HC Deb 04 March 1918 vol 103 cc1706-8

asked the Minister of Munitions if his attention has been drawn to a letter published by Mr. Thomas Henley, a member of the New South Wales Parliament, received by him from a young Australian engineer who has been working at Woolwich Arsenal from November, 1916, until a recent date; is he aware that this young man gives particulars of men drawing £6 to £8 per week who did not do ten minutes' work in the hour, and that in the carriage inspection department they were supposed to work on Sunday and got double time, but the majority came and got into corners and played cards all day long and never lifted a hammer to do any work, though there was plenty of work for them to do, and at any time during the day you could go to the canteens and find them smoking and drinking tea; is he aware that this young man alleges that the Amalgamated Society of Engineers' officials were well aware of the practices and did nothing to discourage their members in wasting their time; and will he cause investigations to be made and, if the allegations are found true, deal out suitable punishment to those responsible and make it impossible for such a condition of things to continue?

108. Mr. PETO

asked the Minister of Labour whether his attention has been called to a letter from an Australian engineer employed at Woolwich Arsenal and made public on the 23rd February by a member of the New South Wales Parliament; whether it accurately describes the rate of work given by members of the Amalgamated Society of Engineers engaged on munitions paid at the rate of £6 to £30 per week on piece-work; and whether any steps have been taken or are contemplated to effect any improvement?


My right hon. Friend's attention has been called to the letter referred to in the questions. It is difficult to test statements of this nature unless the details are reported at the time of their occurrence, but an inquiry as searching as is possible is now proceeding. I am already in a position to state that most of the allegations in the letter are either without foundation or grossly exaggerated. As soon as the inquiry is complete I will ask my hon. Friend to put down another question, when the result will be communicated to the House. I may state that my right hon. Friend some weeks ago instituted a special inquiry into the use of labour at Woolwich. That report has just been completed and is under consideration. Should my right hon. Friend be satisfied from that report, and from the result of the further investigation which he is having made, that the conditions of work at Woolwich Arsenal are not satisfactory, he will not hesitate to make such changes as are called for.


In this investigation will the Department call on this young Australian engineer to give evidence?


We shall be exceedingly glad to have the opportunity of securing his evidence.


Will an opportunity be given for some representative of the workers to be present at. the inquiry, and is a letter of this kind submitted to the Censor, having regard to the importance of statements of the kind and the harm they are likely to do if they are not true?


On the question of the censorship I am not in a position to say whether the letter was in fact submitted, or should have been, but since it appeared two others have appeared in the "Times," which show that there is good ground for very carefully examining the statements made.