to expect a man to live on 22s. a week, as that only allowed him a margin of 1s. 3½d. for boots, medical attendance, clothing, and incidental expenses. If you add the cost of insurance it will be found that even a wage of 23s. a week is very inadequate, and the Admiralty might, without any undue demand on the Treasury, give the ordinary labourer 24s. weekly.
It is claimed on behalf of the Admiralty that dockyard men have certain advantages which do not accrue to men working in private yards. I do not deny that. But one feels bound to point out that skilled labourers in the Royal dockyards are getting a less amount, in their view, notwithstanding all these advantages, than outside labourers doing similar work. Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman will be able to sax if that is so. I wish to say a word about the limited classification in the yards. Drillers, riveters, machine men, and iron caulkers are classed as one trade, whereas outside they are classed as different trades. A change in that direction might be wise, and the men ought to go up to their maximum rates of pay by annual increments of one shilling per week. The Members for dockyard constituencies received a deputation of these men recently, and it was pointed 984 out that there was a great disparity between prices paid for piecework in the dockyards and in private yards, the result being that the pieceworkers in the dockyards get 1s. 1d. per week less than men doing the same work outside on day-work rates. It was suggested by that deputation that a Departmental inquiry should be held into the whole system of piecework in the Royal dockyards, with a view to the constitution of a board consisting equally of officials and of representatives of the workmen. I should like to ask the Financial Secretary if he can see his way to consider the question of appointing this board. It would meet with great approbation from the skilled labourers, which, on behalf of the Admiralty, he is only too anxious to secure.
There is another point about the labourers which is of a personal character. Upon two occasions the Financial Secretary has twitted me with the fact that I have not answered a letter he wrote to me about the payments in the borough I represent to men working under the local authority. He has often said, perhaps, truly, that I did not answer the last letter. He told me that the wages given to the ordinary labourers in the yards were always based upon the wages paid in the neighbourhood. I have taken the trouble to ascertain from the town clerk of the borough of Devonport, the wages paid to the ordinary labourers. They are these: In the scavenging department, the able-bodied ordinary labourers receive from 22s. to 24s. a week—the last named sum being 1s. above the payment made to the ordinary labourer in the dockyard by the Admiralty, and being the minimum I suggest the Admiralty should adopt. In the surveyor's department the able-bodied ordinary labourers get 24s. a week, which is the minimum I think the Admiralty should adopt. We must remember that in both these cases the holidays are six days in the year, and that there is full pay for Saturday work, although the men leave at twelve o'clock. I have almost exhausted the different trades in the dockyards, and I now conic to two points upon which I have addressed the Committee on former occasions, and in regard to which there seems to be no improvement. The Financial Secretary will remember that he has often heard from this side of the House a request that the hired men should receive some kind of pension. It was suggested that the Government should provide these men with an actuary, and pay 985 for his services in order that the men might lay before the Admiralty a scheme through which the actuary might go with the idea of ascertaining whether or not it was actuarialy sound. I do not know whether any advance has been made in that direction. No doubt the Financial Secretary will be in a position to tell us whether or not anything has happened since we last discussed the question, whether there has been any advance by the men, whether they have come forward with any fresh suggestions, and whether he has found himself in a position to offer the actuary's services. I pass to my final point, one perhaps he has not considered, seeing that the greater part of it is altogether new—that is the question of establishment. I am going to lead up to a suggestion which I trust the Financial Secretary will carefully consider, because I have worked the matter out with a great deal of care and thought, and the figures I shall produce may be relied upon. The Estimates for this year give the number of men on the establishment at 6,447, the top figure being 6,500. The total number of men employed in the yards is 38,000. The percentage has fallen to 17 per cent., or 2 per cent. lower than last year. Thus we find, in seven years of Liberal administration of the party of progress, a reduction in the establishment of 500 men. The proportion has gradually gone down from 23 per cent. to 17 per cent.—in other words, while the number employed has gone up by 13,000, in order to meet the requirements of a larger shipbuilding programme, the proportion of pensioners has dropped by 11 per cent. Both in the First Lord's speech and in the speech, of the Financial Secretary we heard a great deal about the value of the additions to the men's wages. I am not going to find fault with the rises in pay—that is another story—I want to emphasise the fact that both the First Lord and the Financial Secretary have never failed to point out what they, as representing His Majesty's Government, have done for the men in the Royal yards. I should like to know exactly what has been saved in pensions by cutting down the establishment in the yards during the last five or six years. I think it must be something considerable. Under the old system for a man to get a 'pension he must have been placed on the establishment list not after forty-five years of age. Under the new system the limit 986 has been extended to fifty years of age. Let us see what that means. As the number of established men on the register is lower, obviously a number of younger men have been kept back in order to establish the older men. Perhaps the Financial Secretary will deny that, but I think it follows consequentially.
That there is method in this arrangement I do not deny, because a man at forty-nine will take a smaller pension than a man of forty-five. It is generally admitted that under the old system the pension worked out at something like 7d. a week; therefore if a man instead of being established at forty-five does not get on the establishment until he is forty-nine, he loses 2s. 4d. a week in pension, which 2s. 4d. the Government gain. I believe I am right in saying that not more than 10 per cent. of the men upon the establishment live to obtain their pensions, while 10 per cent. of those men who do obtain them do not live on an average longer than five years to enjoy them. Men who are receiving under 26s. a week pay 1s. a week. If they receive from 26s. to 36s. they pay 1s. 6d., and over 38s. they pay 2s. That is a considerable sum, and I would like the Financial Secretary to bear that in mind when he comes to reply. If he can possibly obtain the figures I should like him to tell me What the combined sum amounts to per year.
I will now pass on to the question of the bonus. No doubt several Members of the House imagine that a pension bonus is something like an insurance bonus and that the man is really getting something for nothing. It is nothing of the kind in the case of the establishment. The man is only getting back his own money which he has paid for years, and, if he lives long enough, the bonus is a very important matter to him, because if he lives longer than the average he loses considerably by accepting it. The bonus is available, in the first place, for the widow of a man dying on the establishment, but, after all, it may be to a great extent money coming out of his own savings, because the bonus is also a payment made when the man reaches the age of sixty. He can take it or he can leave it, but if he takes it, and if he lives for snore years than the average, he suffers in his weekly pension, which, after a certain number of years, is diminished to make up for the bonus. I should like to see a balance sheet, and probably there will be no objection to it being produced. Let us have a balance 987 sheet published, showing exactly what the Government contribute to the pension scheme and what the men contribute, and how much the Government gain by the ordinary rule of chances. An insurance office would be very glad to work the matter out. At any rate, they will be very glad to take the establishment upon the same terms as the Government, and, without in any way desiring to accuse the Government of making money out of the transaction, I have a very shrewd suspicion that in a number of cases what the Government lose on the swings they gain on the roundabouts. If the Government were really the party of progress they represent themselves to be and really wanted to help the men to provide for old age, they certainly would not cut down the establishment. I understand, and I think everyone in the House understands, the object of the establishment is to have ready in the Royal yards a sufficient number of skilled workmen, with all the technicalities of shipbuilding, on whose services the Government may depend in time of war. The question is: Have we got that number? I say we have not, and I think the Secretary to the Admiralty would himself admit that we have not. If you have not, you owe it to the country to get it, and the only way to get it is by increasing the establishment to a proper figure. We are building more ships and adding to the personnel of the Navy. On the other hand we are cutting down our dockyard reserve. That is a very shortsighted policy. The greater the number of ships and the greater the number of men, the greater the number of men on the establishment should be. For many years it was the custom to establish the shipwright apprentices within two years. That has fallen through. Then, we also know that very shortly a certain number of naval shipwrights are coming back to the yard and will be established. I think the Secretary to the Admiralty said this is going to be in addition to the men already on the establishment, but on looking through the Votes, I find no provision made for this extra supply of men on the establishment, and I should like very much to be shown exactly where this is. We ought, of course, to offer our congratulations to the Secretary to the Admiralty for what he has done in regard to the extra pay for the men in the yard, but that will not be complete until he places the establishment on a much more sound footing 988 than it is at present. I throw this suggestion out for what it is worth. Why not give pensions to a much larger number of men than at present? Why not give pensions to all men employed in the dockyard and put them on the establishment? Of course casual labourers would not be put on the establishment.
§ Sir C. KINLOCH-COOKE
You must have a certain probation. A man who comes on for two months and goes off for two months cannot be put on the establishment. Then, of course, there must be provision for offences and malingering. All that must be provided against. But if that is done, I see no reason whatsoever why 80 per cent. of the men in the Royal yards should not be placed on the establishment, and have pensions. It is an easy thing to do. Then, when the Government cut down the establishment and altered the age to fifty, why did they not put on these men then on the establishment as extra men, and not count in the number for establishment as you do now, and just as you propose to do with regard to the naval shipwrights who are going back to the yard? If you had done that you would have had probably a considerable number of more men on the establishment than you have now. I should like to ask the Secretary to the Admiralty to give some consideration to the points I have put before him, and more especially to this point of the establishment, and see if he cannot get out a scheme and do something to enable the great majority of men in the Royal dockyards to be placed in the position that when they leave the yard on account of age they may carry away with them a pension to keep them comfortable for the rest of their lives.
§ Mr. C. DUNCAN
I am pleased to have been in the House to hear the speech of the hon. Member, if it was only to make my position probably a little more clear to him on the very questions he has raised. I understand that he has found some little fault with me for my attitude with regard to the position of the men under the compensation scheme in existence in the dockyard towns to-day. I do not believe in the compensation scheme that is in existence. I am opposed to it entirely. I believe the men should come under the Compensation Act, and I am in exactly the same position with regard to the establishment. I have been to Plymouth 989 and to Portsmouth, and I have told the men exactly my position on the matter, and I have no fear of facing the men in any of the dockyard towns and making my position perfectly clear to them on these points. With regard to the establishment, there is not a horse in the country that is not established. My position with regard to establishment in this: I do not believe in it. In the first place, the men who are established have their wages reduced in some cases 1s. 6d. to 2s. a week. They are, to a certain extent paying 1s. 6d. to 2s. for what are called privileges. If, on the one hand, the men are going to seek privileges, they cannot naturally expect to have the proper rate of wages which is paid by the outside contractor. My position is perfectly clear and plain. I say that the men in the dockyards should have exactly the same rate of wages as is paid by outside contractors when the men are following the same avocations. How would that work? There are skilled men in the dockyards getting 36s. a week. Some of them, I understand, have been advanced to a small and, I would say, trifling extent. Side by side with these are men who are paid by private contractors 40s. a week. I contend that the men in the dockyards are as much entitled to 40s. as the others. They will get 40s. when they are prepared to throw over the petty privileges they are supposed to get at present. Under the system in existence at present it might be difficult to persuade the men in the dockyards that my view is right. Many of them think that if they are on the establishment they are better off, I disagree with them. I think it is not the business of this or any other Government to give any privileges to the men in their employment. The House of Commons has passed a Fair-Wages Resolution, and we expect outside employers to pay a certain rate of wages. The rate of wages in the dockyard towns is 40s., and yet the Government themselves, having passed the Fair-Wages Resolution, do not pay the same rate as the private contractors, I am quite familiar with the position. We have all these twopence-halfpenny privileges which have been brought into operation in connection with the dockyard system of the country. They have been in existence for a good many years. I am not conversant with the ideas or the motives of the people who introduced them. I rather think that the idea in introducing them was to cause conflict and to keep 990 the men in the dockyards divided from their fellows up and down the country who are employed by private contractors. I say that is bad business, and the result of it, of course, is that every time the Navy Estimates are before the House, we see Member after Member for the dockyard towns jumping up and putting certain hard cases with regard to compensation or the establishment. The hon. Member for Plymouth wishes to see all the men employed in the dockyards on the establishment.
Let us bear this in mind. During the Boer war a very large number of men were taken on, and after the war was over between 5,000 and 6,000 were cleared off. It is obvious that the country ought to have the first call upon all highly skilled men to devote their attention and service to Government work and to help them in their difficulty. The Government will get these men at any time if they are prepared to pay the price, and if they are not prepared to do so they must take what they can get. I venture to say, from my own knowledge and experience, that the highest skilled men are employed by the private contractors. The Government does not get them because they do not pay the right rate of wages. It seems to me that it would be of very great advantage to any Government—it does not matter to me whether Liberal or Tory—if they could, by introducing a better and more up-to-date system into the management of the Departments, avoid all these petty appeals that are perpetually being made, and all the writing and negotiating which takes place with the heads of the various Departments in these matters. Speeches are constantly being made in this House with the view of increasing the establishment. What does it all amount to? If there is anything in the question of establishment, it is that you are giving certain privileges to your workers over and above what other men receive in the dockyard towns. I do not want to say anything about any of the officials in the yards. They may be all angels for anything I know, but I say that under the present system, which is in the, hands of certain individuals in the dockyards, they have the chance to give preferences and to show favouritism. They ought not to have that in their power. If the Government were to pay the proper rate of wages, it seems to me that all this kind of thing would go by the board. The men would know exactly where they were 991 in regard to wages, because if all the privileges were done away with they would be in a strong position. They could go to the various Government Departments and claim to be paid on the same terms and conditions as the men in private employment, and I do not see how the departments could resist the claim. Take the question of overtime rates in the dockyards. I believe the rate is time and one-sixth. Compare that with the rate paid by outside contractors. The men in the dockyards lose as compared with the men employed by private contractors. With private firms the terms are almost universal: For the first two hours time and quarter, and for all time after that, time and half.
I am a skilled mechanic myself. I have worked in a shop as a journeyman, and have been for twenty-five years in the trade union. I wish the men in the dockyard towns to know the position taken up by my colleagues and myself with regard to this question. We claim that the Government would be doing their right duty if they were to pay the proper rates in the dockyard towns which are paid by private contractors. It may be a difficult thing to bring that about, but I am as sure as I am standing here that this condition will be brought into existence in the dockyard towns, and that all the efforts put forward against the business system will be futile in the long run. I am pleased to learn tonight for the first time that the number of men on the establishment is decreasing. I hope the Government will persist in that attitude. It is about the wisest and most sensible thing I have known them do for a very long time. There is no question that the Government are in the same market for labour as private contractors. They are manufacturing war vessels in the same way as private contractors, and if they are in the same market, they ought to pay the same wages and give the same conditions, or rather better conditions, if anything, if they expect to get the pick of the men who are engaged in the same avocation in the dockyard towns. I am against these privileges root and branch. I hope that the Government will see their way to place their men under exactly the same conditions as those of the private contractor, and, if so, this House will speedily find an end to all these complaints which we have when the Naval Estimates are before us and the House will be able to get on with its business and, instead of discussing these little twopenny- 992 halfpenny tinpot privileges that are granted to workmen, discuss questions that ought to be discussed. This Debate to-night is sheer waste of time. There are many important questions in connection with the Navy that ought to be discussed. There may be Members here waiting, who are anxious to discuss these questions, but cannot do so just because we have an annual review of the various little privileges that are granted to men in dockyard towns, and this will be so, so long as we have all these debates centring round these petty, insignificant matters that are of very little interest to any of the Members of the House of Commons, and can only be of interest to the representatives of dockyard towns, and cannot be very pleasant even to them.
In their own interest and to save themselves, I might almost say, the degradation of constantly appealing to Government Departments in this House to correct some trifling little incidents that may be very interesting to the men in the dockyard towns but are of no concern to people outside, you must get the men in the dockyard towns on the same rates and under the same conditions as the men in the private employer's yard, and then we shall be rid of all these petty discussions. We were asked to-night by the Member for Devonport why should not all the men in dockyard towns have pensions. Here, again, it was the question of privileges. One would almost think that we are creating a new House of Lords. In these days one naturally associates privileges with people belonging to the aristocracy and Members of the House of Lords. I say that it is the last thing that workmen ought to ask for and the last thing that a Liberal Government ought to persist in carrying out, and I hope that, instead of having pensions for all, they will put the dockyard men on the same conditions as the rest of the working people of this country. What right have Members of this House to come here and appeal for differential treatment for men simply because they are employed in a Government dockyard? It is unfair, unjust and unreasonable to every other workman in the country. After all, the workmen in the other parts of the country who are employed by private contractors, have got to pay for these privileges that are being received by the dockyard town men. The principle is wrong. Not only that, but it does not give what the Government has a right to 993 look for, the best type, the most independent kind of men, and the most skilled men who ought to be in the Government dockyards. I have made my protest and am not going to apologise for it, and I am prepared to go to any dockyard town in this country and express those opinions to the constituents of any dockyard Member of this House.
Mr. SHIRLEY BENN
I am not going to take up the time of the Committee in discussing the Naval Estimates, as I am one of those who would rather see them increased than decreased. However, there are two points I should like to urge upon the Financial Secretary to the Admiralty. On the first, I agree with the hon. Member for Barrow who has just spoken, and, on the second, I entirely disagree with him. On the question of wages, while I realise that the Admiralty have increased certain wages, I do not believe that the wages paid by the Government have been raised sufficiently to meet the increase in the cost of living, and the Government of a country ought not to purchase the labour of its citizens without paying a just wage for it. It would be well for the Government to realise that the better the pay, generally speaking, the better the work, and that you must have men satisfied if you expect to get the best work out of them. I do urge the Financial Secretary to the Admiralty that it is better for this country to pay good wages than poor wages if we are going to have good work done. The point on which I do not agree with the hon. Member for Barrow is as to the question of pensions. If the Government has taken the best year's of a man's life it ought to make provision for his latter years. It is not the duty of those workmen to create a pension scheme, but the Government ought to form a pension scheme and ought to see that if men are working for them they are paid a decent wage, and that when they reach the age at which they cannot work the Government should pay them sufficient to live on for the remainder of their lives. I hope that the matter will be fully considered by the Lords of the Admiralty, and that next year we shall see better wages paid in the dockyards?
§ Mr. WHELER
I desire to add a few words to the appeal with reference to the inspectors of trades, with whom the hon. Member for Devonport dealt slightly. I think that the last time when the dockyard rise was given in 1904 it was given with 994 a view to considering cases of normal overtime, but not with any idea of the excessive pressure put on those men at the present time. We have a great deal of overtime now which was never considered likely to be put on them a few years ago. I believe that they get no extra money at all for that. There are many cases in which, comparing these men with the men over whom they have to work, it will be found that year by year the men beneath them are receiving a higher wage than the men who are inspecting them. That must be wrong for several reasons. When you have a man who is at the head of a Department people ought to realise that the value of his services should command a higher salary than the services of those beneath him. There are undoubtedly cases where you find that the inspector of trades is not receiving the same rate of pay as some of those who are under him. Take, for instance, the case of a chargeman of storehouses. He gets something like £2 5s. a week and overtime is paid. Compare that with the inspector of trades overseeing that man on the minimum rate. His average is not more than £2 3s. 3d. That is a very strong reason why the Financial Secretary should reconsider the case of these men. A good many of these men have to pass a competitive examination which the men beneath them in many cases have not to do. Surely, in the case of such men, who have to pass a competitive examination, and who have to do certain work to qualify themselves to hold their position, that matter should be considered by the Admiralty?
We all realise that the Government have been giving increased wages in many departments of the dockyards. Those for whom I am pleading are a small class of men, so that some increase for them would not be a serious financial burden to the Admiralty. I asked the Financial Secretary to the Treasury to-day whether men working in His Majesty's dockyards at salaries over £160 a year are compelled to insure under the provisions of the Insurance Act. I believe that these inspectors of trades have salaries in some cases of over £160 a year, yet we find that they are compelled to insure under the National Insurance Act, and I would like some explanation of the answer which I have received from the Secretary to the Treasury, which says that "persons employed otherwise than by way of manual 995 labour"—and inspectors of trades are not employed in that way—"are not required to be insured in respect of employment remunerated at a rate exceeding £160 a year." I presume that inspectors of trades do not come under the heading of those employed in manual labour, yet we find that they are compelled to be insured under the National Insurance Act. I hope the answer which I received to my question will be taken into account. There is only one other point which I should like the right hon. Gentleman to take into consideration, and that is with reference to the painters of the dockyards. A day the men of the graving dockyards. A day or two ago, in reply to a question, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Admiralty said he could hold out no hope of any modification in the scale of the pay of these men. They have received no rise since 1905, while, as everybody knows, the cost of living has gone up, which the right hon. Gentleman cannot fail to recognise, hits these men as hard as any other class of workers. These men have also to go through a medical examination every week, which must be rather a tie on them. Then, again, in order to carry out the work of painting the ships some of the men have to diet themselves very carefully, owing to the curious effect which the paints they use have upon them. These are points on which I hope the painters will receive some further consideration at the hands of the Admiralty.
§ Major ARCHER-SHEE
I desire to raise a question with regard to His Majesty's ships on the Australian station, and in reference to the position of the twenty-nine officers in Sydney dockyard.
§ The DEPUTY - CHAIRMAN (Mr. Maclean)
This Vote relates only to the personnel of the dockyards. I understand the hon. Gentleman raises a question about the ships on the Australian station.
§ Major ARCHER-SHEE
My point has reference to the insufficiency of the staff at Sydney dockyard. In Section I of Vote 8, there is provision for the officers of the Sydney dockyard, and I suggest that the staff is insufficient.
§ The DEPUTY-CHAIRMAN
I understood from the hon. and gallant Gentleman that it was a question of ships. I must have misunderstood him.
§ Major ARCHER-SHEE
With a view to keeping in order, I make the suggestion 996 that the staff at Sydney dockyard is certainly insufficient to keep His Majesty's ships on that station in an efficient condition. I raised the matter of His. Majesty's ships on the 31st October last, and again on the 22nd January. The condition of His Majesty's ships on that station was practically admitted by the Admiralty to be very bad indeed. I endeavoured by means of questions still further to clear up the matter of the condition of the ships there, and I was informed by the First Lord of the Admiralty that the question should be raised on the Naval Estimates, and he refused to answer it. This is the only opportunity in the whole year when it is possible to raise this matter. The First Lord of the, Admiralty is not here, a circumstance which I deeply regret, as I had something of interest to say to him. As he is away, I can only raise the question as too whether the staff at Sydney Dockyard is really sufficient for the work they have to do. It has been proved that two of His. Majesty's ships, the "Torch" and the "Prometheus," were in a bad condition, and, since their case was raised, another ship has gone into the dockyard, the "Psyche." I have here a report from one of the papers in Australia which shows that this ship also was practically in the same condition as the "Torch" and the "Prometheus;" that is to say, first of all, a small leak was found; she was taken into the dockyard, and, when all the bottom plates were examined, it was found that the whole of the bottom of the ship was in an absolutely rotten condition. I suggest that the staff at Sydney Dockyard must be insufficient, because they were apparently unable to discover that these ships were in that condition before they were sent to sea. It is really a very serious matter indeed. In the case of the "Torch" she was sent to sea for several months in this condition, and if she had encountered heavy weather, which fortunately she did not, she might never have been heard of again. As it was, her propeller dropped off, and she was in such a condition that, if she had belonged to private owners, under the Merchant Shipping Act they would have been liable to heavy fines, and I believe even to criminal prosecution. If that is the case with private owners, surely in the case of' the Admiralty, precautions ought to be taken to see that these ships are in a thoroughly efficient and seaworthy condition. I am quite certain that if the nation realised that so many of His 997 Majesty's ships had recently been sent to sea in this condition they would insist on the employment of an adequate staff.
§ The DEPUTY-CHAIRMAN
The hon. and gallant Gentleman must confine himself to the dockyard, and not to the condition of the ships at sea.
§ Major ARCHER-SHEE
I was only alluding to the ships as showing that they could not have been properly examined before they went to sea. The condition of the ships proves that fact, and the Admiralty, in the case of the "Torch," at any rate, severely censured some of the dockyard officials. I suggest that there is room for still further inquiry, because since the case of the "Torch," we have the case of another vessel of His Majesty's Fleet being taken into the Sydney dockyard in a deplorable condition. I do not know what the whole establishment of the Sydney dockyard is, but, if the number is twenty officers, it does not appear to be sufficient to carry out a proper examination of His Majesty's ships on the Australian station. We should have some explanation why these officers at Sydney dockyard are unable to examine these ships properly, in order to ascertain whether they are in a proper and seaworthy condition.
§ Mr. HOHLER
The hon. Member for Barrow-in-Furness (Mr. C. Duncan) scarcely realised the absurdity of his mission when he said that compensation to injured men was "tinpot," that compensation to a widow was "tinpot."
§ Mr. C. DUNCAN
The hon. and learned Member, I am sure, does not wish to misrepresent what I said. What I did say was that these various privileges held out by the Government dockyards to the men are "tinpot." I did not say that the benefits of the Compensation Act were "tinpot," because it is these benefits I want the men to get.
§ Mr. HOHLER
I quite accent the hon. Member's statement. I was referring to the reply made by the hon. Member. I would ask the hon. Member to bear in mind that he speaks about the privileges of the House of Lords. I wonder if there is any community in this country which has got such privileges as the House of Commons, which voted its Members a comfortable £400 per year! Does the hon. Member for Barrow propose to give it up? Do not talk about the privileges of the 998 House of Lords. What about that? Let us see about the tinpot argument. What is the existence of the Labour party for but to raise questions of wages? That is your salvation, and you know it.
§ Mr. HOHLER
I quite agree. Let me remind the hon. Member of what the Labour party did in, I think, my first Parliament of 1910. They raised this very question as to wages paid in the dockyard, and would not vote upon it because the Government would be defeated, and they talk about tinpot! I never heard such nonsense. What does the hon. Member know about the dockyards and the conditions of labour, or anything as to what the men are paid? He talks about going down to a dockyard constituency, and also the Member for the Blackfriars Division (Mr. Barnes). Let him remember that Alderman Jenkins, who was a Member of the Labour party and my predecessor at Chatham, did talk about the conditions and the wages paid, but it is all tinpot when it does not suit their purpose. So long as I am a dockyard Member, I am entitled to advocate the rights of the men notwithstanding what the Labour party may say or think. They are quick enough to vote one way or the other when it suits them. Alderman Jenkins was, I think, the only Member of the Labour party who voted in favour of a larger Navy. I would like to know what are the interesting subjects the hon. Member for Barrow would talk about or anybody else on the benches opposite. Let him restrain himself until he can get a minimum wage or anything else. A speech such as that which he made does not assist this discussion at all. I understand that the hon. Member for Devonport raised the question of establishment. Probably the hon. Member for Barrow has never concerned himself or inquired at what period of age those men who are employed in His Majesty's dockyards are bound to retire. He is not concerned. He hopes, I suppose, to have his confortable £400 per year pension until he attains the age of seventy. The dockyard men have to go at sixty, and it is exceedingly difficult at that, age to get other employment. Does he know that the men pay for this privilege and will be glad to pay for it. If it be a privilege, why does he not fight for it in the other 999 trades, and other branches of life outside, instead of decrying anything these men may have got. But, indeed, he does not consider them. What he really considers is, I suppose, that it is the privilege of the Labour party, headed on this occasion by the hon. Member for Barrow, to decry anything anybody else may say.
The points I desire to draw attention to are in regard to the conditions that exist in the yards. I express at once my pleasure that there have been advances, though I protest, as I have ever protested, against the method of procedure by petition. It seems to me it is quite wrong, and at least it ought not to be final. My view, which I expressed in 1911, is that the real remedy for the question of wages in the yard that the men should have the right at least, if their petition is rejected, to go to a fair-wages board, in order that these matters may be settled on the same terms as they are settled for other bodies. That is the very thing for which the Labour party asked in 1910, and for which they had not the courage to vote as it did not suit their purpose. I understand the Secretary to the Admiralty has indicated that he is not wholly satisfied with the method of procedure by petition, and I hope there will be an alteration and change in this respect. I cannot help thinking, in regard to the present concession, that the hands of the Government have been moved by the fact that there was a general feeling of unrest. No doubt, independently of that, they were alive to the fact that there had been a great increase in the cost of living, and all those considerations weighed with them. I would ask in future they should secure continuity of employment and provide a scheme, so that when the requests of the workmen are not acceded to they should have the right to go to a fair-wages or conciliation board. The question would then be finally determined, and if the request was not acceded to by the board, it will be open to the men to go elsewhere if they wish. In examining the concessions that have been made, I realise fully that there are certain privileges in the yards. We know what those privileges have been valued at, but I cannot help thinking that the concessions made are the minimum in the opinion of the Admiralty. It would have been far more satisfactory if the whole question had been laid before the Board. With reference to shipwrights, 1000 the boiler makers, fitters, electricians, and steam engine makers, I have had explained to me the wages paid in other yards and places, and I am quite satisfied if this question had gone to a conciliation board that more than has been conceded by the Admiralty would have been given, and I am quite satisfied they could not have granted less than that.
I, therefore, say it is greatly to the interests of those men that these questions should be removed and placed before a tribunal which really understands these things, and which would act independently. Nobody can doubt that in regard to this matter the Secretary to the Admiralty has been greatly controlled and confined by the Chancellor of the Exchequer. When the concessions were announced, he told us that the Chancellor of the Exchequer gladly acceded to them. All I can say is if I found, or hoped to find, the Chancellor of the Exchequer in that happy mood, I should have certainly, properly, and reasonably asked for more. I suppose we cannot really hope for any actual increase of wages upon the present Estimates, but I do ask that the unsettled question of overtime shall be dealt with at least on this basis. I ask that for the first hour and a half the men should be paid for overtime at least one and a quarter, and for overtime beyond that at the rate of time and a half. As a matter of fact, in the dockyards at the present time for the first one and a half hours men are paid for the bare time, and for subsequent hours only time and a third. The hon. Member for Barrow has said quite truly that that condition exists nowhere else, though I think he stated the case somewhat highly as to the time universally paid. That the question of overtime has been a great cause of unrest among the men is beyond doubt. They have not only been working overtime, but at the same time their actual rates of wages are lower than the outside rates to a considerable degree, and we must realise that the new system of the Admiralty, under which ships have to be repaired within a limited time, involves a very considerable employment of these men on overtime. Therefore, I hope the Secretary to the Admiralty will insist upon the rates which I have suggested.
I do not think that the hon. Member for Barrow appreciates that in addition to the trades with which he is so familiar—shipwrights, boilermakers, fitters, electricians, and so on—there are many other employments in the dockyard. I wish 1001 particularly to call attention to the position at Chatham as regards a class of men who are rated as skilled labourers, but who wish to be classified as wiremen. They do all the work that is done in other yards by electricians. They are trained as electricians as boys, but they are only rated as skilled labourers and paid as such. I submit that these men ought to be treated according to the knowledge that they acquire. They ought to be classed as wiremen, and receive wages approximately equivalent to those that other men in that trade receive. They wish to start at 30s. a week, which I think is entirely reasonable. You get these men, so to speak, cheaply, and directly they can get away to other employment, away they go. That is not desirable, nor is it in the interest of the Government. On the contrary, it would be greatly to the interest of the Government to keep these men continuously employed, and to pay them a fair rate of wage. I ask the Secretary to the Admiralty to endeavour to accede to their request. The case of the storehousemen, to which I wish next to call attention, is extraordinarily strong. They are trained as boys, they have to pass a severe examination, and yet when they are appointed as assistant storehousemen all they get is 23s. a week. To pay storehousemen, who have to maintain themselves in a position superior to that of a labourer, only labourer's wages Seems to me an absurdity. These assistant storehousemen cannot enter an examination for the second grade for two years. Meanwhile they get an annual increase of 6d. Even when they pass that examination it is quite uncertain when they will be appointed, and when appointed as storehousemen, second grade, it only means 25s. or 26s. a week. I have in mind the case of a young fellow who two years ago passed fourth at Chatham and fifteenth of all the yards, but has not yet received an appointment, and is still getting, I suppose, only 23s. 6d. or 24s. 6d. I suggest that men who haze these great responsibilities in regard to stores ought to be paid at a higher rate.
Another class are mechanics employed under storehousemen as writers. They get nothing extra for that. They have a wholly sedentary life, but get no sick leave or pay. It is very difficult to compare their case with the position in outside employment, for the very good reason that to a large extent this employment is 1002 peculiar to the dockyard. I ask that their case may be considered and something done for them. We employ at the Royal Naval Barracks civilian pension stokers at 21s. a week. Stokers' services are paid for at the Royal Naval Hospital at 28s. That is the case at Shotley, and I believe that stokers are universally paid at that rate. Why then are stokers at the Royal Naval Barracks paid only 21s.? Is it because they happen to be pensioners? That ought to have nothing to do with it. I ask that their case also may be considered. Grants and increases are from time to time made, but not too generously. Take the case of chargemen of trades. Why are some paid 1s. 6d. and some 1s.? They ought all to be on the same level. I have made inquiry, but cannot find that there is any difference in their responsibilities or obligations. I ask the Admiralty to wipe out the inequality which exists, and to extend the 1s. 6d. to all these men. The hon. Member for Faversham (Mr. Wheler) referred to the inspectors and foremen of trades. Their obligations are exceedingly great. The inspectors have had new duties cast upon them as to the requisition of stores, and they have had great difficulties to contend with because of extra duty owing to robberies in the yards. I submit that in connection with the general increases which have been made the inspectors have a strong case for consideration. You must pay the head men far better than you pay those who are under them. That, I think, is an absolute axiom. I am quite satisfied that if the position of inspectors is not considered it will be found that the second-class inspectors are insufficiently paid, and in fact do not earn so much as the chargemen of trades, taking into consideration the overtime and the extra pay which the others receive. In my judgment it might be well indeed if these men had the right of appeal to a Fair-Wages Board. However interested the Secretary to the Admiralty may be in going down and hearing these petitions, I cannot help thinking that somebody who is constantly familiar with the subject and who could deal at the moment with it, when facts are fresh in his mind, would be an infinitely better tribunal than any ultimate appeal to the Chancellor of the Exchequer.
There is a case to which I have drawn attention and one which doubtless the hon. Member for Barrow would call a "tinpot" case, that of a gardener at the Royal Naval Hospital, who is getting 23s. or 24s. a week 1003 and no house—just as a labourer would—and he has got eight or nine men under him. This is a case that ought to be seen to. For myself I endeavour to look at cases from a broad standpoint and not from the atmosphere of Barrow. I endeavour to look at the individuality of the man, and would endeavour to see that a man gets his rights. I ask the Secretary to the Admiralty to deal with this case, and to deal with it generously. I am quite sure that if he wanted a gardener he would not get one at 23s. a week who would be worth very much. Difficult as it may be to try and understand all the various classes of labour—and I confess the Secretary to the Admiralty is interested—and notwithstanding the taunts that have been made by the Labour Members, so long as the present state of things exists, I, speaking for myself, so long as I have the honour to represent the constituency that I do, shall never hesitate to put forward cases of this kind if I think, and so far as I think, they are just and fair. I have never advocated a case which I did not think so, and one in which I would not myself have acted if I had had the power. Therefore I ask the Secretary to the Admiralty fairly to consider these cases.
§ Dr. MACNAMARA
On the important matter of the dockyard wages it is quite true, as the hon. Member opposite pointed out, that recently the cost of living, and in some cases rental, has gone up. Side by side with this there have been substantial increases in certain trades outside, thanks to the great prosperity of the industries concerned. These facts have recently made the dockyard men very insistent in their request for a great increase of wages. I have visited the yards on behalf of the Board, have met innumerable deputations, and have heard the petitions from the men. I have paid great care and attention to the requests of the men. The result, so far as the wages are concerned was announced to the House on 8th May. The increased wages which we propose will add to our wages sheet an annual charge of something like £104,000 per year.
§ Mr. HOHLER
I understood that these rates were only so far as they dealt with classes, and not individual cases or anything of that kind.
§ Dr. MACNAMARA
Individual cases, subject to the numbers allowed, are within the administration of the local 1004 yard. The individual rate will depend upon the average which the local authorities have to work upon in each yard and the numbers of the men employed. I cannot deal, of course with the application of every individual. As I stated, the increases which the Board have decided upon will add to our wages bill £104,000 per year. They came into force on Monday last, or, to be precise, on Sunday, 1st June. This is the first week of the men receiving these increased rates. The bill, therefore, for the financial year of 1913–14 will be increased by £84,000. This increase, I admit at once, does not concede all the men asked for, but these increases represent, I think, a fair, equitable, and just reply to the petitions which the men submitted to me. Any hon. Member who desires can have a complete statement as promulgated on 8th May. I will only deal with the principal concessions. As the result of this Debate I think it is desirable to rehearse that and a few of the facts. The shipwrights got their standard rate increased, the hired man by 2s. and the established men by 1s. 6d., the difference being due to the result of superannuation payment in the case of the established men. The cost of that concession on present numbers is £35,750 a year. In the engineering trades the hired men get 2s., and the established men 1s. 6d. increase in minimum, the difference again being the result of the superannuation deduction. That makes a minimum of 38s. and 36s. respectively. The hon. Member for Devonport may say, "Oh, you will raise the minimum, but what about the other points of the scale?" There are fitters in the yards—and I have no doubt there are—who are paid as a maximum a special rate of 48s. Do I understand the hon. Member for Devonport to say that we ought to give 2s. all round, including these men. [An HON. MEMBER: "Why not?"] Because there are other men entitled to the advance, and the man who gets 48s. a week and the opportunity of piecework receives a fair consideration—
§ Dr. MACNAMARA
I stated it was not a large number. The hon. Member turns round and says, "You do not increase the maximum of what is given to them." Let me point out how we have increased the wages. We have increased the minimum 1005 in the engineering trade—the hired men to 38s., and established men to 36s. The maximum in the engineering trade goes up to, the hired men 40s. and the established,38s. The average rate before the increase used to be 37s. 6d. That has been raised to 38s. 6d. within the administration of the yard. That meets the point of the hon. Member for Chatham.
§ Mr. HOHLER
That is not quite my point. My point was rather this: I do not understand that the increases at present given covers the whole ground of the petitions.
§ Dr. MACNAMARA
There are personal matters, no doubt, which have to be dealt with. I do not know. Generally speaking the concessions we issued on 8th May dispose, broadly speaking, of the wages question. The minimum of the engineering trade increases I have given. The hon. Member for Devonport is not quite right when he says that the minimum rate would not affect anybody but the men under the minimum. It affects the average. Then, the special rates for the engineering trades will remain—I do not pretend they are more than a small proportion—coppersmiths, 42s.; boilermakers, founders, pattern makers, 45s.; and fitters, 48s. And if the hon. Member says this raising of the minimum will not affect all the men, I answer that it will cost £35,000 a year. The unskilled labourers get 1s., and their wages now will be 23s., and at Haulbowline 22s. That will cost £14,000. Let me say this in regard to the unskilled labourers: In 1906 they had 20s., and they got a rise to 21s. Last year they got 22s., and now they are getting 23s., and I say that, taking a fair survey of the whole of the circumstances, that rate does not unfavourably compare with outside rates. There are corporation labourers who get 24s.
§ Sir C. KINLOCH-COOKE
The right hon. Gentleman says there are employés who get 24s., but the point that I put to him over and over again, and the reply he gave to me was that the Admiralty pay the rate common in the district. I have over and over again told him that the rates in the district to which I called attention is 23s. or 24s., and his only answer to that is that he is giving 22s. and 23s.
§ Dr. MACNAMARA
I was saying that there are cases where municipal employés make 24s., and even more, but if you take the whole field of unskilled labour you will find that 23s. for a forty-eight hour week does not compare unfavourably with outside rates paid to unskilled labourers. Then for skilled labourers the minimum is 23s., and at Haulbowline 22s., but the men will only remain a year on that, and after they have been a year or more they will get 24s.—Haulbowline 23s. That will cost £19,000. The skilled labourer got 1s. in 1906, last year we raised the minimum by another shilling and a special rate maximum of 1s., and the skilled labourers rate from this time will be 23s., at Haulbowline 22s., and the ordinary minimum 24s., and Haulbowline 23s., and the ordinary maximum 28s.
§ Sir C. KINLOCH-COOKE
In giving those figures the right hon. Gentleman ought to tell the House the kind of work these skilled labourers do, and how they compare with men on outside work.
§ Dr. MACNAMARA
I think the hon. Gentleman might leave something to the intelligence of the Committee. I was going on to say we are treating the minimum as a probationary rate for one year, and then they go on to 24s., and that that concession will cost £19,000. The effect upon the men in the intermediate scale is that it gives an average rate of 26s. as against 25s. 6d. The special rates will remain at 29s., 30s., and 31s. A great part of these skilled labourers in the dockyard have a fair aptitude, and within the four walls of the dockyards they have opportunities of doing work, and we keep them in employment though we do not classify them as trades. Seventy per cent. of them are our own labourers, and they can go up to a special rate of 31s., and further, these labourers engaged in piecework in 1912 had average earnings of 34s. 3d. per week. They were men who had come from the labourers rank. These were the concessions. They included shipwrights, the engineering trade, skilled and unskilled labourers, and a number of others, but they were the principal. In all, these concessions represent on the present numbers an increase on our wages sheet of £104,000 a year. Let me repeat that since 1906, if you take the present numbers, the cost of the increase in the scale which we pay means an addition to our wages sheet of about £250,000 a year.
§ Dr. MACNAMARA
I am taking the figures since Lord Tweedmouth's increase. Supposing we were paying the rates of 1906 on the numbers we are employing today, we should be saving about £250,000 a year. I admit that our weekly money wage is not in every case so high as some of the wages paid outside the dockyards, but when you compare the weekly money wage paid inside the dockyards with the weekly money wage paid outside you have not completed the investigation and there are several considerations which you ought to take into account. In the dockyards our men work forty-eight hours a week, but many of the workmen outside have to work fifty-three and fifty-four hours per week. One in six, I should say nearly one in five, of the skilled mechanics have a chance of being put on the establishment and becoming Civil servants, and once established he enjoys fixity of tenure and, subject to good conduct, a pension. They cannot be dismissed except for misconduct. In the case of the non-established men, numbering about 43,000, three out of four are fairly certain of continuous employment. It is quite true that we have to stand men off from time to time, but a wave of industrial depression, which is often so disastrous to the shipbuilding and engineering trades outside does not necessarily affect the Royal dockyards at all, because good trade or bad the building and repairing of the ships goes on. That, I suppose, will continue until the great nations come to some agreement in the matter. Therefore, these hired men are immune from the fluctuations of the outside trader. Therefore the non-establishment men have a privilege which is not at all general outside. If we stand one of these men off on reduction after seven years' service he gets a gratuity from the Admiralty of a week's pay for every year of service. After fifteen years, if stood off for any reason except misconduct or own desire, he gets a week's pay for every year's service. Under this system we have made provision this year to pay gratuities amounting to £13,500 to these hired men.
§ Dr. MACNAMARA
Not at all. That is the amount included in this Estimate, and we cannot leave these things altogether out of consideration. I have taken careful note of to-day's suggestions on both sides of the House. Several hon. Members have directed my attention to the question of wages, upon which I want to say this: A Departmental Committee is considering the hours, rates, and conditions of the yard craftsmen, and, should that Committee make its recommendations within the year and the Board agree, it may be necessary to make a statement with regard to their wages, but, broadly speaking, the decisions announced on. 8th May, just before we rose for the holiday, dispose of the wages for the year. There are many other points which have not been settled and which must be settled. There is, for instance, the pension contribution which the established men have to pay. The Treasury has agreed to a small concession which will be very acceptable to the men on the lower rates of pay, which has not yet been announced, and which will have to go forth to the yards. At present men receiving wages not exceeding 24s. pay 1s. superannuation contribution, and men receiving wages between 24s. and 36s. pay 1s. 6d. The margin is rather a wide one, and the Treasury has agreed to let the 1s. apply to wages up to 25s., to make the contribution 1s. 3d. in respect of wages between 25s. and 30s., and then 1s. 6d. between 30s. and 36s. That is a small concession which will be very acceptable to men on the lower rates of pay. There is also the question of overtime rates. They are under consideration, and we hope to be able to make some announcement as to them. We have discussed on the previous Vote the new scheme under the Workmen's Compensation Act; and a decision in regard to that will in due course have to be announced. I shall also have to make suggestions as to the method of hearing petitions. Although I am very glad to see the men—it is a very liberal education to me—at the same time I do not think it is a good application of time and labour to hear the same thing over and over again from a great variety of classes at one yard and then to hear the same thing once more at another yard. I shall put forward suggestions to the First Lord respecting the method of hearing petitions, and an announcement will be made to the men in due course.
§ Sir C. KINLOCH-COOKE
Do I understand the right hon. Gentleman to agree to my request to place 80 per cent. on the establishment?
§ Dr. MACNAMARA
That dockyard will shortly be taken over. I cannot for the moment admit the arguments of the hon. and gallant Member as to the personnel.
§ Major ARCHER-SHEE
In the case of the "Psyche" no less than £5,000 was spent on repairs last July, and that being so how was it that within a short period the ship was found to be in so terrible a state of disrepair? Surely that showed the staff must be inadequate?
Mr. TYSON WILSON
The arguments used by the hon. Member for Chatham (Mr. Hohler) in connection with the wages question are those which have been used by trade union officials for the last thirty years. I should like in respect of the increase of wages to point out one thing which I cannot understand. We were informed the shipwrights and engineers were having an increase of 2s. on the maximum.
Mr. TYSON WILSON
I wish to refer to the case of the joiners. These men have to Provide more tools than any other trade in the dockyard, and they are only to have an increase of 1s. 6d. per week. I cannot imagine why that is so. A joiner, I take it wishes to wear as good clothes, and eat as good food as a shipwright or engineer, and, therefore, his claim to an increase of wages is as well justified as is the claim of the others, especially as he has to spend so large a percentage of his income on the tools of his trade. I do not know what lines the Admiralty work upon, but I would support the suggestion that the wages question should be taken out of their hands and referred to a Wages Board composed of practical men. Further, I would like to point out that in the Royal dockyards there is a class of men called skilled labourers who are not recognised in the private yards—men so to say betwixt and between—neither labourer nor trades man. We say they should be classed either as one or the other, and that the Admiralty is not justified in thus introducing an intermediate class and taking 1010 advantage of men who have not served their time to a trade but have, while acting as labourers, gained a certain amount of knowledge enabling them to do skilled work—which in private yards is done by skilled workmen. We say if the Admiralty is going to employ these men on skilled work they should pay them the same wages as are paid to skilled workmen. I am sorry that the Admiralty are conceding such a small increase of wages to the labourer. We have been told time and again that the cost of living has increased by something like 3s. 9d. in the £. The increased cost of living affects the lowest paid workman the most; therefore the lowest paid workman ought to have had a higher increase than the skilled workman, but his wages have merely been increased by 1s. I am sorry the hon. Member for Chatham referred to the Labour party in connection with a Resolution moved in this House in 1910. If he will read the OFFICIAL REPORT, he will find he is absolutely wrong. That did not apply to the dockyards at all.
Mr. TYSON WILSON
The hon. Member was not referring to the Fair-Wages Clause at all, but to a Resolution dealing with the Woolwich Arsenal. He will see from the speeches of Mr. Haldane (as he then was) and the present President of the Board of Trade that what we asked for was conceded. Therefore we were quite justified in the action we took. I know that the hon. Member is a lawyer, and, like a poet, has a certain licence. He brings forward facts which strengthen his case and ignores those which weaken it So far as the Labour party is concerned, they in season and out of season will do their utmost to improve the condition of the Government workmen. We welcome the hon. Member's support, and. I hope that when he ceases to be Member for Chatham he will continue his support of the trade union movement.
§ Mr. GRETTON
I rise to emphasise the arguments put forward by the hon. and gallant Member for Finsbury (Major Archer-Shee). There is something wrong with the dockyards abroad for which we are asked to vote salaries and wages. The 1011 Government is not to blame for the initiation of the policy for the reduction of the staffs there. It was started before they came into office. But they have been responsible for the policy for seven years, in spite of its failure. The right hon. Gentleman has said they are going to hand over the dockyard in Australia to the Commonwealth of Australia. I am not surprised at that, because the way in which the work has been turned out by the establishments in those yards has been a scandal in the Commonwealth and has led to great distrust of the Admiralty methods. In Hong Kong there is an increased expenditure upon the dockyard. Does that arise from the expenditure on wages and salaries, because ships have been sent from the Australian station to be repaired there? I have one ship in my mind, the "Prometheus," and I believe another, the "Cambrian," was transferred from one station to another, and was found to be in such a bad state of repair that expenditure had to be made upon them at Hong Kong. Does the increased expenditure on the staff at Hong Kong arise from the deficiencies in the way the staff at Sydney has carried out the work of repairs. The increased cost of repairs done by dockyards abroad is not confined to Sydney or Hong Kong. Owing to the changed order of the Votes I have not the full particulars at hand to-night, but reports of a similar very alarming character, pointing to great defects through the ships being in dockyard bands in foreign stations come also from the Cape. Two ships particularly are in question—the "Pandora" and the "Forte." All these matters require the most urgent attention of the Government. Unless it is alleged that it is the fault of the staffs, either salaried or on the wages list, the only conclusion to be arrived at is that it is the fault of the Admiralty 1012 themselves for the instructions which they send and the sums of money they allot to be spent on these repairs. This question cannot be allowed to rest where it stands. The right hon. Gentleman is not in a position to-night to deal with it. We all regret that the First Lord is not here to deal with any question of this kind. We are asked to vote a considerable sum for maintenance of the staff of these dockyards and we should have full information before these sums are voted, even though the sum we are required to vote relates to expenditure for the coming year, and we should have information and a full explanation in this case before the sum is voted. The case will be raised again and we shall press for a full answer.
§ Mr. EYRES-MONSELL
I beg to move, "That the Chairman do report Progress, and ask leave to sit again."
§ Dr. MACNAMARA
We take no objection to that. We were not desirous of securing the Vote to-night. We wish, however, to get the Reports of Votes 2, 13, 14, and 15 to-morrow, after the Army Votes.
§ Question put, and agreed to.
§ Resolutions to be reported to-morrow (Thursday); Committee also report Progress; to sit again to-morrow (Thursday).
ADJOURNMENT.—Resolved, "That this House do now adjourn."—[Mr. Gulland.]
Adjourned at a Quarter before Eleven o'clock.