§ 83. Mr. MARSHALL STEVENS
asked what civilian work the transport workers' battalions, recently disbanded, performed under the direction of the Port and Transit Executive Committee; whether they were solely used to supplement proved deficiencies in civilian labour, or whether they were used to compete with civilian labour; what disputes with labour arose through their employment; what number of soldiers formed the battalions; what was the aggregate time worked by the men, the tonnage of traffic handled by them, and the civil pay earned by them; to what extent was the work of the battalions effective; and did they while serving at the ports maintain their efficiency as units in the Home Defence Army?
The PARLIAMENTARY SECRETARY to the MINISTRY of SHIPPING (Colonel Wilson)
The transport workers battalions supplemented civilian labour wherever there was a proved shortage in the ports, railway centres, canals, and iron and steel works in the discharge of cargoes. They were solely used to supplement proved deficiencies in civilian labour, and on no occasion did they ever compete with civilian labour, nor were there any disputes with civil labour in regard to the employment of men of the Transport Workers' Battalions. The Transport Workers' Battalion scheme was inaugurated with the sanction of the War Cabinet in May, 1916, one battalion being then formed. Early in 1917 the number of the battalions was increased to a strength of 5,000 men, and ultimately to an effective strength of 35,000.
The men did some 5,712,200 days' work throughout; they handled 27,341,000 tons, they earned £2,069,245 of civil pay, and 178 while so working saved £980,000 to Army funds by paying for their own food and billets. The work of the battalions again and again stopped a port becoming blocked. I am glad to say that the scheme was a complete success from the start, and from all reports received by the Port and Transit Executive Committee the battalions maintained a very high state of efficiency as units of the Homo Defence Army.
§ Mr. STEVENS
Will the hon. and gallant Gentleman consider the granting of some honours to this wonderful battalion of workers to-morrow?
This battalion has already received some thirty-two decorations, and fourteen more have been recommended. I hope my hon. Friend's suggestion will receive favourable consideration from the authorities.