§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That a sum, not exceeding £483,500, be granted to His Majesty, to defray the Expenses of the Admiralty Office, which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1915."
§ Lord CHARLES BERESFORD
I hope that it will be possible for the First Lord of the Admiralty to give us more time on this Vote in view of the circumstances which have arisen, and the fact that our time to-night will be limited. There are many of use who wish to make strong criticism on the general policy of the Admiralty, and it is hardly possible for us to discuss that between now and 8.15. I think it would be most unpatriotic under the circumstances abroad for anyone to make a drastic criticism showing up the weak points in our naval policy at the present moment.
§ Mr. WALTER LONG
Before the right hon. Gentleman replies, may I support the appeal made by my Noble Friend? The First Lord of the Admiralty will quite readily understand that there is a good deal to be said in reference to Admiralty policy, and as to other parts of the Government's policy, from a critical point of view; and my Noble Friend, and I think the House generally, will feel that, at a moment like this, when the clouds are very dark—although we all hope, some of us perhaps with great confidence, that trouble may be averted—so long as those clouds are there, it is undesirable in the interests of the country as a whole that any criticisms should be offered upon the naval or general defensive powers of this country. My Noble Friend has suggested that if this policy is adopted the Government might afford some other opportunity, supposing happily we have peace and there is no continuation of the present serious condition of things. I am aware that the ordinary obligations of time make it difficult, if not impossible, to give the same opportunity, but I think it would be possible for the Government, in some other way, to afford opportunities for the Opposition and the Committee generally 956 to express their views with regard to the naval policy, even though it is compulsory to obtain the Vote within the necessary time to comply with the law. I make this suggestion on behalf of my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition, who has been obliged to leave the House, and I do it in all sincerity, not that we are not prepared to make our case or unwilling to make it, but because we hold very strongly that, at a moment like this, there should be but one voice in this House and in the country, and that that voice should not be one of criticism or of fault-finding but of the unanimous support of His Majesty's Government in conducting negotiations and operations which are always difficult and which may be fraught with the gravest consequences to the peoples of Europe. It is solely with that object that I support the appeal of my Noble Friend to the Government.
§ Mr. RAMSAY MACDONALD
It is quite possible that the Committee may not unanimously desire to go into general questions of naval policy to-day, but, though I might be inclined to share the views of the right hon. Gentleman opposite in that respect, I think there are questions relating to the Admiralty which might well be taken to-day. There are large labour questions which will arise in connection with this Vote, among them the question raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Blackburn (Mr. Snowden), which was discussed on the last occasion. I would suggest it would be possible to clear off those questions before 8.15, and postpone questions of policy to another occasion.
§ Sir C. KINLOCH-COOKE
I think after what we have heard from the hon. Gentleman opposite, one is entitled to call attention to the fact that discussion on the matters referred to by him would come up on Vote 8, and therefore it will not be absolutely necessary to go into those questions now.
§ The PRIME MINISTER (Mr. Asquith)
I quite appreciate the line of argument taken by the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Long), and we all agree that it would be very undesirable at this moment to go into general questions of Imperial policy; but there are matters, apart from Vote 12, upon which we agreed to give the general discussion, which would arise on Votes 13, 14 and 15, to which the objection the right hon. 957 Gentleman has raised does not apply. They are non-effective Votes, and there are several Amendments to them on the Paper. A number of questions arise on those Votes which I think we might very well be able to discuss. We will take Votes 13, 14 and 15, and postpone Votes 8 and 12 to another day for general discussion
Mr. GEORGE LLOYD (Staffordshire W.)
Will the right hon. Gentleman be able to give us a whole day for Votes 8 and 12?
§ Mr. ROBERT HARCOURT
I do not know whether the Prime Minister has considered this question in connection with the proposal for giving a day on Imperial defence.
§ Mr. RAMSAY MACDONALD
On Votes 13, 14, and 15, matters connected with labour questions cannot be raised, and, if we postpone the main general discussion, cannot the labour subjects be taken now?
§ 4.0 P.M.
§ Mr. GRETTON
I have a suggestion to make which might be for the general convenience of the Committee, namely, that we should take Vote 12 to-day on the understanding that certain questions which hon. Members wish to discuss should be discussed and that subsequently we can take the Debate on the general policy on Vote 8.
§ The FIRST LORD of the ADMIRALTY (Mr. Churchill)
As the Committee well knows we have got to have money to pay our way with. We must have enough to carry us on for a week or ten days till the next day in Committee, and, therefore, I would respectfully suggest that we might be allowed to get Vote 12 as well as Votes 13, 14, and 15, and that on Vote 8 there shall be an understanding that the discussion shall be of a general character. That would, indeed, be very appropriate, because Vote 8 touches all the great issues of naval policy. Vote 12 will enable special discussion relating to those labour 958 questions in which hon. Members on this side take an interest. If that arrangement commends itself to the Committee I am sure it will be satisfactory.
§ Mr. LONG
We do not want to squabble about the particular Votes taken, nor to have a Vote initiated on which we should not be able to take our part, having expressed the view which I have already expressed, but I think there should be a clear understanding that any Votes taken to-day are Votes which are necessary for purposes of public policy, and which will not raise questions of Imperial policy, and that the general discussion over the wider and larger subjects should wait for Vote 8 on a subsequent day.
Mr. G. LLOYD
Am I to understand that we are to get a whole day for the general discussion on whatever day it is taken?
§ The CHAIRMAN
I think this arrangement requires my assent from the Chair. It is an extension of the usual general discussion. The Committee will recollect that when we were discussing Vote A it was agreed, with the assent of the Chair, that the general Debate should be resumed on Vote 12, and the present arrangement, I lake it, is to extend that arrangement further to Vote 8. Under the special circumstances of to-day I have no hesitation in giving my assent to that proposal.
§ Mr. BARNES
The questions in which we are specially interested in this Debate are questions of wages and the conditions of labour generally in the dockyards and in the Fleet. I do not know whether I should be in order in discussing the conditions of labour in the Fleet on this Vote, but at all events I desire to refer to the conditions on shore. If in order, I would confine my observations to something that might be said with regard to the training and conditions of seamen, but first of all I should like to speak about the wages of labourers in the dockyard towns. I am appreciative of the fact, and I am extremely thankful to say that we have got 959 very considerable advances during the last few years, I think the years covered by the term of office of the right hon. Gentleman the Parliamentary Secretary to the Admiralty (Dr. Macnamara), and I may scarcely add that I am not going to say anything which would harden his heart to-day in regard to some further advances. There have been concession of wages amounting, I believe, to three shillings per week granted to the labourers since the present Government came into power. While I am glad of that, I am going to submit to the right hon. Gentleman that he should continue his welldoing and go ahead and grant a further advance, and even if he granted the further advance he would still be behind the contractors, and, what is perhaps a better comparison, behind the pay of the men in the service of the municipal authorities in the dockyard towns. I had occasion, the other day, to see some men on these points, and I had given to me a copy of a Petition, which I understand the right hon. Gentleman has also received, with regard to the wages of the labourers in those towns. I have here some supplementary evidence given in support of the Petition, and that contains statements as to the pay of the municipal employés. The Government labourers are paid at the rate of 23s. per week. That is common to all the dockyard centres, and is the rate of pay of all the labourers in the employment of the Admiralty, except in Haulbowline, and for some reason which I have never been able to fathom, the labourers in Ireland at Haulbowline are paid 1s. less per week than the labourers on this side, or 22s. as against 23s. If I were an Irish Member I should be disposed to demand that the pay at Haulbowline should be the same as the pay on this side. I do not know whether there is anything to justify that 1s. per week less.
Apart from that, and even if the Haulbowline men were brought up to 23s., that pay is by no means what it ought to be. Although there are various reasons which might be urged, and probably I shall give some of them before I sit down, in favour of increases being given in rates of pay to mechanics, especially boiler makers and rivetters, and people of that sort, yet I am more concerned to-day in raising the base line and the granting of something like a reasonable decent living wage to the ordinary labourers. Those labourers have 960 23s. per week, and let me tell the House what is paid by the municipal authorities in those same towns to their labourers. In Chatham, the municipal employés are paid 28s. 3d. per week, except the carters who get 26s., being thus 5s. 3d. and 3s. respectively, more than the wages paid by the Government. The Portsmouth local authority pay 26s. and 27s. The men start at 24s., and after, I think twelve months, the Portsmouth Corporation pay them 26s. and a few months afterwards, they are paid 27s. Thus, in the chief naval port of the country the labourers employed by the Government get 3s., and in some cases 4s. less than the amount paid to the men employed by the Portsmouth Corporation. In Devonport the Corporation pay their men 26s. or 3s. more than the Government men. Perhaps the most striking position of all is that in regard to the boys who I am told, have had no increase in their pay, but are receiving exactly the same now as they were thirty years ago. I refer to the yard boys. That, I am given to understand, is the case, and notwithstanding all the increases of wages that have occurred. In this connection it must be remembered that the standard of education and the age at which the boys are taken into the Government service are higher now. Boys used to be taken at thirteen years, but you cannot get boys in now under fifteen. Those boys of fifteen years of age with a fairly good smattering of elementary education receive the magnificent sum of 6s. per week, rising at twenty years of age to 16s. per week. If they were mechanics then, there would be something to justify the lower rate of pay, but they are simply yard boys not learning any trade.
§ Mr. BARNES
I question if an apprentice gets 16s. per week. The boys of whom I speak are not apprentices. They do not get the advantage of some supplementary education by the authorities, and are merely yard boys. I would suggest to the right hon. Gentleman that some alteration and considerable improvement should be made in the pay given to those boys as well as to the labourers. Let me deal also with a matter which has often been spoken about here, and that is, as to the rates of pay of rivetters and people engaged generally in those operations corresponding to those which are called 961 boiler-making and ship-building in outside dockyards. The case was put to me that those men are getting very considerably less, and I am told that the piece-work rivetting pay is 30 per cent. and in many cases much more than 30 per cent. less than is paid by the yards outside. I have here piece-work rates showing that, whereas 13s. 4d. per 100 rivets is paid in the ordinary shipbuilding yards, in the dockyards you pay in some cases only 6s. per 100. I have explained to these men that the conditions are altogether different—that the Government profess to give more regular employment. But I am told that there is not a great deal in that, that the men have been taken on at the dockyards and not retained for any great length of time, and that, at all events, good trade unionists as many of them are, and primarily concerned in maintaining the standard rates of wages as paid elsewhere, they would take their chances of the fluctuations of employment just the same as the men do in the shipyard centres, with all that that involves.
I wish also to say a word on my usual topic—the training of the boys and artificers in the Navy. I should like to be clear on one or two points that were in question when this subject was last discussed. With regard to the boys, I then put in a plea that the rating of what is known as boy artificers should be recruited in such a way as to give a wider selection. Up to that time boys had been selected in some way or another by inspection by certain officers of the Admiralty, subject to certain qualifications, one of which was that the boys should have served two years in a secondary school. I pointed out then that it was not every working man who could give his boy the chance of serving two years in a secondary school, but that, on the contrary, the average working man could do nothing of the kind; and that inasmuch as this was a valuable privilege—that is to say, the boys are given a chance of going into the Government service at fifteen or sixteen years of age, with the opportunity of having a splendid education provided at the Government expense; they are given, in addition, a chance of physical culture which the outside boy has not and cannot get—that all this was of considerable value, and therefore it should not be given to a small class of people unless it was absolutely consistent with the interest of the public service that it should be so limited. I do not think it is consistent with the public 962 service that this requirement of two years' service in a secondary school should remain as a qualification for entrance as a boy artificer.
I do not want in any way to lower the standard of educational requirement. If the Admiralty want boys to pass a certain educational test, well and good. I do not say anything against that. But it is quite another thing to say that a boy shall not only go through an educational test, but also satisfy the authorities that he has passed two years in a secondary school. I gather that there has been some alteration since the matter was last discussed. It has never been stated on the floor of the House, and I hope the right hon. Gentleman will tell us the precise character of the alteration so that there may be no doubt about it. I believe that even now there is some provision that at least one year shall have been spent in a secondary school. I want to press the right hon. Gentleman that, in order to make the field of selection as wide as possible and to give the largest possible number of people the opportunity of availing themselves of this valuable privilege of getting free education for their sons and starting them in life with a trade in their hands, all that should be necessary is that the boy should pass the educational test set before him, and that there should be no provision about attendance at a secondary school or anything of that sort. I think that that is a very reasonable suggestion, and I hope it is one in which I shall be supported by the Noble Lord opposite (Lord C. Beresford) and many other Members who want the best possible boys to enter the Service, and at the same time want those boys selected from the widest possible area.
I turn now to a very valuable concession which has been made by the Admiralty in respect to artificers. There has been a great deal of complaint.—I think justifiable complaint—that the artificer class have not had the opportunity for preferment that they ought to have had. The artificer class have performed the duties imposed upon them with regularity and efficiency, and there has been no complaint as to their disciplinary spirit or anything else. But the artificers have made complaints, and on many occasions when those complaints have been made to the authorities they have not had the sympathetic attention which, I think, they might have had. There has, however, been one very valuable concession made quite recently by 963 the Admiralty. Here, again, I want full effect given to that concession, so that the largest possible number of men may share in it. The Admiralty have now agreed to the initiation of a new class of officer to be called Mate E. The difference between this Mate E, who is going to be really an engineer-lieutenant, and the old lieutenant, who was promoted from the ranks of the artificer class, is that, whereas under the old conditions the artificer had to be somewhere about forty-five or fifty years of age before he could possibly be made a lieutenant, under the new conditions it is proposed to select certain men from the artificer class at about thirty or thirty-two years of age, and these men are to be given further supplementary education at the Government expense and made straight away into engineer-lieutenants. That is a capital provision. The best feature about it is that the selection is to be made at a comparatively early age, so that it gives a man the opportunity of associating with the other men in the wardroom on equal terms before he gets over the transitional process.
But here, again, the Admiralty seem as though they cannot do a thing generously or whole-heartedly, and I will make another suggestion, which I hope they will carry out. The provision is that a man must have eight years' service, and he must not be over thirty-two years of age. Let us see how that works as between the boy artificer and the man who comes from the ordinary workshop, and has had his trade given him at the expense of his parents. The boy artificer comes into the Navy at sixteen years of age, and from that day he has all his training—theoretical, academic, and otherwise—at the expense of the nation. He is no burden at all upon his parents. At twenty or twenty-two years of age he goes on full pay as an artificer, and at thirty-two years of age he has had sixteen years' service in the Navy. Presumably, before he reaches thirty-two years of age, he is qualified to pass all the tests which I am told are rightly imposed by the Admiralty for promotion to the rank of Mate E. Take the other men, who come from the ordinary workshops—boilermakers, carpenters, engineers, and all sorts of mechanics. Such a man joins the Navy at an average age of twenty-three or twenty-four; therefore, at thirty-two years of age he may have served the eight years' qualifying period or he may not. 964 If he joins shortly after twenty-four he cannot possibly qualify for Mate E, while if he joins at twenty-three he has a margin of one year only. I wish to suggest either that the eight years' period should be shortened in the case of men from the ordinary workshops or that the age limit of thirty-two should be slightly raised. It may appear that I am now somewhat inconsistent, because I said just now that the chief thing in favour of this new scheme was that it applied at an early age. I still think that, but, after all, one year added to thirty-two would not make a great deal of difference in that respect, whereas it would make considerable difference in the margin of the man who joined the Navy at twenty-three years of age. Moreover, if there is to be any advantage given to one man as against another, I submit that it ought to be in favour of the man from the workshop, because he has not had the chances of an education such as that which is provided for these boy artificers. I am not saying anything against that at all; I think it a very good thing that the best education should be given. But the ordinary mechanic from the workshop has, in most cases, had only the ordinary elementary board school education; he is not up to passing technical and theoretical examinations, and consequently any additional education that he has he gets himself after he has entered the Service. Therefore, I think it is extremely to his credit if he puts himself in the position of passing the somewhat severe technical examination imposed by the authorities as the price of going in for promotion to Mate E.
I would ask the right hon. Gentleman to give these points his serious and generous consideration. I have put them just as they occurred to me, having had to speak unexpectedly. As I have said, I am most concerned about the base line of wages in the dockyards. We have made considerable advances during the last eight years, but 23s. per week is still a miserably inadequate, and I should say almost discreditable, rate of pay for the Government to give any body of workmen. Consider 23s. per week in a large town like Portsmouth or Devonport, where I am told the least rent payable is about 6s. or 7s. per week for a labouring man—and he cannot get much for that Under those conditions, with living in those large towns rising, as it does every day, with rent at something very nearly one-third 965 of this miserable pay of 23s., I say although we have got 3s. during the last eight years, that that 23s. per week is still far too low, having regard to the man's needs, to cover the ordinary decent requirements of a family. We must also have regard to the fact that without the resources of which the right hon. Gentleman has behind him, and with the ratepayers—as he knows—always nagging when there is any increase of rates, the municipal authorities in the dockyard towns are paying 3s. and 4s. per week beyond the dockyard rate. I might, if I were desirous, also compare the rate paid by the Government with the rates paid by private employers. Behind me is the hon. Member for Gorton (Mr. Hodge). He has, I know, a great many enrolled in his union. I am not quite, but almost, sure of the figures when I say that the rate of pay of the men who are enrolled in the ranks of the union of which my hon. Friend is secretary, is from 50 to 60 per cent. higher than that paid by the Government. I might go to the shipyard centres of the country and cite the rates of pay there. I know-that the Government pay a rate based very largely upon their ideas of twenty and thirty years ago.
The Government are slower to move than any other authority throughout the length and breadth of the country. While they have paid 3s. more during the last few years I venture to say that other private employers and municipal employers have picked up the rates a great deal more than 3s. The hon. Member for Barrow (Mr. C. Duncan), who has also a large experience of unskilled labour, being secretary of a union that numbers 130,000 odd, can tell a somewhat similar tale. It-is calculated, I know, that these men, very largely in consequence of the organisation of unskilled labour during the last few years—which is not shared in as it might be by the men employed by the Admiralty!—have had their wages put up a great deal; more than that given by the dockyard authorities during eight and a half years. Therefore, that is my first appeal to the right hon. Gentleman, that he should give his serious sympathetic and generous consideration to the dockyard men, and pay them, I do not say rates equal to the municipal authorities—I suppose that would be asking too much!—but, at all events, I ask that something should be done towards picking them up to the same level. If a shilling more were given this year, as an earnest of picking 966 up the rates to the ordinary level of the municipal authorities in the near future, I, for my part, would be satisfied. I believe that that shilling would do a very great deal towards carrying comfort and hope into thousands of homes in these dockyard towns that are now dreary, dark and comfortless, simply because the Government authorities are not paying a sufficient wage. In addition to that point, I hope the right hon. Gentleman will give attention to the other points that I have mentioned, the chief of which is the desirability of the boy artificer being drawn from a larger class of the community, so as to give the largest possible number of people the advantage of those educational and other facilities given by the Government to boys. I trust, too, that in carrying out the principle of selection of the artificer class—with a view to their making themselves into lieutenants in the Navy—that at least as good an opportunity will be given to those men who are drawn from the workshop as is given to the boys who are trained at the Government expense.
§ Sir FORTESCUE FLANNERY
Although, unlike hon. Friends behind me, I do not represent a dockyard constituency, nor like the hon. Members referred to by the last speaker, the hon. Member for Blackfriars, am I the secretary of a trade union, it may be that representations from an entirely disinterested quarter will have some little effect upon the Treasury Bench when they know, as I think some do know, that it comes from one who has gone through precisely the same kind of experience as that referred to by the hon. Member for Blackfriars, as between the wages that are paid by the dockyards and the wages that are paid under nearly similar circumstances outside—even allowing for steadiness of employment in the dockyard with a pension attached to the established men—there is no fair comparison in regard to the particular classes to which my hon. Friend the Member for Blackfriars has referred. There is not a single one of the representations which he made which ought not to be supported, and which will not be supported, by anyone in any portion of the House who has any real knowledge of the subject. As regards the difference between the wages at the larger dockyard of Haulbowline, in the principles established as to the differential rate of pay, the great cost of living has not been quite fully taken into account by my hon. 967 Friend the Member for Blackfriars. With that exception—and it is the only exception—I believe that the appeal which he has made to the Admiralty is thoroughly and entirely justified. There can be, as I think, no good reason why there should be a difference in labourers' wages of something like 3s. per week between those employed in the dockyards and those employed under the municipalities. The municipalities perhaps have not such good arrangements for retirement as the dockyards have, but even allowing for that difference there cannot be so large a disproportion as 3s. between the two classes of employment. The hon. Member for Blackfriars appealed for 1s. per week.
One shilling per week does not seem a large sum of money to hon. Members in this House, but a shilling per week makes a great difference in the weekly budget of the labourer. I was surprised, considering his opportunities, at the moderation of the hon. Gentleman opposite. I quite expected him to ask for perhaps twice as much. If he had done so he would not have been guilty of any gross exaggeration of the needs of the case. I sincerely hope that when the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary to the Admiralty comes to reply that he will be able to give a favourable answer to the appeal. Let him not forget that the Board of Trade Returns have shown clearly and definitely that it takes 20s. to-day to buy the same amount of food and other things as 17s. 9d. purchased some eight or nine years ago. That it a fact which no one has attempted to deny, and which is shown by statistics issued by the Board of Trade. Turning to the point with which the hon. Member for Blackfriars concluded, I would like to say that there is a very great hardship indeed inflicted upon the young workmen who, being educated in the ordinary way in the workshop for practical knowledge, and perhaps at the night school or evening classes for theoretical knowledge, enters into the artificer class when his apprenticeship is finished. That young man has been educated at the expense of his father to a large extent, and at the expense of himself, and certainly he ought not to be put into a position of inferiority of opportunity compared with the young man who has been educated largely at the Government expense. Undoubtedly the boy artificer entering at sixteen and getting his trade taught him by the naval instructor and by the opportunities of the workshop is being educated very largely 968 indeed at the expense of the Admiralty. I do not desire for one moment to suggest that these opportunities should be reduced, but I do feel that the ordinary workman coming out of the workshop ought not to be placed in a less favourable position than the one who has been educated at the Government expense. That point, I think, should be very easily dealt with by a change of regulation in regard to the test. It is quite true—though I speak subject to correction—that the boy's period at a secondary school, which has been approved by the dockyard authorities, has been reduced. The length of time required is not so great as it used to be. But I would support the appeal that the test examination—the test of the length of time spent in the workshop in actual practical experience, and then upon the top of that the test examination for theoretical knowledge—ought to be sufficient to enable the artificer to be placed upon the same footing as the one who has gone into the Service through the medium of the Boy Artificer Class.
I do not propose to refer in detail to the question of piecework in regard to the riveters to which the hon. Member opposite has called attention, except to say this, that if the figures he has given—that is 13s. 4d. for 100 rivets in shipyards outside—and I presume he refers to shipyards on the North-East Coast and on the Clyde—is to compare in any way with the 6s. per 100 in dockyards, then the disproportion is altogether too great. I quite admit that there ought to be taken into account, most fairly taken into account, not so much the steadiness of employment, but in addition the question of the pension to the established men. But when you do take all this into account to the fullest possible extent, it cannot possibly explain how it is that for work of the most exacting character, work which physically strains the men to the very uttermost, as riveting does, and for work which must be the very best—and the difference between a good and a bad rivet is only known to those who are practical men!—the disproportion should be so great. I cannot help feeling that the Admiralty may have been trading to an unreasonable extent upon the opportunity which pensions and steadiness of employment give them to get their work done perhaps cheaper than they are justified in doing in comparison with contract work outside. I speak, as I have said, from an entirely disinterested standpoint in supporting the 969 very reasonable representations made by the hon. Member who spoke first. He has put forward his case in a very powerful, clear and lucid manner, and I certainly hope the Admiralty will be able to make the conclusions for which he has so reasonably asked.
§ Mr. JOHN MULDOON
I arise, not for the purpose of prolonging this discussion at any undue length, but for the purpose of bringing under the notice of the Parliamentary Secretary to the Admiralty a question which I have frequently pressed upon him, and which it will be my duty to press upon him so long as the grievance exists. That grievance is that the labourers at Haulbowline are paid 1s. a week less than labourers are paid in any other Department of the Admiralty. I thank the hon. Member for Blackfrairs for his reference to this subject; and with reference to the remarks made by the hon. Gentleman who has just sat down, I think he should be reminded of the fact that the defence put forward for the payment of 1s. a week less to the labourers at Haul-bowline has never been established. I have frequently brought this forward, and I have been always met by the same arguments in defence. They are three in number. One defence is that the cost of living at Haulbowline district is less than in other Government dockyard towns which have been mentioned. The other is that the cost of housing is less than in other Government dockyard towns, and the third is the weekly wages paid in outside employments in the locality. Now every one of these defences has failed, and I ask the right hon. Gentleman to say whether upon the occasion of his visit to Haulbowline, and when he talked this matter over with the men there, it was not shown to him that housing was as expensive in Haulbowline as in other Government dockyard towns in the country; and as to the cost of living I think it has been clearly established that the cost of living at Haulbowline is more expensive than in some of the Government dockyard towns in England. Then there is the question of outside employment.
I submit that I have put an estimate before the right hon. Gentleman showing that the local authority—which is the best test in a place like Haulbowline, that is the Queenstown local authority—pays larger and better wages to its labourers than the Government in any Government dockyard. Though all 970 these three defences have failed, this anomaly and this differentiation still continues. I ask the right hon. Gentleman does he not feel that we have a real grievance so long as this state of affairs continues, and now the defences put forward for it have failed, I ask him how long is it intended it shall continue? A shilling a week, as pointed out, may mean a great deal for those employés at Queens-town. I ask the right hon. Gentleman to take up this question again with a strong hand, and see that these labourers are put under the same conditions as the labourers in other Government dockyards. If I have to criticise the policy of the Admiralty in this respect, I assure the right hon. Gentleman that in Queenstown they are not unmindful of the fact that something substantial has been done for them by the present advisers to the Admiralty. They have made a new experiment there, and a very excellent experiment, and I appeal to the right hon. Gentleman to take this matter firmly in hand and equalise the wages paid in the Government dockyard of Haulbowline with the wages of the other Government dockyards in the country. As I said to him before there will be no peace for him as long as this state of affairs continues, and what I attach more importance to, there will be no peace for myself so long as it continues.
§ Mr. CHARLES DUNCAN
I agree with the remarks made by several of the speakers this afternoon, and in what I have to say I wish primarily, and more particularly, to say a word about the labourers. The hon. Member for the Blaekfriars Division has given details with regard to the wages paid in the various dockyard towns, including Haulbowline, and he quoted figures to show that there is a difference in the wages to the disadvantage of Haulbowline. I have heard Debates upon this particular point in this House, and what I gathered was that there seemed to be a general consensus of opinion in the House whenever this point was raised, that no case has been made out for a differentiation in the wages between the labourers at Haulbowline and the labourers on this side. What seems to me more astounding is this that the wages to the labourers at Woolwich should be 25s. and the wages for the dockyard towns should be only 23s.
§ Mr. DUNCAN
I want to deal with that point because Woolwich, of course, as I understand, is within the London district. But there are circumstances surrounding the conditions of life of the labourers, particularly in Devonport and Plymouth, which indicate, to my mind, that the cost of living in those two towns for one point of view, is extraordinarily high, and particularly with regard to rent. From inquiries I have made the cost of rent, particularly in Devonport and Plymouth, seems to be extremely high. I have that information from one of the officers in my own union. In Belfast he was paying a matter of 10s. a week house rent. He has since gone to live in Plymouth, and he was unable to get a house under a rent of £40 per annum. There is another point that might be of interest to the Admiralty, and it is this: I do not know whether they have taken the trouble to make any inquiry as to the rate of wages paid by the various municipalities in this country. I think they ought to, because after all the Government holds itself up as paying a rate of wages that is at any rate better than that paid by the ordinary competitive employer. The same position is taken up by various municipal corporations up and down the country. We see such an enormous variation as the figures suggested by the hon. Member for Black-friars running from 3s. to 4s. a week, and I say this variation exists practically throughout the country with regard to all municipal corporations as compared with the wages paid to Government employés.
I have some little knowledge with regard to the wages paid up and down the country, and I want to say this in order to emphasise the statement made by the hon. Member for Blaekfriars, that though the rate of wages in private employment is, I must confess, somewhat lower than the wages paid in the dockyard towns, still private employers of this country have shown themselves more willing to advance the wages of their labourers than the Admiralty. In the particular organisation with which I am connected, there are labourers in the Birmingham area whose wages were roughly only 18s. a week, and by one swoop tens of thousands of them were raised from 18s. to 23s., so that they got an advance in wages of not less than 5s. Besides that, the cost of rent in Birmingham is, in my judgment, from 1s. to 2s. a week less than in the dockyard towns. So that the wages paid to the labourers in the Birmingham area are as 972 good and certainly not less than that paid by the Government in the dockyard towns, and I am convinced that the conditions of life existing among the labourers in the Birmingham area are very much better than amongst the labourers in the dockyard towns. I know, of course, the cost of living has very materially increased, and personally I do not think that the advances so far given to the labourers in the dockyard towns give them any advantage whatever when the increased cost of living is taken into account as compared with the cost of living previous to that advance being given. Therefore I would suggest that these men are worthy of further consideration than they have received up to the present moment.
After all we have got to consider the position of the labourers in this country. He has got his rent to pay; as a rule he has a wife and a family, larger than the ordinary family, to maintain. I think it is only a fair statement of the case to say that a labourer with 23s. per week has only the bare means of subsistence. There is really no margin upon which a man can work. The least little difficulty he gets into, whether in the shape of sickness or misfortune, hits him a severe blow from which it is very difficult for him to recover. It means he has to travel along under a load of debt, harassing both himself and his wife, and preventing him from giving a better chance to his children than ho himself has had. It keeps his nose to the grindstone, and prevents him making any advance in his business. It may be said with perfect truth that the labourers in other employments have a very much better chance of advancement than in the dockyards. There, of course, they have a chance of becoming what is called skilled labourers I give every credit to the Secretary to the Admiralty for that, although I disagree with the method. At the same time I think where you have in many of the industrial centres a number of private employers and firms there is a range of choice and opportunities that do not exist in dockyard towns, where the men can only work for one firm. There is no other firm in existence, except private firms, that sometimes do business with the Government by private contract. Therefore I think the labourers have better chances than the labourers of the dockyard. In any case there are many openings for men who are labourers with private firms for improving and bettering their position. 973 They have greater diversity of employment where there are a considerable number of private contractors and firms, and the men have chances of advancement which simply do not exist in dockyard towns. Therefore, I think there is someright to claim some improvement in the wages so far as these men are concerned from that point of view. There is another matter that should weigh with the Admiralty. After all, they ought to set some example to the private employers. Personally, I do not think they do. I think they may take this credit, at any rate, that possibly they are in the main as good as the ordinary employer who has some bowels of compassion with regard to the wages of his labourers. But I do not think they can establish a case that they are any better than the ordinary employer who has some little consideration. As a matter of fact, I know that there are thousands and tens of thousands of labourers in this country who are getting a matter of 6d. an hour for their labour and working fifty-three hours per week. That makes a real difference. It is true that these men work a larger number of hours than the labourers in the dockyard towns, but, whereas the one man takes 23s. home to his wife, the other takes 26s. 6d., and that makes a very considerable difference to the standard of comfort and the position which that labourer can occupy amongst those in his own district. Let me give a case in point. I have already mentioned Coventry, where the standard rate for all labourers is no less than 6d. per hour. There you have Government contractors, firms making motor cars and bicycles, and yet every one of those firms pay their labourers no less than 6d. per hour for fifty-three hours per week, making a wage of 26s. 6d. per week, and 27s. in London.
I do not wish to labour this point, because I am sure it will be apparent to the Secretary to the Admiralty. After all, though it is true that these men work a few hours more than the men in the dockyard towns, we were told when the eight hours' day was given in the dockyard towns that it should not be used to the detriment of the men, and that it was intended to be given as an advantage to them. I wish to say that it is no advantage at all as things go—in fact, I have shown that it is a disadvantage to the men on the bottom scale. With regard to the shorter hours of labour, I would say that with regard to skilled men the shortening 974 of the hours of labour are an advantage because there is a margin between the wages they earn and the amount it takes to keep their families. I suggest that there is a fair and reasonable margin between the wages of the skilled mechanic and his cost of living, but when you come down to the labourer there is no such margin at all. As a matter of fact, the wages of the labourer are never sufficient to enable him to purchase the ordinary necessaries, decencies, and comforts of life. What it means is that there is always many things that the labourer and his wife and family have to go without that the man who is a skilled mechanic can get. It would, in a sense, be an advantage to the labourer if he were allowed to work fifty-three hours a week, or give some consideration which would place him not at such a great disadvantage as he is with regard to the wages paid in towns like Coventry. I know that there are thousands and tens of thousands of labourers in this country getting 6d. an hour for their labour. The men in the building trade get 6d., 6½d., and 7½d. per hour. It may be that there is a certain amount of skill in their labour, and it may be that they are not so regularly employed as the men in the dockyard towns. That may be so, but why should you, because there may be some speculative doubt, pay the man in the dockyard towns a less wage than the man in these other avocations?
It may be that there is some variation in the regularity of their employment. I am not prepared to admit that that is the case, because anyone who is connected with the organisation of labour, apart from Government employment, knows that the men in the building trade may be employed in the building trade to-day and in the gasworks to-morrow, or in various other occupations where labour is casual; but, as a matter of fact, such labourers are very seldom out of employment for more than a day and some times only for a few hours. When trade is good, as a rule, these men are regularly employed in all sorts of occupations, and with the wages they receive I venture to say that, even with their irregularity of employment, they are, in my judgment, infinitely better off than the labourers in the dockyard towns. I suggest that the appeal put forward by the hon. Member for the Blackfriars Division is a very moderate and a very modest one. People sometimes suggest that hon. Members of this House who sit on these benches are always making extravagant 975 demands—why, heaven only knows! I contend that the argument I have used is a perfectly reasonable one, and one which nobody can refute in this House; and I think it is an argument that ought to move the compassion of men who are, at any rate, far above the ordinary wants and requirements of the men about whom I am directing my discourse. I ask that more consideration should be shown to these people. I think their lot in life is very hard. It is very narrow. They have a dull, hard, steady grind from the cradle to the grave, and a little compassion, as far as these men are concerned, would, in my judgment, be money well spent, and it would be expenditure that would bring great advantage, not only to the men and their wives, but it would enable them to give a better upbringing and a better education to their children.
The hon. Member for the Blackfriars Division said something with regard to the position of the mechanician class. This is a matter upon which I have spoken very often before. I have not the slightest doubt that the Secretary to the Admiralty knows as much about this matter as I can tell him, but nevertheless I want him to understand that there is a considerable amount of dissatisfaction with regard to the complaints we have made with reference to the mechanician class. As I have said before the men who are artificers in the Navy are practically on parallel lines with the men who are engineers in the mercantile marine. The position I am putting is that the men in the mercantile marine have an infinitely better prospect through their service in the engineering line in the mecantile marine than exactly the same class of men have in the Navy. Neither I nor the hon. Member for the Blackfriars Division can understand why this difference should be made, and so far as I have listened to the discussions, no Secretary to the Admiralty has ever been able to explain why there should be this disparity in treatment between two sets of men, who come from exactly the same source, and do exactly the same kind of work. I do not understand why this disparity should continue. I believe it is a matter of fact that although the wages in the mercantile marine are what one might fairly term good wages at the present moment, they are receiving an advance of wages which has become very general throughout the country.
With regard to the artificer class I believe, as a matter of fact, their wages 976 remain stationary, and have remained stationary for close upon thirty years, if not over that period, and the same argument with regard to the cost of living applies to these men. Some of them have wives and some have families, and whatever argument there may be used with regard to the increased cost of living applies with just as great force to these men as to any section of mechanics there are in the country. Why cannot some consideration be given to these men. What is the difficulty with regard to these mechanicians, and why cannot their grievance be removed. Tens of thousands and hundreds of thousands of pounds are being spent on the education of these men, and yet by this policy you are preventing the advancement of the artificers. I want to know why they cannot be given an advance of wages. Nobody has said anything about their services not being up to the mark. Nobody has suggested that these men do not give exceptional ability and good service whilst they are following their avocation in the Navy, and I suggest that the time has come when some consideration should be given to the wages paid to these men, and some improvement should be made in their position. In this matter I suppose the Admiralty is past praying for as far as the mechanician question is concerned. It will only be a question of time, as has been found in the case of the mercantile marine. The system has stood the test of time for many years past. A man who goes into the mercantile marine has not only to serve so many years, but he only goes into it after having passed so many years in which he has actually got to go to the Board of Trade and pass an examination in order to get certain certificates to enable him to act as an engineer in the mercantile marine. There is no difference between these two men, and one, after all, might just as easily perform the work in the mercantile marine as he does in the Navy. Therefore' it does seem to be unfair that these men should be working for the scanty, I might almost say, miserable, wage paid in the Navy as compared with the wages paid in the mercantile marine.
There can be no doubt at all that there is a difficulty, and a growing difficulty, to get men from the engineering shops to take employment as artificers in the Navy. There is this difficulty, and it is admitted. As a matter of fact in the last Debate it was mentioned that another 10s. was to 977 be offered to these men in the Navy in order to get them. It is obvious that if reasonable inducements are not given to these men who serve their time in engineering shops, they are going to prefer the mercantile marine or prefer to stop even in the workshop, where at least there are chances of becoming foremen or managers of the various departments in many of the big private firms in this country. When all these things are compared I am assured that the men in the mercantile marine who have served their time in the different engineering shops of this country have an infinitely better prospect away from the Navy than in the Navy, and if those prospects were improved you would not only get a larger number, but you might even get a better class and a better type of men from the engineering shops to join the artificer rank in the Navy, and thus bring an increased proficiency and efficiency into the work in the Navy that might lead to better results than we have seen in the past. I know that this is a very sore point with the men of artificer rank in the Navy. We have pleaded, and pleaded in vain, for a matter of nine years for some little attention to be given to this question.
We see a great change coming over the Navy to-day. In the old days it was coal only that was used to raise steam. Now we see a transformation taking place, and it seems only a question of a few years for further developments to take place. We can judge by the preparations that are being made to establish a supply of oil for the Navy under Government control. On every hand it is plain to those who take even a little interest in these matters that there is a great and vital change taking place with regard to the raising of steam for propulsion purposes in the Navy. In my opinion it will not be long before there will be very little coal used in the Navy, and when oil will take its place. In years to come the Navy will be carrying a huge staff of thousands and thousands of stokers, and there will be no fires to stoke, because steam will be raised by oil fuel. What the Government are going to do with the stokers passes my comprehension. This is a bigger question than is thought by many Members of the House. The tendency in the Navy is to bring more and more into use the knowledge of the skilled mechanic. The mechanic is going to be the one man upon whom the Navy will depend for its power to move. Of course, unless the Navy cannot move, it 978 will be simply like a floating fort. The-power to move and at great speed is a matter of vital importance to the Navy, and inasmuch as there is undoubtedly going to be a continuous growth in the-number of men skilled in the manipulation and repair of all kinds of mechanical appliances, and that upon them will depend great responsibility with regard to the movements of the vessels, surely it must be obvions that whatever attention is going to be given to the problems of the Navy, this section of men are at least worthy of some serious consideration. It will be worth the while of the Admiralty to go a little out of their way to give some consideration to the artificer class, to see if they cannot, either by an increase in their wages or an improvement of the conditions of their service in the-Navy, make them a better contented set of men than they are at the present time. I hope, therefore, that what has been said, both with regard to the wages of the labourers in the dockyard towns and with regard to the wages and conditions of the artificers, will be borne in mind, and that something at long last will be done on this question.
§ Sir C. KINLOCH-COOKE
I shall endeavour to keep myself within the confines of the lines laid down by you in the early part of the afternoon, but perhaps I should not to be out of order if I ventured, first of all, to call attention to the question of life-saving apparatus in connection with submarines. It will be within the recollection of Members that when the A7 sank in Whitsand Bay, there was a great deal of difficulty with regard to the salvage apparatus which was supposed to be very near at hand, but which in point of fact was very far off. I should like to ask whether there is any reason to suppose that in the near future there will be stationed at each port sufficient salvage apparatus to give certainty that in every emergency a lighter, at any rate, will be there in order that the lives of these men who spend their time in these submarines may not be sacrificed without every possibility of their being saved. Then I should like, on the subject of pensions, to say something about the Greenwich Age Hospital Fund. The right hon. Gentleman! knows as well as I do that the sum of money that is available from the Greenwich Hospital Fund for men who are eligible for pensions is not sufficient There are many old men who after becoming eligible have to wait from eight to 979 ten years before they are able to obtain what in fact many of them have a right to obtain many years before.
I know that it has been decided by the Admiralty that the men have no actual right to these pensions, but at any rate a great number of them are under the impression that they have the right, and, even if they have no right, they are eligible at a certain age, and it does not seem quite fair to keep them waiting eight or nine years for their pensions when they might be given to them sooner if only another Grant was made from the Naval Fund. If you were to put a further sum upon the Estimates and apply it to the Greenwich, Hospital Fund, I think you would find that there would then be sufficient money to give these men their 5d. per day when they become eligible for it. "One might also say the same with regard to the men who are eligible for the further 4d. The Financial Secretary knows as well as I do that these men are kept a considerable time before they get their 4d. I know he has told the House on many occasions that every care is taken, and that each case is considered on its merits. I do not doubt that is so, but the fact remains that these men neither get their 5d. nor their 4d. in a great number of cases for a very considerable time, and I should like to ask the right hon. Gentleman if he can see his way to make a further Grant out of the Naval Funds for that purpose? I would like to say a word or two about certain changes made in the lower deck ratings. I quite understand that these changes were made, I do not say on a suggestion from this side of the House, but after a suggestion had come from this side of the House.
§ Sir C. KINLOCH-COOKE
I do not think it is necessary to say from whom, but I think it must be apparent, at any rate, to anyone who sits on this side of the House, that on a certain day not long ago an Amendment was moved on the Navy Estimates in which it was suggested that the pay and status of the men on the lower dock should receive the attention of the Admiralty.
§ Sir C. KINLOCH-COOKE
By myself. I am sorry the First Lord of the Admiralty is not here, because I should have liked to have said this to his face. Speaking 980 on the Navy Estimates last year, he promised, or rather, he led us to suppose, that he was going to do something special for the married men. He gave us to understand that the hardships of the married men were, in some way or other, to be redressed. I am afraid that has not been carried out. It has been found possible to meet the situation in the Army, but we are told, I do not know on what ground, by the First Lord, that it is not possible in the Navy. I have no doubt that the Financial Secretary will explain why it was possible in the Army and why it is not possible in the Navy. I asked a question the other day with regard to the Australian Navy. I asked whether or not the Australian Navy did not find it possible to give an allowance to married men, and the First Lord replied that they did, and he was good enough to explain exactly what that allowance was. I will now put to him another question which no doubt he will be glad of the opportunity to answer. If it is possible in the local navy in Australia, how is it so impossible in the Imperial Navy? On this point the First Lord invariably prevaricates or says that since the rise in pay higher allotments have been made. What does that mean? Of course, a rise in pay would necessarily mean higher allotments. When a man receives more money, he has more money to send home. That is a commonplace, and we do not come here to be told commonplaces. At any rate, the rise in pay which was given by the Government to the lower deck was given to meet the extra cost in living, and it was certainly not given to solve the married seamen's problem. It is time that something was done for the married men, and the First Lord should endeavour as far as possible to redeem the promise he made twelve months ago. I was very much amazed, I must say—and I hope the Financial Secretary will convey to the First Lord what I am about to say—when the First Lord said in this House that he had been told that the men would spend the extra money in drink. I think it would be difficult to imagine a more spiteful insinuation. Who on earth told him that? I asked him for his authority, and he refused to give it me. Now I challenge him again to give me his authority—to tell me who told him that the men in the Navy would spend their extra money on drink?
The First Lord, in the Memorandum which accompanies the Navy Estimates, directs our attention to the unsatisfactory recruiting for the electrical artificer, for 981 the armourer, and for the carpenter crew ratings. I am not surprised at that. All Members of this House who know anything about recruiting, or about the Navy, will know that the stagnation in promotion in the armourer and carpenter crew ratings is nothing short of a public scandal. It has been regarded for years that the electrical artificers deserve further attention. I believe there is a petition now before the Admiralty on the subject of their grievances. More than that, nothing has been done for the carpenter-lieutenants and the chief carpenters, and even the position of the carpenter himself leaves much to be desired. Take the case of the naval shipwrights. It is surely not too much to expect, after four years' service as a second-class shipwright, that he should be rated as a first-class shipwright, or after six years' service as a first-class shipwright that he should be rated as a chief petty officer! Then with regard to the chief and artificer engineers, it is a well-known fact—the First Lord must have had it brought to his attention before now—that the cabin accommodation for this branch of the Service is altogether insufficient. The promotion of the artificer engineer is exceedingly slow. I should like to ask that this question of cabin accommodation should in the future receive more attention than it has done in the past from the Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty, and I should also like to ask that promotion should be accelerated in the case of the artificer engineer.
Then we come to the old question of the petty and mean policy of the Admiralty with regard to hospital staff. That has been brought before this House over and over again by the Noble Lord the Member for Portsmouth, and, up to the present moment, we have never had any satisfactory explanation from either the First Lord, the Civil Lord, or the Financial Secretary. They all seem to desire to burke the question. What about that free kit that we have heard so much about, and which has been so much advertised by the supporters of the Front Bench opposite? A free kit is all very well in its way, but what the men want are replacements. The Financial Secretary smiles. I know why. It is because I brought this to his notice the other day. What did he then say? He told me it would cost £370,000 a year for replacements. But what is £370,000 a year if, by spending it, you do something that pleases and satisfies the men in the Navy? You cannot have an efficient Navy 982 without a happy and contented lower deck. That is what I want to see, and it is in order that it may be brought about I am anxious that everything should be done for the men which, in reason, can be done. The spending of £370,000 in replacements would be a step in the right direction. The First Lord talked about the concessions as not to be taken as finally exhausting the good will of the State. I am sure the good will of the State is a very long good will, but I should very much like to see more of it extended to the lower deck. Just a word or two about the dockyards. We have heard some very interesting speeches from the hon. Gentlemen below the Gangway opposite. I listened to them with great interest. I notice that those hon. Members have left the Chamber.
§ Sir C. KINLOCH-COOKE
And they will not have an opportunity of listening to what I have to say. Directly they finish their speeches they go out of the Chamber, instead of listening, as I think they should, to the Debate from start to finish.
§ Sir C. KINLOCH-COOKE
It is not a question of instruction; it is one of common interest. I should like, first of all, to pay my personal thanks to the Financial Secretary for accepting so many of the suggestions which it has been my privilege to make during the last four years, but there are many reforms which have yet to be carried out. We have large national yards, and I do not think we make enough use of them. There are hon. Gentlemen who sit below the Gangway opposite who will, I am sure, agree with me that more ships should be built in the national yards. The Admiralty are far too fond of using private yards for work that might and I think should be done in the national yards. I asked a question the other day on this point, and I was told it would be perfectly easy to make new slips if necessary, or even to improve the old slips.
§ Sir C. KINLOCH-COOKE
I have no objection to that. Let them do whatever work they can. What I want is that work should be given them to do. The ships, too, might be laid down much earlier in the dockyards than they are, and that would be a great benefit to the men. What 983 we want to see is construction going on all the year round in these yards, and a reform in this direction would obviate the frequent discharges to which I have so often called the attention of the First Lord. I have no doubt that when the Financial Secretary comes to reply he will tell us something about the conversations that have taken place between himself and the First Lord and the admiral-superintendents of the various yards with regard to these discharges. I think he told the House not very long ago that some settlement had been arrived at by which these charges would not occur in the future.
§ Dr. MACNAMARA
No; certain discharges were contemplated, and we re-surveyed the field of operations and made alterations which rendered those discharges unnecessary, but I cannot say there are never going to be any discharges in the distant future.
§ Sir C. KINLOCH-COOKE
I am obliged to the right hon. Gentleman for his correction. I certainly was under the impression that the conversations which had passed between the admirals, superintendents, and himself had resulted in the laying down of some principle by which discharges in the future would be avoided as far as possible.
§ Sir C. KINLOCH-COOKE
I should like to know if any principle has been laid down. I should be sorry to hear it said that none has been laid down. Again, I have to congratulate the Financial Secretary or, I should say, the Admiralty upon introducing establishment into the Works Department.
§ Sir C. KINLOCH-COOKE
I have to congratulate the right hon. Gentleman on introducing establishment into the Works Department of the dockyards. Whatever the hon. Member opposite may say, I have been a persistent advocate of this during the four years I have been in this House. I think the Financial Secretary will bear 984 me out in that. If I am not correct, perhaps he will rise in his place and say so. With regard to the establishment generally, there is a great deal of room for improvement. In 1906, when this Government came into power, the proportion: of men on the establishment to men employed in the dockyards was 18.8. In the last year the proportion went down to 14.9. and that comparison was the more marked because the number of men employed had very greatly increased. In my opinion, the bigger the Navy the bigger the establishment should be. I recognise that the Admiralty have done a good deal in that direction, especially in following out that principle this year, as there have been very considerable additions to the establishment. Still, I am very far from being satisfied that the proper proportion has been reached. So much for the question of establishment. I have a word or two to say about the hired men. In the dockyards the great proportion of the men employed are engaged under the name of hired men. They work just as hard and just as well as those who get on the establishment. It is a case of one being taken and the other left. The man who gets on the establishment becomes entitled to a pension. He who remains a hired man only gets a gratuity, and that fact at the present moment is causing a considerable amount of dissatisfaction in all the yards in the country. It ought not to be difficult to devise some scheme to meet their case, especially as it is well known to the Admiralty that the men are quite ready and willing to do their part in the matter. On the last occasion on which I spoke on this subject, I suggested that the Admiralty should assist the men with an actuary, so that they might put forward an actuarily sound scheme. I do not find that that suggestion has been followed out, although the Financial Secretary at the time said he would be very pleased to do it.
During the year the Dockyard Members' Committee—a Committee of this House consisting of Members representing dockyard towns—have received a great number of deputations, and the Noble Lord the Member for Portsmouth, as Chairman of that Committee, will, I have no doubt, bear me out when I say that during that time we have written many-letters to the Admiralty on the question of the daily life and daily employment of the men in the dockyards. We have from time to time received replies, sometimes 985 satisfactory and sometimes unsatisfactory, but I do not propose now to go through all the letters we have written or the answers we have received. I should like to say, however, that much of the matter that has come to our notice has also been brought to the notice of the Admiralty through petitions presented by the men themselves at the different yards. To many of the petitions no reply has been received. I am aware the Financial Secretary has said that he will do his best to hasten the replies, but month after month goes by and the men do not get an answer. I would like, therefore, to press upon the Financial Secretary that the time has arrived when replies should be given. There are one or two points which perhaps I might be allowed to mention—points upon which replies are needed. For instance, there are the leading men in the Works Department: they asked to be established as leading men and not as mechanics. It is not a great request, but still they have got no answer.
Then there are the storehousemen in the Works Department. They are receiving 42s. per week, and they ask to be established as storehouse-men, and not as ordinary labourers. Again, that is not a very great request, and surely it is not necessary to keep them waiting a year for an answer! These storehousemen think they are inadequately paid. The minimum wage of the assistant storehousemen is on the same scale as that of the labourer whom he supervises. That, again, is a small point, but it is one that should be inquired into. Then you have the inspectors of trades. They also want some attention. They should have their salaries increased according to the position in which they find themselves. They are officers, and their position as such should be more clearly defined. Then the joiners' case wants overhauling. I am told nothing more can be done for them. I very much regret to hear it, but I trust when their petition comes to be answered we shall see that their case has been overhauled. We had before us the chargemen, whose position differs very "lightly from that of the men under their charge. That, again, does not seem right, and it is a matter which should have the attention of the Admiralty. That is a matter which ought to be seen to at a very early date. There is also the case of the ex-dockyard apprentices. They ask that they should be allowed to count their hired service from the age of 986 sixteen for pension or gratuity. That privilege is given to the yard-boys, but not, apparently to the ex-apprentices. That is a matter we have brought before the Admiralty on more than one occasion, but they have not seen their way to accede to the request. I am very much afraid that it is not so much the Admiralty as the Treasury who are responsible. I suggest that the Treasury and the Admiralty should meet together and see whether they cannot grant this very reasonable request. The case of the riggers is another just case for an advance in wages. The same applies to the establishment engineers and the kindred trades, and also to the yard craft. Where is the report as to the yard craft? The Financial Secretary told me some time ago that they were inquiring into that case and were going to report very soon. I suppose the report has been made, but we have heard nothing about it, and no one knows anything about it. The time has come when these reports should be made public and more accessible at a much earlier date than is the case now.
The case of the labourers is a very pressing affair. Here you have men who are paid 23s. a week, who cannot possibly live in comfort, or bring up their children in comfort, or keep their homes in comfort on so small a wage. It has been suggested this afternoon that they should receive a shilling rise, and I think that increase ought to be given. The wages of the labourers in the dockyards should at least be placed on a level with the wages paid by the corporations in the dockyard towns. The hon. Member for the Blackfriars Division (Mr. Barnes) himself raised that question, and there is no need for me to labour it. I would point out to the hon. Member that when two years ago I moved an Amendment to Naval Estimates asking that a Royal Commission should be appointed to inquire into this very question, among others, and he was desirous of seconding that Amendment, when we came to a Division the hon. Member did not vote for it, and, in fact, only three Members sitting on the Labour Benches voted for a Royal Commission or an inquiry at all. I am glad, however, to find that they are now converted and are really desirous of some inquiry being made into the status and wages of the labourers in the Royal dockyards. In regard to the skilled labourer and his minimum wage of 23s., I contend that the skilled labourer should not be placed on the same footing as the ordinary labourer. He is 987 placed on that footing because his minimum wage is 23s., which is the same in the case of the ordinary labourer. I am told that is only for a probationary period, but it very often happens that the probationary period extends into the year. The Admiralty would be well advised if they did away altogether with a probationary period. I fear I have detained the Committee too long with what must appear to them to be rather wearisome information, but it is most essential that these points should be raised on behalf of the working men of the country, because they are also important to the country as a whole. Finally, I should like to ask the right hon. Gentleman if he can give us any information with regard to the inquiry promised by the Prime Minister into the future relations of the State with the men employed in the Royal dockyards. That was the inquiry for which I asked two days ago, and from which hon. Members below the Gangway opposite ran away. I understand that the Prime Minister has now decided that the time has come when that inquiry should be held, and I should be very much obliged if the right hon. Gentleman would tell us what form that inquiry will take, and whether it is to be a Royal Commission or some other form of inquiry?
§ Mr. HASLAM
The hon. Member who has just sat down made a very interesting speech, so full of suggestions, that were the First Lord of the Admiralty to endeavour to carry them out in conjunction with the Chancellor of the Exchequer, they would be very much occupied with them in the future. I wish to direct attention to a point raised by the hon. Member for the Blackfriars Division (Mr. Barnes), and to express my admiration of the very temperate language in which his speech was couched. If Members on the Labour benches were to advocate their cause in the tone he adopted, they would get more than by asking for extravagant things. The hon. Member asked for an advance of a shilling a week for the lowest-paid workmen in the Admiralty dockyards. It is better to spend money in advancing the wages of the lowest-paid workmen even than by increasing those of the higher paid workmen, for the one reason that when low-paid workmen are paid higher wages their work is more efficient, and they are enabled to bring up their families in greater comfort, while the nation as a whole, instead of losing, is 988 economically a gainer by the transaction. I know there is a limit to all things, but I do not think we have reached that limit with a wage of 23s. or 24s. If the claims are put too high, the Admiralty, or whatever office is requested to advance wages, is placed in a difficult position, because the men, seeing the request in the papers for a large advance, think they have been badly treated when a smaller one is made. Having regard to the enormous amount which is spent by the taxpayers on the various Government Departments, advances cannot be large, but must be gradual and must be considered most carefully, in view of the other demands on the Departments. The hon. Member for Blackfriars Division said that one of the reasons given for not paying dockyard employés so large a wage as is paid to persons engaged in civil occupations is that persons employed by the Government are more permanently engaged, and therefore, in the long run, they get, throughout the year, more remuneration than the ordinary workman. No doubt that is true. I understand that workmen engaged by the Government also have other advantages, and I should like the Financial Secretary to give us some information as to what those advantages are. I should like him to tell us whether there is any method of calculation upon which the Admiralty pay their wages, and whether there is a scale of percentages, either higher or lower than those which are paid in the the neighbourhood in civil occupations, which is based on the extra advantages enjoyed by men who work under the Government. I should like to emphasise again the advantage of advancing the wages of the lowest paid workmen. Not only is it an advantage to the men, but the Government and the country as a whole are gainers by that increased remuneration.
§ 6.0 P.M.
Mr. F. HALL (Dulwich)
The whole of the speeches made this afternoon has dealt with the conditions of labour in the Navy, and in the circumstances the point I desire to bring forward is perhaps specially applicable. I am not bringing forward the case of Henry Plant on the question whether vaccination is necessary or not. I am entirely in favour of these men being vaccinated, because I believe it is a preventive against small-pox. Therefore, the right hon. Gentleman will appreciate that I am not taking up the position of an anti-vaccinationist in regard to the matter. The circumstances 989 with reference to this man are exceedingly distressing. A young man under nineteen years of age joins the Navy, after a most searching examination has been made by medical men on behalf of the Navy in Birmingham. This case has been brought prominently before the House by my hon. Friend the Member for West Wolverhampton (Mr. Bird), and I dare say that Members of the Committee have, at some time or other, received pamphlets or information dealing with it. I have been in communication with the Admiralty on the matter, and hoped that there would have been no necessity to raise the question this afternoon. I am not suggesting that the Admiralty have not been sympathetic in this case, but I am not satisfied with sympathy. This unfortunate man cannot go into a shop and say. "I am, unfortunately, recovering from a disability, are you in a position to give me something because of that?" The man has to face the world with this terrible disability, and I am desirous that the Government should do something in this case. The Government say they are perfectly satisfied that the disease from which he suffered, and which necessitated his having his left arm amputated, was not caused through vaccination. It was necessary before ha signed on for twelve years that he should pass a thorough medical examination, and they gave him a clean bill of health. He joined the Navy on 1st September, 1911, and in the middle of the following month it was found that he was suffering from some complaint and he was ordered into Haslar Hospital. He was informed that he was suffering from influenza, but after he had been under the doctor's care for two or three weeks they said it was not influenza but rheumatism. Then another diagnosis was made, and he was asked when he had been vaccinated. Taking that question, I presume into consideration and the fact that he had never been ill before, he attributes his present condition and the consequent operations to his compulsory vaccination. Eventually, after being for months in hospital, and after five operations had been performed upon him, he was practically turned out into the world to seek his living. The Admiralty do not seem to have taken any notice of him at all after he was discharged from the hospital. A letter was written to the First Lord in November last year, and on 24th December, after having carefuly considered the contents, the letter was answered after 990 six weeks delay, and rather an extraordinary statement was made to the effect that the complaint and the operations were necessary owing to some fault of the mart himself.
That is a very serious charge to make, and those who were looking after the man's interests took it up and communicated immediately with the. Admiralty. Whoever wrote that letter did not seem to realise the enormity of the statement which was made in it. I hasten to do the Admiralty justice. After their attention was drawn to it, they replied at once that they were satisfied under the circumstances, that that statement should not have been made. I cannot help thinking that the Government, like everyone else,. ought to be very careful in their correspondence to see that statements, are not made which are derogatory to the character of any man, because after all a man who is placed in this category has not got much goodwill and has not got much in the way of assets, and surely you ought to be very careful before you make any statement which is detrimental to the interests of a man in that way. Therefore, I trust that at all events the Admiralty will see that instructions are given to those who conduct their correspondence to-see that in future statements of this nature are not thrown about, because of course the Admiralty and the House must realise-that it is detrimental, not only to the men themselves, but to the manning of the Navy. What is the Admiralty going to do in this case? I, and I believe several other Members, have communicated with them, and the House is indebted for the case being brought forward to the hon. Member (Mr. Bird). The Admiralty have said they will give this man £50. There-is no responsibility on the Admiralty, but they are magnanimous in consequence of the man having signed on for twelve years, and having been admitted as a second stoker in the Navy. I should like to draw attention to a little pamphlet that has been issued, entitled "How to join the Royal Navy." I believe the right hon. Gentleman is desirous of laying down in that book the terms of service, and I have received information from the Navy, that because he was such a short time in the Service and had to be invalided out, he is not entitled, not only to superannuation but to compensation in any shape or form. In this Book I find this:—Men disabled or invalided from the service are-eligible for pensions or gratuities, according to the 991 circumstances of the case and the nature of the injury. Life pensions may he granted, irrespective of length of service, to men invalided for severe injury contracted on duty.Physical and educational tests.—All candidates, before being accepted, are subject to a strict medical examination by a naval medical officer to ascertain that they are free from any physical defect.I maintain that after a man has passed the examination of the doctor, after he has been admitted into the Navy, the Navy is liable, irrespective of the length of term of service. Had it been that a man is only entitled to compensation or superannuation after a stipulated length of service, it ought to be laid down in the Book that is issued.
I will read this once more. I have gone through it very carefully.Men disabled or invalided from the service are eligible for pensions or gratuities according to the circumstances of the case and the nature of the injury. Life pensions may be granted, irrespective of length of service, to men invalided for severe injuries contracted on duty.That is life pensions. The right hon. Gentleman does not seem to appreciate that these are two different things altogether. Life pensions are dependent upon a man having received injury while on duty. This man cannot be shelved, and cannot be thrown on the human scrap-heap in this way. You are desirous of obtaining men for the Navy. The British Navy is looked upon, as it should be, as a good means of men rising to better positions. The right hon. Gentleman suggests that I was not reading the true meaning [...]. If they are put into two different clauses and practically into two different paragraphs, the men understand that if under certain circumstances they have to be invalided, at all events they are going to receive some compensation. If the Admiralty is going to say that this man can go to the workhouse, he has to be kept somehow. Surely it is not necessary to do that. In the Admiralty you have plenty of light jobs. I have raised this question before, and I have been in communication with the right hon. Gentleman. We cannot deal with the case on these lines. I think you will admit that if these operations were necessitated by one of the Regulations of the Navy that the man should be vaccinated, and if in that way he contracted a disease which necessitated his arm being taken off, the Admiralty is liable. I think the 992 Admiralty is legally and not only morally liable. The right hon. Gentleman does not deny it, so I take it he acquiesces. I have been a member of the London County Council, and I have had cases brought before me in which there has been a difference of medical opinion, and I have always said I believe my own officer. Our own officers give their opinions without any bias, but if there is a question of one medical man thinking one thing and another something else, it is only reasonable to have an independent medical authority, and if he says there is a reasonable excuse for a man having raised the question that his illness was in consequence of an operation that he had to go through, the Admiralty will have no answer to that question.
I have asked the right hon. Gentleman if he will agree to an independent medical man of high standing being appointed, and if the opinion of such medical man is in favour of the man's contention that the disease perhaps occurred in consequence of the vaccination, then, under these circumstances, you will assume your liability. I think it is perfectly reasonable for me to ask that that should be done. It is the same as is done by the London County Council when they have similar cases. It is the same as is done by the Port of London Authority, and by all large municipalities. If the right hon. Gentleman does not see his way to do that, I will make another proposition. There are heaps of men required in the Department. A man with one arm and two eyes is as well able to act as timekeeper and to see that men are attending to their business as any other man. If you are going to say that a man with one arm is, perhaps, not in the best of health, and that if you take him into the Service you may be assuming some liability, I would draw attention to the fact that when an examination took place it was shown that this man was in perfect health. He was in the Territorial Force. His father and mother, two brothers, and three sisters are alive, and no symptoms have been shown in the family of tubercular disease. Therefore, I want the right hon. Gentleman to tell me whether, so far as he is concerned, he is prepared to do one of two things—either to agree to refer the case to an independent medical authority or, better still, to say, "In the Admiralty we have heaps of places to be filled, and we will try to do something for this man." I appeal to the right hon. Gentleman to say 993 that, so far as he is concerned, he will try to find some light employment for this man. I do not ask him to find it to-day. There may not be a vacancy at present, but I ask that this unfortunate man will be placed in a position in "which he will be able to earn his living, and that he will not be thrown on the human scrap-heap to seek help in other ways.
§ Mr. GEORGE THORNE
I have been brought into contact with this unfortunate case, and having had many opportunities of inquiring into the circumstances I am bound to say that it is one of the most distressing cases I have ever known. I wish the circumstances were such that the man was able to demand full compensation for the injury he has sustained. But having looked into all the circumstances in company with the hon. Member for West Wolverhampton (Mr. Bird) and others, I cannot see that such compensation can be obtained. We have approached the Admiralty on the subject. In the first instance, we saw the First Lord and the Parliamentary Secretary, and since that time my hon. Friend and myself have consistently and persistently seen the Parliamentary Secretary, and I am able to testify that his sympathy is perfectly manifest. I am certain that the right hon. Gentleman, while denying all legal responsibility, has been most anxious to recognise moral responsibility, and to do all in his power for this man. He has met the case to some extent, but I do not think that what he has done is enough. I know that he is striving to do what the hon. Member (Mr. F. Hall) has urged him to do, namely, to provide some light employment for this man, so that he may have an opportunity of earning his livelihood. In the conversations which have taken place, assurances have been given by the right hon. Gentleman that he will continue his attempts to secure such employment for the young man. If he succeeds in that, although this is a very hard case for the man, I think the House will be pleased that the best has been done that is possible in the circumstances. I do not think anyone can suggest that, after what the Admiralty has said, there can be any legal claim. I do not think the moral claim has been met, so far, but if the right hon. Gentleman will give the assurance publicly which has been given privately that he will not cease in his endeavours until he has provided light employment for the man, I think the case will have been fairly met.
§ Mr. G. THORNE
I did not desire to enter into the legal question. I assumed for the moment the position taken by the Admiralty on the basis of the legal claim being denied and only the moral claim being recognised. I thought the case might be fairly met in the way I indicated.
§ Mr. BIRD
My point is that this unfortunate man has never had any opportunity of substantiating his claim from the legal point of view. He is almost entirely without resources, and whatever means he has had in order to live during all this weary time he has been waiting for some recognition of his case have been provided by his friends and by outside charitable sources. My complaint against the Admiralty is that they are too ready to accept the diagnosis of their own medical man as absolutely final. That may be right or wrong, but we all know that medical opinion is very liable to drift into error in such a serious case as this. I think the Admiralty would have been only acting fairly if they had placed the case before some independent doctors and allowed them to give an opinion as to whether this man's trouble arose from vaccination or not. I desire to unite with my Friend in bearing testimony to the sympathetic way in which the Parliamentary Secretary has behaved throughout. The First Lord of the Admiralty has also acted sympathetically. I recollect one [...] evening he spent a long time in the private room of the Parliamentary Secretary endeavouring to see if some way could be found out of the difficulty. Since then the Admiralty have made a grant of £50 to the man. If they had supplemented that by finding some light occupation for him, then this Debate would not have been necessary. I say as a man who has had control of a large manufacturing business that where there is a desire to find some light job in a large undertaking, such as a dockyard or an arsenal, that job can be found. I do not blame the Parliamentary Secretary, but I think the officials could find a job for this man if they really desired to do so. I therefore do hope that the Parliamentary Secretary will get up and say that he will make some real honest attempt to find relief for this poor man 995 and save the House from being croubled again with one of the most distressing cases that ever came under my notice.
§ Mr. W. THORNE
I desire to support tire appeal which has been made by the hon. Members who have spoken. It does appear to some of us that this man has been rather badly treated. In consequence of being vaccinated, he has lost his arm. I feel convinced that there are many light jobs in the dockyard for which he would be suitable. He has received £50 from the Admiralty, but that is quite inadequate. I hope that after what has been stated the Parliamentary Secretary will reconsider the case, and try to find this young fellow a job at the earliest opportunity. It appears from the Debate that has taken place this afternoon that the Admiralty have got a good deal to answer for. It has been said that the Admiralty is one of the worst departments we have to deal with. It is common talk in the House that, so far as other departments are concerned, they are easier to deal with as regards the men working in the departments. But when we have to deal with men in the Admiralty, we have a great deal more difficulty in getting matters looked into.
§ Mr. W. THORNE
The right hon. Gentleman shakes his head. I am telling him what is said by Members of the House of Commons. These things are talked about in the smoking room and other parts of the House. I wish to raise a question in relation to the attendants working at Yarmouth Naval Hospital. That question has been brought to the right, hon. Gentleman's notice for a great length of time. A petition was sent to the Admiralty about six months ago asking that the wages of these particular attendants should be raised. The wages are extremely low. The reply received was that if they took into consideration rations and other privileges which these men receive, their wages are on all-fours with the wages paid in different parts of Yarmouth. So far as I have been able to judge—I have tried to find out what are the wages paid in Yarmouth—the wages are a little lower there than in some other towns. The wages these men receive are inadequate for the work they perform, and the number of hours they are employed. They work on the average eighty hours per week. In some cases they work longer hours. Once 996 a week they have to work thirty-six consecutive hours. I think that is too long to work consecutively. When at Yarmouth last night I was assured by the men in question that all they are in a position to take home to their wives and families is not more than 14s. 6d. per week. Out of that they have to pay rent, and how they live I do not know. It is true that a few weeks ago a small concession was made to the men by reducing the hours by two per week. The Parliamentary Secretary has promised that he will try to persuade the authorities to add another man to the staff with the view of reducing the hours of labour and making the conditions a little better than they are at present.
Even then it is absurd for the Admiralty to take up the position that, in consequence of the rations and privileges which these men receive, their wages are on all fours with those of a skilled labourer. How, in the name of common sense, can you expect a man with only 14s. to take home to his family at the week-end to maintain himself and his wife and children? It is an economic impossibility. Rents in Yarmouth are not any cheaper than in other parts of the country. As a; rule, in places like Yarmouth and Blackpool, where you have visitors, especially in the summer time, rents are very much higher than in other towns. In Yarmouth rents are not very low, and I have no hesitation in saying that these particular men have to pay a rent of at least 7s. per week. That leaves them 7s. to provide necessities for themselves and their wives and families. No one can say that that is living at all. It is only mere existence. In towns like this, when representatives of the men meet those who act for the Government Departments, what they say is, "Look at the advantage which the wives receive in consequence of receiving boarders in the summer time." I deny the right of Government Departments which employ labour to take advantage of a situation of that kind. It is all very well for the Admiralty and other Departments to say that the rations and other privileges make the wages equal to those paid to outside labour. If you took a vote of all the men working in the arsenals and dockyards as to whether they would have the full trade union rate of wages and the abolition of all privileges, the men would decide in favour of having the full wages and letting the privileges go by the board. It is about time that the Government took up this question, wiped out all privileges, 997 paid the trade union rates of wages, and recognised the trade union hours of labour. If this were done, the men would be very much more satisfied than they are at the present time, and it would do away with these endless Debates every year in connection with the Admiralty, the War Office, and other Departments. I hope that the Parliamentary Secretary will give some assurance that he will do all he possibly can to rectify what I may call the outrageous grievances from which these men are suffering at the present time.
§ Mr. HOHLER
The matter to which I wish to refer has been touched on by the hon. Member who has just sat down, by the hon. Member for Blackfriars, and, on this side of the House, by my hon. Friend the Member for Devonport. I realise with the hon. Member for West Ham that these Debates are annual on account of the existing system, and in my view they will occur again. I still hold the view, which I expressed on a previous occasion, that this Committee should recognise that the method of petitions is entirely antiquated and out of date. No doubt these petitions were excellent things before labour was organised as it now is. Outside the yards matters have marched far in advance of petitions. So long as I have the honour to represent my Constituents I shall ever urge that they should be clear in every petition which they put forward that they desire a Conciliation Board to deal with these questions. That is the fitting tribunal for the purpose. Not long ago an hon. Member opposite said that there was such an infinity of matters to raise in connection with the various trades employed that it would take the Parliamentary Secretary to the Admiralty and the First Lord of the Admiralty a long time to deal with them. I agree. But, after all, that only shows his want of knowledge of what are the vast numbers of trades employed in the various dockyards. What is really required is what was done in regard to the Post Office the other night. The Government were asked to appoint a Committee to deal with it, who might determine the matters at issue between the Post Office and their employés. That was refused, but protests from both sides of the House were raised in regard to the matter, and then, although the representative of the Post Office had absolutely refused, yet, on the second day of the Debate, the danger of a Government defeat on the Holt Report became so obvious that the demand was at once conceded. It was said in the 998 course of that Debate—I think I am right in saying from the Government Front Bench, and I know from other quarters of the House—that the proper way of dealing with the interests of the growing numbers employed by the State was that these questions should be submitted to a Conciliation Board, consisting of two representatives of the men, two representatives of the Department in question, and an impartial president appointed by the Board of Trade to deal with these matters. That, in my judgment, is the only satisfactory and proper method. I have gone into this matter with the trades in question in a multiplicity of cases in which the skilled labourer and the casual labourer are receiving lower wages than those which are paid to men who are working outside the yards, and who may or may not be trade unionists. I will take an illustration. The Parliamentary Secretary to the Admiralty this afternoon gave the wages of the labourers employed at Woolwich Arsenal as 25s., and he gave the figure as 23s. in other dockyards, except Haulbowline, where I think he said that they were 22s., and he said that these wages were equal to the district rate. That means, I understand, that 25s. is the trade-union rate for labour in London.
§ Mr. HOHLER
If it is not, then I think I may safely say that the trade-union rate for ordinary labour in London is in excess of 25s.
§ Mr. HOHLER
That only makes more marked the contrast in the wages paid in the dockyards and those paid in London. It is very easy to shift the responsibility, and to say when you make an appeal for one particular trade: "Give me the rate in the district." It may be, having regard to the large number of industries which you have in a dockyard and the great variety of trades, that you cannot within, say, 10 or 12 miles, give a similar rate. You have to go to London or Erith, or somewhere along the terminus, and then they say: "Oh, that is a different district." That is not a fair way of dealing with it. They should deal with these men as a body of men receiving the same general pay. When you go into the question of cost of living, I have found as the result of inquiry, that apart from rent—and I admit that in that respect London is a little dearer—the cost of living is cheaper in London than in 999 Chatham and other dockyard towns. There is no good reason why you should pay 25s. in Woolwich and only 23s. in Chatham. These men are interchangeable; they move to and fro as and when the demand for employment arises. Therefore, what the Committee should say is that this matter should be dealt with finally by a Conciliation Board, with representatives of the trade and the department and somebody appointed as an impartial arbitrator to deal with it. When we hear, as we constantly do, the statement that we have not time to do our business, and yet year after year in each Department the case of Government employés has to be considered upon the Estimates, and this question of wages is raised, surely we are not fit to deal with it The hon. Member opposite who got up is quite ignorant of these details, yet forsooth, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Admiralty has to go into each one of these things. I am sure that the Parliamentary Secretary will appreciate that I shall never speak of him with anything but respect, but of course, he cannot speak in these matters with the same authority as a Conciliation Board. No doubt he constantly has heard sympathetically these petitions, and has been satisfied from the evidence which the men have adduced that they are not fairly paid in comparison with the rates paid outside. Take boiler-makers, fitters, electricians, or any other occupation, and you will find that the rates of wages are too low. These men are interchangeable. Under the rules of their union they have to travel for work wherever work offers. They can show you, I think, from these returns which are published monthly, that the rates of wages in other places where these trades are employed, are really considerably more than those which the Government pay. That is a state of things which ought not to exist.
I press upon the Admiralty that we should remove these things from this House, so that it should not occupy its time with them. This will be satisfactory to the men, and will be satisfactory to the Department concerned. These petitions are never satisfactory, for the reason, I suppose, that when the Admiralty present the case to the Treasury they are met by the Chancellor, who is in a parsimonious mood, and will not give a farthing, or says to them, "Compromise it," or some official of the Treasury does this. And this goes on year after year, and we have 1000 precisely the same thing whichever Government is in power. We ought, in by judgment, to deal with these things in a sensible, businesslike manner by a Conciliation Board, before which they can be thrashed out and disposed of, whether it be the case of the labourer, the mechanic, or the artisan. Take the skilled labourers; how does their pay compare with that in other yards? Take the electrician. All your electrical Departments are really run by skilled men. At Chatham they do the work very efficiently. They are not paid on that basis at all. That is substantially the position. You hear these complaints time after time, and the men are thoroughly justified. I can give my testimony to the entire accuracy with which they have presented their grievances to me. I cannot, in this House, go into details of a shilling here or a shilling there, but the broad principle for which I contend is, that we ought to get this matter dealt with, once for all, by establishing a Conciliation Board on the lines which we have indicated. If you got this combination I am sure it would be a satisfactory thing to everybody, and be a credit to the country. We are often told that His Majesty's Government should be model employers—this is not a party question at all—and I submit that whatever Government is in power they should see that from time to time these questions are being adequately dealt with. I wish to give an illustration in regard to one or two points. I take the Naval Store Department, which is illustrative of one or two other Departments that are in precisely the same condition as this. Will it be believed that the men of the Naval Store Department forwarded a petition in relation to a grievance with regard to their pay and promotion in 1912, and that this question has been going on since then, or even earlier. The hon. Member for Totnes (Mr. Mildmay), in 1912, asked the First Lord of the Admiralty:—Whether any conclusion has been come to as a result of the promised consideration by the Lords of the Admiralty of assistant naval store officers?To that the Civil Lord of the Admiralty (Mr. Lambert) replied:—The Admiralty have been unable up to the present to find any general solution that commends itself to other Departments employing officers of similar grades. They have, however, been dealing with the situation administratively by giving officers in the Department affected the opportunity of transfer to vacancies in other Admiralty Departments, where promotion is likely to be more rapid. Certain expansions of establishment and unforeseen casualties have also affected the rate of promotion. The situation has thus been, considerably ameliorated.1001 I called attention to this question either this year or last, in a letter to the Parliamentary Secretary to the Admiralty, who courteously replied, in substance, that he could not do more than refer me to the answer which had been given by the Civil Lord in 1912. I do not know who is responsible, but I do ask whether anything could be more discreditable to a Government Department than that they should get a body of men to serve them well, and who have to complain about their pay and stagnation in promotion for two long years, during which time they have been held up. Really, it seems to me too bad, and it is all owing to this absurd system of petitions that we have got to deal with. Will it be believed that some of these men, owing to the present stagnation in promotion, have to wait for advancement from eighteen to thirty years, ten years to seventeen years, and from nineteen years to twenty-seven years? What did the First Lord tell them? He told them that something has been done by way of removing them to other departments, yet in the other departments a man, waiting for promotion, may have somebody foisted over his head. I do submit that something ought to be done. I want an answer on the question of petitions. I wonder whether we shall be told that this matter is still under consideration, or not yet acceded to, as we have so often heard? In my mind, the position is not at all satisfactory, and a complete and thorough change is needed. The wages in the great dockyards should not be below either the rate in the district, say, of Chatham and Portsmouth, or the trade union rates.
The absurdity is that you vote millions for the building of "Dreadnoughts," and included in that are trade union wages. An hon. Member, speaking on this point, said that the matter would take the Admiralty such a long time. But the Department of the Admiralty has capable officials—the Director of Works, the Director of Dockyards, and others, who have served an apprenticeship, who are familiar with the details of the employment, and who could rapidly deal with these matters. Yet you swallow the construction of "Dreadnoughts" in connection with which proper wages are paid, while in the dockyards you will not pay the employés the amount which men doing the same work outside are paid. That is entirely wrong. I have advised the men that in every petition they forward as to 1002 grievances they should make it a point that those grievances should be removed from the Board of Admiralty and submitted to a Board of Conciliation to be dealt with. In regard to the ratings all the men realise that there has been an advance of pay. Of course they ask for more, and so does everybody, and I hope they will get it. I, however, want to say a word or two with regard to certain ratings. These are the ratings of the plumbers, coopers, blacksmiths, and painters. Those ratings are in the class of artisan ratings; the men are mechanics, and of a class who are well-paid outside; yet in the Navy they are the worst paid class. What they really ask is that they may at least receive promotion to the position of chief petty officer. Why cannot that be granted? At present they cannot rise beyond the rank of petty officer. They also ask why they cannot be allowed to wear the artisan uniform which is worn by other artisans in the Navy. I press that point upon the attention of the Parliamentary Secretary to the Admiralty. I cannot see why these men, who have served the Crown well, should not be raised to the rating of chief petty officers. These men have put forward their case, and, though I do not wish to impute what may seem a slightly unworthy motive, it would appear that it has not been dealt with because they are not numerically strong. That is probably why they may have been overlooked, and I ask the Parliamentary Secretary to give his consideration to the matter.
Another matter I desire to raise has reference to the sick-berth stewards, whose rise in ratings is exceedingly slow, and they have to wait seventeen years to reach the rank of chief petty officers, as compared with eight years in other ratings. Another point I should like to dwell upon is this: I remember some two years ago that the First Lord of the Admiralty, in his opening speech upon the Estimates, told us that he was going to take seriously in hand—I will not say that he used the word "seriously"—the travelling expenses of the men, and that he was going to do something about it. Two years have passed—at any rate one year—and we have not heard another word about it. Will the Parliamentary Secretary tell me in which pigeon-hole there is a scheme, or is there any scheme at all? They are spending their money meanwhile, and I would like to know what the Department are really doing and what has happened in regard to this scheme, 1003 what steps are being taken, and whether the matter is under way. I represent a constituency in which a large number of sailors reside, and I have been immensely struck by the bad conditions in which widows and children are left. I know that the men of His Majesty's Navy are greatly desirous of founding some pension scheme, and I would ask the Admiralty to give serious consideration to that problem. The Department have the means, and they could at least give some actuarial basis on which a scheme could be worked out. The men in my Constituency did me the honour to hold an interview with me, and I am satisfied from what they said that they would be willing themselves to make voluntary contributions towards this end. Surely the Admiralty could meet them on those grounds. We know that pensions are deferred pay, but we also know that many men who have served for years are unable, out of the pay they receive, to make provision in case of their death for their widows and children. I do ask that this may really receive serious consideration. I do not believe that it would be much of a charge to the State while it would be of great benefit to the men who would be willing to assist. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman may, on voluntary lines, work out some scheme with a view of seeing whether or not it is possible to relieve this constant poverty which we find suddenly entailed as the result of losing men who have served for several years in the Navy. There is also the case of the draughtsmen who are drawn from the mechanics, and who are not so well paid as some of the mechanics from whom they are drawn. There is also the case of the inspectors and chargemen. We have drawn attention to these matters before, but we could get nothing done. I trust that the ventilation of my views on these matters may lead to something being done on business lines, and by business men in order to have the requests of the men legitimately considered, and dealt with to their satisfaction.
§ Mr. GODFREY COLLINS
I have to thank the Parliamentary Secretary for having considered the applications which have reached him from the torpedo factory at Greenock. There are three points in connection with that factory to which I desire to call his attention. The first is as to the cost of living in Greenock. 1004 The Board of Trade prepare an index number showing the cost of living in each district. The rents in Greenock have increased very considerably through the extra activity in shipbuilding and through the erection of the torpedo factory. When the Parliamentary Secretary visits Greenock during the course of the next few weeks, I trust he will take that fact into consideration. The second point is when will the extension of the torpedo factory be completed, and may I ask if it can arrange that when workers are engaged that as far as possible men employed in the district should be selected so as to stop further congestion in Greenock and the surrounding districts. The third point which I wish to bring before the right hon. Gentleman is the serious position of the housing condition in Greenock. As he well knows ever since the factory was erected, the question of housing has become very acute. In 1910 when the factory was erected, overcrowding existed, and to-day from 1,400 to 1,700 people are employed in the factory, and those with their families make a population of about 7,000 people. The total increase in the population of Greenock during the last ten years has only been 7,000 people, so that we have in connection with this one factory, an increase of population equal to the total increase for ten years. Private enterprise has quite failed to meet the housing position in Greenock. During the last four years several schemes have been tried, and one and all have failed. Workmen in Scotland are averse to owning their own houses. Many of the men employed at this factory have their own houses in Woolwich, and have been unable to sell them, so that it is only natural that they are very averse to buying and owning other houses in Greenock. I desire to place that point before the Parliamentary Secretary. As he well knows, the Housing Bill presented to this House provides for certain sums to be set aside for the housing of Government employés. In conjunction with my hon. Friend the Member for West Renfrewshire (Colonel Greig), I desire to urge that the case of Greenock may be considered equally with that of Roysth. The case for Rosyth is a case for the future. The claim of Greenock is overdue, and we trust that the right hon. Gentleman will give us a favourable answer to this definite request.
§ Lord C. BERESFORD
I quite agree with my hon. Friend the Member for 1005 Chatham (Mr. Hohler) about the position of the men who think they have a safety valve, and some chance of being attended to by their petitions. I find no fault with the Parliamentary Secretary, for since he has been there he has instituted the system of seeing the men and discussing matters with them, and really getting into his head what they want. My complaint is that year after year in this House Members on both sides bring before the Committee what are real grievances with regard to the men and their wages without result. We know that the Admiralty is handicapped very much by Treasury decisions, but I think my hon. Friend has put forward an excellent suggestion. These petitions may not be answered for two or three whole years, which is most unsatisfactory. The men would rather receive promptly the reply that the petition was not acceded to than to have their hopes raised and get no reply for two or three years. I would suggest a Conciliation Committee, with representatives of the men of each Department, as the case requires, when they asked for more wages or thought they were not fairly treated, and with a representative of the Admiralty and an arbiter. That would be a definite businesslike arrangement, and the men would get the reply within the year. The first necessity is to have the petitions answered promptly, and I hope the right hon. Gentleman will have some sympathy with this suggestion.
I quite agree with the hon. Member for Blackfriars as to the importance of getting the boys from as large an area as possible for the artificers' department, and I also agree with him that the artificer-lieutenant and artificer-mate are not on a fair footing and ought to be put on it. An hon. Gentleman opposite brought forward a suggestion which I think is very sound, and that is that in all these questions of wages, the principle ought to be to raise the wages of the lowest paid people first. They are often least in a position to defend and to fight for themselves. If the wages are raised in the lowest department, then it becomes natural to deal with the higher department. I plead for the poorer people, the unskilled labourers, and that class of person who gets very low wages. I agree with the statement made by my hon. Friend that the dockyards, as a rule, do not pay the wages that are to be got outside. That ought to be adjusted, but the principle I particularly want to impress on 1006 the right hon. Gentleman is that the lowest paid men should be the first dealt with in the consideration of the question of wages. I do not now bring up again the question of widows' pensions and other matters of that kind to which I have previously referred, and with which I believe the right hon. Gentleman has some sympathy. I believe there are altogether about 140 departments to be dealt with. I trust that the right hon. Gentleman will be able to give me a satisfactory answer as to the question of petitions and the Conciliation Board and the prior treatment of those who are paid the lowest wages.
§ Dr. MACNAMARA
As I am responsible for labour questions at the Admiralty, I may now deal with the points raised. The hon. Member for Chatham (Mr. Holder) and the Noble Lord (Lord O. Beresford) do not think very much of the system of hearing men's petitions.
§ Dr. MACNAMARA
I will take matters in the order in which they are mentioned. The hon. Member for Chatham thinks that the system of petitions is absurd and antiquated. That is not my opinion at all. I should doubt whether there is any employer of labour in this country or any public Department which has any machinery approaching our own for enabling the men to come before a representative of the Board and state their case. I should doubt whether there is anything like it in private or in public. The Noble Lord says that we want a Conciliation Board. Let me deal with the system which has been attacked and the machinery of which is supposed to be antiquated. In the first place, as regards personal and local questions, this is the machinery:—All matters of a personal character, whether relating to the conditions of service, rates of wages or other subject of complaint or request, must in the first instance he submitted by the petitioner [that is by the workman] to the responsible immediate local officers. In the event of a workman not being satisfied with the result of any representations to his more immediate officers, appeal may be made to the Admiral or Captain Superintendent, as the case may be, and in the last resort the matter may be placed directly before the Board of Admiralty in a petition.In making these local representations"—dealing with these personal local matters, the scheme provides—and I call particular attention to this—the employés concerned may seek such assistance as they may desire, and, in any case in which the responsible local officer may consider it to be desirable to accord an interview to the employe's or employé concerned, such employés or employé may, if they so desire, be accompanied by a person chosen by themselves to assist them to state or argue their case.1007 And it is the fact that they do ask the assistance, and very able assistance it is, of trade union secretaries and others who go with these men and state the case locally. That is the local treatment of personal small matters, but that is not to deprive any class, or section, or individual of the right of direct access to the Board of Admiralty. The scheme provides thatEach year an opportunity will be afforded for the employés to present petitions and requests or statement of grievances to the Board of Admiralty These representations should, in the first place, he placed on paper, and be forwarded through the local officers on or before a date of which notice will be given.This year I suggested to the Board, and the suggestion was approved, that they should take six great classes of workmen, and invite them to elect representatives to come to London and present the "case, as it affected those classes, for the yards as a whole. We selected the labourers and skilled labourers, shipwrights, fitters, boilermakers, clerical staff, and drawing office staff. The representatives were elected, and came to London, and with them came also persons not in our employment, nominated by the employés representatives, to the extent of half the deputation in each case. Our own employés were paid their ordinary time wages, railway fares, and subsistence allowance. I spent six days with those six classes in London. Finally, in respect to any class which did not send representatives to London, or any individuals, or any local aspect of some matter which requires local treatment, the scheme provides that I should go to every naval shipyard, see the men themselves, and hear everything that is outstanding. The idea of a conciliation board may be alright; I will not discuss that now; but I have a right to say that I am very glad of the opportunity of coming face to face with these men, and to hear the story of their lives and what they do with their wages. It is a very good education for me, at any rate. As I say, I should think it is not possible to find a private employer, or another State Department, which has such an effective system for dealing with these matters. In addition to meeting the representatives of these six great classes, I have already been to a number of the yards, and still have to go to Portland, Sheffield, Deptford, the West India Docks, and Greenock.
§ Lord C. BERESFORD
Is the right hon. Gentlemen going to extend to other Departments 1008 the system introduced in connection with the six classes to which he has referred?
§ Dr. MACNAMARA
This is the first year we have tried the system. We have begun with these six classes. There is nothing of the Medes and Persians about it, and I am seriously considering whether we ought not to bring some other classes to London in the same way. Take the store house staffs. I am not sure whether they do not represent a class large enough, with sufficiently varied interests, to be allowed to send representatives to London. But I must not be taken to be committed to that. I will consider very carefully how the system works, and whether we ought to increase the number of classes. Last year, in pursuance of the system which I have described, I heard 454 deputations, and' this year I have already heard over 300. This is the system which is described as being "antiquated," "out-of-date," and "absurd." It, at any rate, enables me to get the absolute views of the men in the most minute detail.
§ Dr. MACNAMARA
I am going to deal with that. We have 55,000 employés, representing over 100 different classes of workmen, spread over many establishments and departments. Therefore the Committee will see that this is a very considerable task for anybody to undertake. I should like to say, particularly in view of the general tone of the speech of the hon. Member for Chatham (Mr. Hohler), how much I appreciate the general goodwill and good temper which characterises these interviews. It is a great satisfaction to me, at any rate, to know that, generally speaking, the utmost cordiality subsists between these men and myself. They have-not got, and they do not get all that they think they are legitimately entitled to, and they do not forget to let me know it. But they do so with complete good temper, and, what is more, with a frank acknowledgement, which has been endorsed by my hon. Friend the Member for the Black-friars Division (Mr. Barnes), of what has already been done towards meeting their demands. What has been done? I will take the increase in the rates of wages between the 1st January, 1906, and 1st. October, 1913. I do not think that the hon. Member for Devonport (Sir C. Kin-loch-Cooke) is responsible for all these 1009 matters. There are one or two odd things that we do for which he is not responsible. Shipwrights' flat rate has gone up 3s. 6d. a week; joiners' flat rate by 2s. 6d.; plumbers', 2s. 6d.; sailmakers', 3s.; riggers', 2s.; bricklayers' predominant rate, 2s. 6d.; painters' minimum rate, 1s., maximum rate, 6d., and a special rate of 35s. 6d. introduced; smiths' minimum rate, from 28s. to 36s.; apprentices' final rate, from 14s. to 15s.; boilermakers', coppersmiths', fitters,' founders', and patternmakers' predominant rate, from 36s. to 38s.; skilled labourers' minimum rate, 3s. a week; labourers' minimum rate, from 20s. to 23s.
§ Dr. MACNAMARA
Asylum attendants get less than that, but they get certain considerations beyond the flat rate of the men who get no consideration at all. With regard to the labourers, many appeals have been made from all quarters of the House. They are the lowest paid class of labour, and I shall represent in the proper quarter the views that have been ex pressed. I can give no undertaking, but I will certainly represent the view of Members in all parts of the House as to the desirability of carefully considering whether 23s. is the furthest we can go in regard to unskilled labourers. Attention has been called to the fact that at Haul-bowline the labourers get 22s., as against 23s. in other yards. That is so. The broad position taken up is that we must pay to the labourers a rate which com pares favourably with the rates paid out side the yard. I would challenge the hon Member to prove that unskilled labour in and about Haulbowline—
§ Lord C. BERESFORD
The difficulty is that "while in the case of every other yard there is similar work with which a comparison can be made, at Haulbowline there is none. Therefore, it is very difficult to get a comparison, and I do not think the condition is quite fair.
§ Dr. MACNAMARA
They get the same rate as in other yards in regard to every form of labour except unskilled. I am dealing now solely with the unskilled labourers. The Noble Lord will not tell 1010 me that you cannot find unskilled labour in and around Haulbowline. There is a great deal of it, and, by comparison with the rates for that, certainly 22s. is at least as defensible as the 23s. paid to unskilled labourers elsewhere. Nevertheless, here again I will take careful note of the views expressed and represent them in the proper quarter. I say, finally, in regard to these rates, that the value of the increases which I have mentioned to the Committee, and others with which I will not trouble the Committee, amounts to £250,000 a year—that is to say, on the number now employed, the wages bill in the Royal yards is £250,000 more year by year than it would have been if these increases had not been made. The hon. Member for the Blackfriars Division referred to the yard boys. These boys are deserving of our consideration. We have done this much for them: we have made provision that they shall go to school at night, so that they may get some chances on the way. It is true that their wages have not been increased, but we have extended the-system of apprenticeship to this extent: In the Works Department we have introduced a system of apprenticeship, so that the boys may become joiners, stonemasons, and members of other trades. Certainly it would ill become me not to be constantly solicitous about the condition of these poor boys. With regard to boy artificers, my hon. Friend said that in addition to the educational test there ought not to be a sort of class test, that there ought to be no reference to the secondary school in which the boy must have been for a year, and that the boy ought to be given a chance of getting the education necessary for his training anywhere. What do we do? The Regulation now provides:—Candidates are expected to have educational attainments at least equal to those of boys who enter by open competition. They should have spent at least one year in a school providing education of a secondary or higher grade elementary type, but"—Here is the suggested alteration:—if, in any case, an educational authority is fully satisfied that the candidate, although he may not satisfy the above condition, has the necessary educational attainments as the result of attendance at an evening continuation school"—That is the point my hon. Friend the Member for Blackfriars asks about—offering higher instruction, or otherwise, special application may be made to the Admiralty for this condition to be waived.Therefore, if my hon. Friend has followed me, he will see that the candidate need not attend a secondary or a higher elementary 1011 school if he reaches the necessary standard at a night school. If he does that he is just as much qualified as others.
§ Mr. BARNES
There is the further stipulation that he shall make special application to the Admiralty?
§ Mr. WILKIE
You are explaining now the care the Admiralty take in the training of their apprentices. I should like to ask, if that is the case, how, in some of the yards, you are taking in men who are not trained?
§ Dr. MACNAMARA
My hon. Friend ought to give an illustration of that. Our regulations are quite severe and strict enough, and any man who comes in has to give proper evidence that he is what he pretends to be. We make inquiry wherever necessary, in cases of that sort, and where a man comes in and pretends that he has his lines and all the rest of it. In all cases where we suspect fraud or where a man is not what he pretends to be, a close and careful investigation is made.
§ Mr. WILKIE
Is the right hon. Gentleman not aware that we have had to take cases into Court before we could get redress? We have taken parties into Court who have not served an apprenticeship, or are not qualified?
§ Dr. MACNAMARA
That may be. I believe that is a fact; but as far as we can we see that our regulations are carried out. But with great respect may I say I was not on that point, but on the point of Boy E.R.A.'s. The matter raised by the hon. Member for Blackfriars as to making a special application to the Admiralty I do not think is a great hardship, but if the hon. Member will confer with me I will see whether or not that regulation can be modified. In regard to delays in replies to petitions. The suggestions of delays is a serious matter, but may I point out that last year we issued the wage replies—the great bulk of them, not all—on 9th May, and the increases of wages came into force on 1st June. The general replies were issued on 29th September, and this volume which I hold in my hand is the bulky volume which deals with them.
§ Lord C. BERESFORD
What I complained of was that there are some departments that have waited long for a reply.
§ Dr. MACNAMARA
I am coming to the complaint of the Noble Lord. On 29th September of last year we issued the replies which I hold in my hand. We asked for new petitions to be sent by April of this year. We received the new petitions in April. I have already described what we have done as to the new petitions in London, Haulbowline, Devonport, Portsmouth, Chatham, and Sheerness. I have spent a considerable amount of time in each case, but there are still some cases to deal with. I certainly hope that we shall get the general replies out before the date which is at the bottom of this volume, that is the 29th of September. That will be within twelve months. I do not know with what reason people can ask us to go beyond that. That is the annual review in which matters are dealt with in great detail. If you give an annual review of the conditions of service of the men you employ, I think you give them as much as can be asked for in reason. The Noble Lord referred to some petitions sent in in 1912, which he said have not got replies. Take one case, that of the yard craftsmen. The petitions came before me in 1912. The matter was a very complicated one. There were a great many different classes of men to deal with, considerable differences of hours, and varieties of methods in each yard. I suggested to the Board the advisability of appointing a Committee, which they did. A conscientious and careful investigation was made. The Committee finished their Report at the close of last year. I got it at the beginning of this. The Board has now about completed its consideration of this Report, and I hope that the replies to the men will appear in the ensuing edition of this document, which will be issued, as I have said, before 29th September. I do not think that after a recital of those circumstances that the Noble Lord will think that there has been undue delay: the Noble Lord is fair enough to admit that my explanation puts an entirely different colour upon the matter.
§ Dr. MACNAMARA
Oh, yes, there has been Departmental consideration, but in some cases delay has taken place; not that we desire delay, but we desire to survey the matter fairly, and look into it with circumspection, and it may take time before we are able to make the reply. 1013 But I say we certainly hope to get the replies out before the date of last year—that is 29th September. As to the question of establishment raised, I think, by the hon. Member for Devonport, we added more than a thousand men last year. We contemplate adding 1,500 in 1914–15, and in all probability by the end of the financial year, 31st March, we shall have reached the percentage of about twenty—higher than the percentage mentioned by the hon. Member. We shall in all probability make some further additions in 1915–16.
§ Dr. MACNAMARA
I am not giving a maximum, but, at any rate, by 31st March next there will be about the number I have indicated—10,000. Then the hon. Member referred to the Greenwich Hospital age pensions. We have this year £107,000 available. Previously to last year we had £100,900, which means £6,100 a year more. The number of new awards—that is to say, pensions which were made during 1913–14—were age pensions, 1,266; and increased age pensions, 87; a total of 1,353. The total numbers now in force at Greenwich Hospital of age and increased age pensions on the 31st March, 1914, was: Age pensions, 3,857; and increased age pensions, 5,760; making a total of 9,617. By the change which we have made for the transfer of naval age pensions to Greenwich Hospital Funds and of the increased provision for Greenwich Hospital age pensions, the average age at which the latter are awarded has been gradually reduced from sixty-four in recent years down, I am glad to say, to fifty-seven. It will go up again. The large influx of men from the Seamen Pensioner Reserve which is now taking place must inevitably have the effect of raising the average age at which the awards can be made.
§ Dr. MACNAMARA
The age would be about sixty-four when I took up my present post. With regard to married men's separation allowance, I must remind hon. Members that in December, 1912, we increased the sailor's pay by something like £340,000 a year—which is a consideration! Although there is a separation allowance in the case of married women on the strength in the Army, you can hardly compare the Army with the Navy in this matter. You must survey the whole field 1014 with regard to the Army in the one case and sailors in the other before you are able fairly to assess their respective values. The hon. Member for Devonport, if I recollect him rightly, said that the First Lord of the Admiralty had said somewhere that if the wages of the seamen were increased the men might spend the extra money in drink.
§ Sir C. KINLOCH-COOKE
No, no. What the First Lord of the Admiralty said in this House was that he had been so informed.
§ Dr. MACNAMARA
I think what my hon. Friend said was, that some people had said so, or might say that it would be so spent. However, we will leave it at that. Then the First Lord gave some particulars as to the increase in allotments, showing what the sailor had, to a large extent, done with the increased pay. The allotments now in force involve some very interesting figures. They number 75,000; that is to say, 75,000 Post Office orders go out at the beginning of every month to the mother, or wife, or relatives of the sailor. Since the increase of pay in December, 1912, there has been an increase in allotments of 15,000. That is a very remarkable fact. In reply to the Noble Lord, let me say I am here enforcing the observations of my right hon. Friend the First Lord. More than that, since the increase of pay there has been an average increase of a shilling in the amount of the various allotments, and I am glad to bear testimony to the lesson that points to. Reference has also been made to a suggested pension scheme for the hired men, and this matter, I know, is exercising the minds of these men very greatly. At present they go out at sixty or sixty-five with a gratuity. They have no pension. The gratuity works out at a week's wage for every year of service. Even if they get forty years of service to count for the gratuity, the amount will only carry them along for a year or a little more, and that leaves them some years before they are eligible for an old age pension. Therefore, they are greatly concerned. They have been for several years trying to get something in the way of a pension scheme, so as to tide over the period referred to. I have had to point out that I can give no assurance that the State will assist that because there are many considerations, and especially the money consideration involved. I have asked them to let me see their scheme, and I will give an undertaking 1015 that it shall be actuarily examined to see how far it is workable, but it must be self-supporting.
§ Dr. MACNAMARA
Certainly the Treasury will. I do not quite know whether I have the sanction of the Treasury, but it is a comparatively small sum, and I think the matter must rest there.
§ Dr. MACNAMARA
My hon. Friend the Member for West Ham referred to the sick attendants at Yarmouth. He made representations to me and changes were made. We propose to appoint a further attendant which will reduce the hours worked slightly below those worked at the Norfolk County Asylum and the Norwich City Asylum. Asylum, attendants work long hours, but they are not actually engaged in any particular work all the time. This further attendant will reduce the hours of work.
§ Mr. W. THORNE
Will the right hon. Gentleman further consider the question of an advance of wages? They have had no advance for thirty years.
§ Dr. MACNAMARA
I can give no undertaking, but I will look into the case. They get less than the rates of those I mentioned but they get other things, uniform and so on. I will consider the matter. My hon. Friend the Member for Greenock referred to the question of housing. As he knows Clauses 2, 3, and 4 of the Housing Bill now before the House would give an opportunity for considering whether it might be necessary to assist with further housing accommodation. Although the Bill has only immediate application to Rosyth and Crombie, as far as I am concerned I do not see why we should not seriously consider whether the housing at Greenock might not be also considered. The hon. Member and the hon. Member for East Wolverhampton and the hon. Member for West Wolverhampton referred to the case of Henry Plant. I am very sorry for young Plant, 1016 and I am considering what can be done for him. According to the evidence before me three things are quite clear, namely, that these misfortunes would have befallen him whether he joined the Navy or not, that they would have befallen him whether he was vaccinated or not, and that there is no evidence in the medical testimony before me to connect the poor lad's illness with the vaccination. He joined the Navy on 29th August, 1911; he was vaccinated on 26th September, 1911, and the result was noted on the medical history sheet as "perfect." The vaccination took its normal course and there is no evidence of any sort of irritation arising out of the vaccination, and a number of other men were vaccinated at the same time with the same vaccine, and in every case the result was satisfactory.
I see that in one of the communications Plant says that the vaccination took all right, and that the sores went away. On 18th October, 1911, Plant went sick with influenza. On 19th October he was admitted to hospital and when there complained of pains in his left shoulder at the point where the vaccination took place. The surgical exploration or operation took place on 4th November, and it revealed the fact that he was suffering from a diseased bone of the left arm. He was discharged and invalided 16th February, 1912. The certificate shows disease of the bone, periostitis, not attributable to the Service. I will say this, that young Plant's conduct sheet shows that he obtained the mark "very good" as to character both during the short period which he was on the books of the "Victory" and the short period he was on the books of the "Renown." The poor lad went back to Wolverhampton and the disease appears to have developed, and he was admitted to the Wolverhampton Infirmary and on 9th July, 1912, his arm was amputated, and later on further operations were necessary on the right arm and left leg. And he left the infirmary at the close of 1912 or the beginning of 1913 It is asserted throughout that his distressing condition—and certainly it is distressing—is the result of the vaccination, and that view is strongly endorsed by the Anti-Vaccination League.
§ Dr. MACNAMARA
The hon. Gentleman was very careful to say that he did not bring it forward on behalf of the? 1017 Anti-Vaccination League. Now I am advised by our medical staff that the disease of the bone was osteo myelitis, an inflammation of the bone and marrow which occurs in young persons frequently as a sequela of acute diseases such as scarlet-fever and influenza, and leads to blood poisoning and the formation of secondary abscesses in other parts of the body. It is frequently a fatal disease, and not infrequently leads to the amputation of limbs. The medical testimony is emphatic that the disease was due to constitutional reasons following upon influenza, and in no way connected with the vaccination. In the statement issued by young Plant to Members of the House he says:—I am quite willing to be examined by any doctor.The hon. Member who spoke opposite asked, "Why do you not have him examined by someone else?" I am not anxious to make a point against the poor lad. But neither he nor his friends have sent us any medical testimony designed to rebut the evidence of our experts. He was ten months in Wolverhampton Infirmary under close observation. We have no testimony from them to the effect that the disease was in any way attributable to vaccination. About a year ago my hon. Friend behind me and my hon. Friend the Member for West Wolverhampton brought the case under my notice. I will say this: Both hon. Members have been most solicitous about the case all the time and made many representations to me. The matter was placed fully before the First Lord and myself, and after casting about in every direction as to what could be done, and looking carefully into the case, we were eventually able to move the Treasury to grant Plant as an act of grace a gratuity of £50, not by way of compensation at all., but as an act of grace. He refused that and said he was entitled to an amount by way of pension or gratuity equal to what would be granted if he lost an arm on active service. I should say that earlier this year the hon. Members for West Wolverhampton and East Wolverhampton, and other hon. Members, suggested that we might try to find some light employment for him. And on 29th April I instituted an inquiry in all the yards to see if some light work could be found for him. Reports were received from all to the effect that there was nothing there to offer at that time. The hon. Member opposite says we have lots of light jobs and light work. That is not so. There are lots of men in every yard, men 1018 of long service who have been invalided for injuries received on duty, and we are very anxious to find light jobs for them. Plant's service was only 139 days. He was invalided for diseases not attributable, as far as my belief and knowledge goes, in any way whatever to his service. If hon. Gentlemen leave the matter in my hands—I do not want to raise hopes unduly—I will certainly give an assurance that I will do everything in my power to find a light job for this young fellow, because although we have no responsibility, I recognise it is very deplorable that one so young should be brought to this state, and I shall certainly do everything in my power to secure that he should have some light employment.
Mr. F. HALL
May I draw the attention of the right hon. Gentleman to the fact that there is something to show that this disease came after influenza? I draw attention to the fact that after the man was admitted as a stoker, and if illness followed through influenza, the Admiralty surely should do something. I only call attention to that point.
§ Dr. MACNAMARA
If the hon. Member is prepared to leave the matter in my hands, I will do everything I can to find a light job for Plant, but beyond that I cannot go.
§ 8.0 P.M.
§ Sir JOHN SPEAR
I want to say a few words, because I have several hundreds of dockyard men in my Constituency, upon points that have been put before me. The right hon. Gentleman was at great pains to say he interviewed a large number of people in the dockyard. We are all well acquainted with the vigilance and care which the right hon. Gentleman shows in acquainting himself with the feelings of the men, but I am bound to say I have not heard a single member of my Constituency say, though they speak with the greatest respect of the right hon. Gentleman in interviewing these men, that any improvements followed from these interviews. The complaint they make is that though he is very gracious and courteous he does not grant their request. I am bound to say that actions speak louder than words, and although the right hon. Gentleman devoted a lot of time, quite unnecessarily in my opinion, to proving what we all knew before, that he was very vigilant, he did not combat the contention that the Government in the dockyards are not paying their men so well as outside employers. 1019 I will give a case in point. It is quite clear that the corporation is paying just the same class of men some two or three shillings a week more than the dockyard is paying to unskilled labourers. As taxpayers, we are anxious that due economy shall be observed in the salaries of employés, but we must enter a protest against the Government Department paying its employés less well than outside employers. We want the very best men that can be obtained in our dockyards for the efficiency of the Navy and for the credit of the State, and therefore we feel that, not only in the interests of the men, but of the Navy, the remuneration given should not be less than that of private employers. With reference to Devonport, the cost of rent and food and coal is 3 per cent. higher in Devonport than in Chatham and in Portsmouth, and yet there is a flat rate for unskilled labour m each of those places. The situation is made worse by neglect in reference to the building of houses. We all know that building has been greatly deterred, and houses have not been provided at anything like the rate in force a few years ago. Consequently rents are going up, and, although the right hon. Gentleman has made out a good case and has given some attention to the grievances of the men, after all, the increase he has given does not equal the increased cost of living and the increased rent, and therefore these men are really worse paid to-day than they were six or eight years ago. The right hon. Gentleman did not give a sympathetic reply to their case, and I hope he will consider that these men ought to be treated as fairly as men in outside employment.
With regard to the ordinary labourers, they are very anxious that they should have an opportunity of becoming skilled labourers, instead of skilled labourers being employed from outside through the Labour Exchanges. The men who have been employed by the State ought to have a preference to any outside man, however good he may be. Some of the deputations that have come to me have pointed out that they think that certain men employed as train attendants and engaged in working dredgers and harbour defences, and in the dockyard department on punching machines ought to be classified as skilled labourers. I think their request is a reasonable one and well worthy of consideration and examination by the right 1020 hon. Gentleman. I think we ought to afford facilities for the men to build up a little pension for themselves and their families in their old age. A deputation pressed this matter on me very strongly, and I was very glad to hear the right hon. Gentleman say that he would give the matter consideration. These men are quite prepared to make the necessary-sacrifice, but they do feel that it is of great importance instead of receiving gratuities when they leave their employment that there should be co-operation with the State so as to build up a little pension for them in their old age.
It has been suggested that there should be a joint board to arrange the price for piecework composed partly of employés and partly of officials of the Department. I understand that this system prevails in private yards, and that it has resulted in very amicable relations and given great satisfaction to the men. I am sure the Admiralty desire to avoid anything like friction with their employés in this direction, and there should be co-operation between the workmen and officials of certain Departments so as to arrange the price to be paid generally for piece-work so as to establish a comfortable and a just way of dealing with this matter. I appeal to the right hon. Gentleman to go on, not only with his courteous interviews which he so readily gives, but also to give a reply to the petitions sent to him from time to-time a little more quickly than has hitherto been the case. I am satisfied that after the inquiry which he is making into certain Departments he will find that in several classes of dockyard employés the Government are paying their men less well than private employers outside. I am sure the taxpayer does not want that, because it causes dissatisfaction in the dockyards, and it is destructive of securing-the very best efforts the men can put forth in doing the work of the country. I desire on the part of my Constituents to thank the right hon. Gentleman for what he has done. At the same time I think that a case is made out which is unanswerable for going further than the right hon. Gentleman has done, having regard to the great increase in the cost of living and rent, and he will have to go further before he has dealt justly with this important branch of the Service.
§ Mr. WILKIE
I desire to add my appreciation to what has been said by previous speakers in regard to what the right hon. Gentleman has done in the dockyards. 1021 Where we have been able to make out a very strong case the Secretary to the Admiralty has met fairly the question put before him, and he is entitled to take credit for what has been done. I would point out, however, in reply to his statement that the Admiralty are paying £250,000 more in wages than in 1906, that outside shipbuilders are paying more than that, as for instance the Admiralty are only paying their shipwrights 38s. whilst outside firms are paying 43s. and more. They are also paying a higher rate for work done through the contractors, and why should they not pay their own employés as well as they pay the men through the contractors, and really be the model employers which they say they are. The right hon. Gentleman has promised to remedy the grievance as to overtime. I wish to point out that in some yards the Admiralty are entering men as skilled mechanics who have not served their time and who are not qualified men, and that is an injustice to their own apprentices. I wish to press these two or three points upon the attention of the right hon. Gentleman, and I hope he will give them consideration.
§ Question put, and agreed to.