HC Deb 22 July 1924 vol 176 cc1117-8
45. Mr. CAINE

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether, in order to carry out the Fair Wages Clause in Government contracts, Government Departments are instructed to place no contracts abroad unless the firm with whom such a contract is placed pay the same wages and enforce the same hours and conditions of labour as corresponding British firms; and, if not, what precautions are taken to ensure that British firms do not suffer when tendering in competition with foreign firms by reason of having to comply with the Fair Wages Clause?


It is only in very exceptional circumstances that contracts for manufactured articles are placed with firms abroad when satisfactory service can be obtained in this country. It is not, therefore, considered that British manufacturers are subject to any unfair handicap by having to comply with the terms of the Fair Wages Clause. It would not, in any case, be practicable to enforce this Clause in foreign countries.


Will the Treasury consider whether this Clause should be applied to all goods imported into this country, so that, if the Clause does not apply, the goods should not be admitted


In the case of private contracts—not Government contracts—would not a very large amount of work have been brought into this country during the last 12 months if this Clause had not applied to them?


If firms supply to the Government goods which they have bought in, how do the Government know that such goods have not been brought from abroad and produced under conditions which would not be allowed by this Clause?


I could not possibly, within the limits of question and answer, go into the details of the last two supplementary questions. The short point here is that it is only in exceptional cases that we go outside, and the real reply is that we could not enforce these conditions.