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Works Canteens

Volume 387: debated on Thursday 25 March 1943

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asked the Minister of Labour why the Essential Work Order is applied to British Restaurants and not to essential works canteens?

As I have explained in reply to previous Questions, the proposal to schedule works canteens separately from the factory which they serve gives rise to difficulties which are at present under consideration. These difficulties do not apply to British Restaurants.

The right hon. Gentleman says that these difficulties have been under consideration for some time, and may I ask how much longer they are to be under consideration? Already a long time has elapsed.

That is quite true. On the other hand, we cannot amend the whole of our factory procedure in a moment, and I am averse to treating a canteen as if it were another part of a factory.

In view of the fact that it is the policy of the right hon. Gentleman's Department generally to accept a decision which has been come to by both employers and employed, as is the case here, may I ask why he does not accept the decision in this instance?

I can assure my hon. Friend that that is not the issue involved. It is a different issue entirely. The question is whether we should remove all obligations of the principal employer for the persons in the canteen. Up to now I have taken the view that the canteen is a part of the factory, and I have to look at the Canteen Order to see what changes must be made.


asked the Minister of Labour whether he is aware that some British Restaurants, in addition to employing voluntary labour, are paying lower wages to their paid staff than the rates paid by industrial caterers to canteen workers at essential works under a National Joint Industrial Council agreement; and whether he will apply the terms of such an agreement to British Restaurants?

According to my information the rates of wages recommended for British Restaurants by the Joint Industrial Council for local authorities non-trading services (manual workers) are in general higher than those provided for in the agreement with industrial catering contractors, to which I assume my hon. Friend refers. I have no authority to impose this latter agreement on local authorities in respect of British Restaurants.


asked the Minister of Labour under what authority factory inspectors enter works canteens, criticise the cooking and service, and express opinions on the desirability, or otherwise, of factory occupiers engaging industrial caterers under contract; and whether he will see that the factory inspectors called on to perform these duties have experience in catering?

I have wide powers under the Factories Act as well as under Defence Regulations to impose requirements on occupiers of particular factories for the welfare of the persons employed, including arrangements with regard to meals at canteens, and I am advised that factory inspectors have full powers to investigate such arrangements. It is not within their authority to advise that industrial caterers should, or should not, be employed. A fair judgment as to whether meals are well or badly cooked or served can be formed without experience of catering, but the inspectors are assisted by expert canteen advisers, who also give advice or make suggestions to factory occupiers and catering staffs.

In view of the unsatisfactory nature of the replies on all these three Questions, I beg to give notice that I shall raise the matter on a subsequent occasion.