HC Deb 20 June 1951 vol 489 cc506-7
33. Mr. Burden

asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Admiralty if he is aware that yard craft engineers in Chatham dockyard are working many hours in excess of the 55 hours which comprise a normal working week; and if he will institute a system of overtime payment for each hour in excess of 55 worked each week.

Mr. W. Edwards

Discussions have been proceeding for several months past with the representative organisations concerned about the basis for calculating overtime payments for yard craft officers. These negotiations have proved difficult; but they will be concluded as soon as possible and arrears due under the settlement will, of course, be paid.

Mr. Burden

While welcoming that statement from the hon. Gentleman, may I ask him to take steps to ensure that these negotiations are hurried as much as possible, because there is considerable dissatisfaction about this matter in the yard at the moment?

Mr. Edwards

We are trying to do all that we possibly can, but unfortunately the organisations which are representing the men do not agree among themselves.

Mr. McCorquodale

Does not the hon. Gentleman realise that it is generally regarded as most inefficient practice to ask men to continue to work these very long hours?

Mr. Edwards

These "very long hours" were 66 hours a week when I took office. Now these men are paid for 55 hours even if they do not complete the 55 hours.

Mr. Borden

Is the hon. Gentleman not aware that in some cases these men are now working 85 hours a week?

Mr. Edwards

There might be a few such cases, but these men are glad to be paid overtime for the hours over 55 hours a week. Previously, they were paid overtime only after 66 hours a week.

Mr. McCorquodale

I asked if it did not mean inefficiency for these men to work such long hours. Would it not be better for them to work shorter hours?

Mr. Edwards

I do not know if the right hon. Gentleman understands the duty of yard craft engineers. In many cases these men are undertaking duties in connection with the yard craft service which mean that they spend a long time standing about, for which period they are paid.

Sir H. Williams

Has the hon. Gentle-man read one of the Reports of the Select Committee on Expenditure during the war which showed how undesirable it was to have men working long hours?

Mr. Edwards

I have certainly given attention to that Report, and that is the reason why the hours of employment of the men have been reduced since I have been in office.