HC Deb 10 November 1911 vol 30 cc2036-7W

asked the Secretary to the Admiralty whether he is aware that a dispute is threatened in the coalfield of South Wales owing primarily to the refusal of the mine owners to pay the trade union rates to colliers working abnormal places; and whether, under these circumstances, he will cause the Fair-Wages Resolution to be inserted in all coal contracts given out by the Admiralty, and thus ensure compliance with the expressed will of the House of Commons?


I gather from the Press that several important wages matters, including rates for abnormal places as well as a general minimum wage, have been under discussion between mine-owners and their employés in South Wales, but I do not know what particular point is regarded on either side as the primary issue. As the hon. Member is aware, wages in the South Wales coalfield are settled by agreement between federations of colliery owners and employés, and are largely dependent on the selling price of coal. The agreed wages form the recognised rates of the district, and in these circumstances it has always been considered that no purpose could be served by the inclusion of the Fair Wages Clause. As regards colliers working in abnormal places, it is quite impracticable for the Admiralty to create appropriate rates. Neither the old nor the new Resolution has at any time appeared on the contracts with the collieries. The Fair Wages Advisory Committee considered this point when the 1909 Resolution was passed, and reported that they regarded it as unnecessary to insert the Fair Wages Clauses in contracts with collieries. In many years' dealings with the collieries, no wages complaint has ever been addressed to the Admiralty, and the experience of the Department does not suggest any necessity for change of policy in the direction suggested by the hon. Member.