HC Deb 25 November 1914 vol 68 cc1113-4

asked whether, seeing that the Clause in Government contracts relating to all work being done on the premises of the contractor is now suspended, he can state what steps are being taken by the War Office to prevent abuse of the Fair-Wages Clause; whether facilities will be given to trade union officials to learn whom contractors employ off their premises; and whether he will instruct contractors to exhibit in their workroom the prices paid for piecework as required by Government contracts?


In all contracts from which the Clause referred to by the hon. Member has been suspended provision is made that "all wages earned in connection with this contract shall be paid direct to the workers, and not through a foreman or others supervising or taking part in the operations upon which the workers are engaged"; and the Home Office Order under the Factory Acts requires that every worker shall receive particulars of the rate of wages applicable to the work to be done by him when the work is given out. These provisions are intended to guard against breaches of the Fair-Wages Clause in the case of outworkers. Any complaint that the Fair-Wages Clause is not being observed is at once investigated. I am afraid it would be impracticable to require contractors to give trade union officials the facilities suggested by the hon. Member. It is, of course, open to any outworker having a grievance to bring the facts to their notice. The exhibition in workrooms of the prices paid for piece-work is required by the Home Office under the Factory Acts.


Arising out of the answer, will the hon. Member see whether the price lists of the work given out cannot be at the disposal of the trade union officials? Much sweating had resulted from the same policy in past times. It formed an important part of the Lords Sweating Commission Inquiry, particularly in connection with the accoutrements trade, and it was believed that the same was taking place now.


I have given in detail the safeguards, and I think they are very considerable If my hon. Friend knows of any case I shall be very glad to investigate it.

64. Mr. HINDS

asked whether it is proposed to constitute a central board of military and civilian members to control contracts, prices, and administration, as recommended in the interim Report of the Committee on Garrison and Regimental Institutes [Cd. 7677]; and whether, if the central board is so constituted, it can be extended so as to deal with all War Office contracts for general commercial commodities, excluding military equipments?


As regards the first part of the question, the matter is still under consideration, but, if constituted, it will be specially designed for special purposes in connection with canteens.