HC Deb 07 August 1916 vol 85 cc670-2

asked the Minister of Munitions how many soldiers are employed at the Llanelly Steel Works; whether for the first three days these soldiers were paraded at the drill hall and marched to and from the works; whether this practice is still kept up; whether the men are paraded on Sundays; what wages are paid; and whether he can give an assurance that the amounts received by the men are not less than would be paid to them if they were similarly employed as civilians?


A military working party of 102 soldiers, under an officer, was supplied to the Llanelly Steel Company. These men were all strange to the neighbourhood, and for the first few days were paraded and marched from the drill hall, which was a convenient centre, to the works. The roll call is now taken at the works. On Sunday, 30th July, a special parade was held at 8 a.m. to inspect the men and their equipment. These men, like all soldiers temporarily lent by the War Office as working parties, remain in the military service of the Crown, and are under military discipline. They receive no wages, but continue in receipt of their military emoluments. The contractor to whom they are supplied is prohibited from making any payment to the men, but pays to the military authorities a sum equal to the wage of the men at the rates current in the district for civilian labour of the kind in question.


Is it not foolish for the Army to take away capable men and send soldiers who are incapable in their place?


May I ask whether it is a fact that the War Office or the Munitions Ministry charge the full rate current in the district for these men, and pay the men only a certain amount of the money, and is, in fact, making a profit out of these men's labour?


There is no question of making a profit out of the men's labour, but the Regulation of the War Office require that the wages that would be paid to the same number of civilians are paid over to the military authorities. The amount paid by the employer is still the same.


Is it not a fact that the War Office or someone in authority gets the difference between what these men get and what the employers pay to other men?


I do not know what the War Office does with the money when they get it. Perhaps the hon. Member will put a question to the War Office.


It is exploiting the soldiers' labour absolutely.


Was there not an understanding on this question that when soldiers were brought back as workmen in these establishments they would be paid not less than the standard rate of wages paid to other people?


I should like notice of that.


Is the right hon. Gentleman not aware that I, and a great many others, went down and said so on those instructions many months ago?


So far as the military authorities are concerned, they are under the Regulations of the War Office.

73. Mr. CROOKS

asked the Minister of Munitions whether he is aware that soldiers are being employed in Woolwich Arsenal on work formerly done by civilians, such as unloading large shells and load trucks, without any extra pay; and whether he will make inquiries with a view to the customary extra pay being granted?


Soldier working parties are temporarily employed at Woolwich Arsenal in connection with the inspection bond and the stores department under an arrangement with the War Office for the supply of such working parties in cases of extreme urgency when civilian labour is not availaible. The conditions as to the pay of soldier working parties are laid down in Army Council Instruction 707 of 1916, and provide that in all cases where troops are lent for such work they should continue in receipt of their military emoluments, working pay, when admissible, being granted at appropriate rates according to the work performed.


What is the proper rate?


Why is it that soldiers are employed at Woolwich Arsenal when only recently some 5,000 men have been discharged? Why are you discharging men and taking on soldiers?


We wanted 20,000 in steel works and blast furnaces, and a large number of unskilled men. Many of the men referred to in Woolwich Arsenal have been drafted off in process of the dilution of labour to other work, and they were skilled workmen.


Seeing that these men are working at very laborious work, does he expect that they are going to work for military wages?


These men work under the Regulations of the War Office, and they are only supplied because in those cases the state of affairs was so bad that application had to be made to the War Office to lend working parties.