HC Deb 17 June 1822 vol 7 cc1122-3
Mr. Littleton

presented two petitions, one from the miners, iron-makers, and coal-masters of Dudley, praying, that the House would enjoin a more strict observance of the law, which directs that labourers should be paid only in money, and not in provisions or other commodities. The hon. member complained that the law was open to perpetual invasion; that it exposed the poor man to the hardship of taking such provisions, and at such prices, as the master chose; and that when the House came to legislate between the labourer and his employer they ought to be tender of the interests of the former. The health and industry of the poor man were his only portion, and, therefore, the House Should watch over them with the utmost solicitude.

Mr. Robinson

was of opinion, that the existing law was bad, and that no law could be framed, that would not be evaded, and lead to perpetual interference between the employer and the employed. In some cases, masters might make payments to their labourers in provisions which were bad, but there was no way of preventing this but by the imposition of penalties; and, notwithstanding all the penalties that could be imposed, still it might be possible to evade the law. If such a law were to be re-enacted, he would object to it, upon the ground that it was at once unnecessary and inefficient.

Mr. D. Gilbert

thought the law inefficacious and unnecessary. The competition of trade was as full a protection to the workman who was paid in provisions as to the man who received his wages in specie.

Mr. Ricardo

thought it impossible to renew so obnoxious an act. Mr. Owen prided himself upon having introduced the provision system. He had opened a shop at New Lanark, in which he sold the best commodities to his workmen cheaper than they could be obtained elsewhere; and he was persuaded that the practice was a beneficial one.

Lord Stanley

thought the measure injurious, as tending to excite misunderstanding between the labourer and the employer, which was very injurious to the former, as a labourer when turned out of one establishment could not easily find employment in another.

Mr. Monck

objected to the payment of workmen in commodities, but not to paying them in provisions. On the continent, the practice of farmers was, to pay their labourers as much as possible in provisions; and the same practice would be extremely beneficial in this country. His hon. friend (Mr. Curwen) had adopted it with the greatest success.

Mr. Hume

said, the practice in Scotland was, to pay in provision, and he had never seen that practice attended with ill consequences. He trusted the law would be repealed.

Ordered to lie on the table.