HC Deb 01 July 1952 vol 503 cc227-9
24. Mr. J. T. Price

asked the Minister of Labour what steps are taken by his Department to enforce the statutory wage rates laid down by the Catering Wages Act when reports are submitted by his inspectors of cases of non-observance in particular establishments.

Sir W. Monckton

My wages inspectors investigate all cases of complaint, and, in addition, make routine visits to establishments covered by the Act. Where infractions are discovered, action will vary according to whether the inspector is satisfied that they are mainly due to incorrect interpretation of the wages orders or has reason to believe that the employer has deliberately evaded his legal obligations or has been culpably negligent. In the former type of case, the legal requirements are explained to the employer with a view to securing future compliance and payment of arrears due to the workers is claimed. In other cases, provided that the evidence is considered adequate, criminal or civil proceedings are instituted according to the circumstances.

Mr. Price

Does the right hon. and learned Gentleman agree that there is a duty imposed upon him by Parliament to take action to enforce the law where it comes to his knowledge that ignorant or unscrupulous persons are avoiding the law? Is he aware that in certain cases within my knowledge his Department have not only refused to prosecute, but the aggrieved persons have been compelled to take out private civil actions to establish their claims; and that, in fact, officers of his Ministry have been subpoenaed as witnesses to establish the claims in civil actions in the county court, all of which have been successful? Will he see that in future his Department are more vigilant to enforce the law by taking out prosecutions?

Sir W. Monckton

I am quite prepared to look into any material placed before me on those lines.

25. Mr. J. T. Price

asked the Minister of Labour how many cases were reported to his Department in the past 12 months of breaches of the Catering Wages Act; and what action was taken in respect of such offences.

Sir W. Monckton

During the 12 months ended 31st March, 1952, the number of catering establishments inspected by my wages inspectors was 12,564, including 2,293 following complaints by or on behalf of workers.

Sums totalling £48,945 were collected in payment of arrears of remuneration due to the workers in cases where the wages inspector was satisfied that the infractions were mainly due to incorrect interpretation of wages orders. Where the inspector was not so satisfied, criminal proceedings were instituted under the Act against five employers and civil proceedings against two employers, with success in all cases.

Mr. Lewis

Is the Minister aware that many catering employers are adopting the practice of paying wages out of the tronc, and in view of the fact that a legal decision has already been given that this is not in accordance with the terms of the Catering Wages Act, will he see that the practice is stopped as far as his Department is concerned?

Sir W. Monckton

I must have material before me to show whether or not the practice exists. If it does, I will try to deal with it according to my duty.