HC Deb 15 March 1923 vol 161 cc1784-5
97. Mr. HAYDAY

asked the Minister of Health whether he is aware that the Coventry Corporation are employing men upon laying gas-main pipes, trench-digging, etc., by arrangement with the board of guardians, who are paying the men wholly in kind; whether any grant is being given for this work; if so, whether it is in accordance with the Regulations that men employed on relief work of this character may be paid wholly in kind; and, if not, whether he will make representations to the local authority?


The men referred to are receiving poor relief from the guardians, and it is within the discretion of the guardians to give such relief wholly in kind. I understand, however, that the relief is usually given half in money and half in kind. No grant is being made in respect of the work in question.


Does not the right hon. Gentleman think it a distinct violation of existing agreements as this work, in the ordinary way, would have been given to unemployed men at the full rate of wage, and why is the board of guardians to be permitted to employ people on such terms as are mentioned?


The guardians have to have some work as test work when they are giving relief. This is an arrangement they have come to with the corporation. I have no reason to suppose they are thereby depriving others of work.


Were there in existence agreements as between the workmen on these undertakings and the undertakings, and were those agreements considered at the time these arrangements were made between the undertakings and the guardians?


The hon. Member had better send me the nature of the agreements.


Does not this amount to a breach of the Truck Acts—payment in kind instead of payment in wages?


It is not payment of wages. It is relief work.


Is it not the case that work done by the Coventry Corporation ought to be given out under the terms of the Coventry Corporation Act and not handed over to men who are obtaining relief from the guardians? Is it not a distinct violation of all the practices which have gone on in this country between employer and employed since the abolition of the Truck Acts?


This is an arrangement between the corporation and the guardians and not a matter in which I have any responsibility.


Is not this a precedent in favour of boards of guardians all over the country following up similar agreements to employ people who are being assisted by them to the exclusion of men who are signing on at Employment Exchanges and cannot find employment?


Owing to the unsatisfactory nature of the reply and the importance of the subject. I will raise the matter on the Adjournment before the Easter Recess.