Mr. J. JONES
asked the Minister of Labour whether his attention has been drawn to the communications that were forwarded to the Ministry regarding the 293W non-payment of rates of wages laid down by the Rope, Twine, and Net Trade Board by a firm in Bridport, resulting in at least two visits and inquiries by inspectors of the board during the months of August and December, 1920; whether he is aware that no replies have been received regarding these communications; and whether, in view of the proved evasion of the Trade Boards Act by firms who are paying less than the wage fixed by the Trade Board, immediate and effective steps can be taken to enforce compliance with the said Act, and thus remove an unjustifiable handicap upon competing firms who conform to the law by paying the rate of wage fixed by the Trade Board?
§ Dr. MACNAMARA
Complaints have been made to the Department with respect to a firm at Bridport, and visits of inquiry were paid by inspectors in the months mentioned. It is true that no written reply to the communications has been made, but the correspondents in question have been interviewed. The reason for the delay in the case has been the difficulty of determining precisely the liability of the firm under the Trade Boards Acts. Steps have, however, been taken to obtain the payment to the workers concerned of arrears of wages due to them, and to ensure that in future the wages paid reach the statutory minimum.
§ Lieut.-Colonel HURST
asked the Minister of Labour how many trade boards have been set up to deal with various sections of the making-up and distributive trades; and whether he will consider the expediency of substituting one single trade board for the whole industry in order to effect economy and to avoid continual variation in rates of wages?
§ Dr. MACNAMARA
Trade boards have been established for the following making-up trades:—
- Made-up textiles,
- Ready-made and wholesale bespoke tailoring,
- Retail bespoke tailoring,
- Wholesale mantle and costume,
- Dressmaking and women's light clothing,
- Hat, cap and millinery,
- Linen and cotton handkerchief and household goods,
- and for the following distributive trades:
- Grocery and provisions.
The scope of these trade boards was settled in consultation with the employers' and workers' organisation concerned, and is in accordance with the provision of the Trade Boards Acts. I have no power to establish one trade board to cover groups of separate trades collectively. Even if it were possible to constitute a single trade board for all the trades concerned, this would not, I think, result in economy. As to the variation of rates, it is desirable that the system should be sufficiently elastic to permit the changing of rates to meet the circumstances of the trades concerned, and the Acts provide safeguards against too frequent variations. I may add that it is being represented to me by employers that under present conditions the Acts do not provide sufficient freedom in respect of the variation of the rates. I am examining that point.
§ Mr. J. DAVISON
asked the Minister of Labour whether he agreed more than 12 months ago to the formation of a trade board for the hair-dressing trade; if so, will he explain the delay in having the board established; whether it is due in any way to opposition on the part of a section of the employers; and whether there is any prospect of the board being established in the immediate future?
§ Dr. MACNAMARA
I would refer my hon. Friend to the reply I gave on the 21st of March to the hon. Member for Kilmarnock (Mr. A. Shaw), of which I am sending him a copy. I would add that representations have been made to me that separate trade boards should be established for England and Wales and for Scotland, and I am awaiting the result of discussions on this subject between representatives of the trade in England and Scotland.