HC Deb 09 May 1842 vol 63 cc319-21

The Order of the Day for the adjourned debate on the appointment of the committee on the payment of wages was then read.

Mr. Ferrand

moved that the Members whose names were printed in the votes should form the committee.

The names of Mr. Ferrand, Lord Ashley, Mr. Stuart Wortley,Mr. John Fielden, Viscount Jocelyn, Mr. Sharman Crawford, Mr. H. R. Yorke, and Mr. Baird, were agreed to.

On the name of Mr. G. W. Wood being proposed, that Gentleman excused himself from serving.

Mr. Ferrand

had nominated the hon. Gentleman at the request of several of the working classes, who had reposed the greatest trust in the hon. Member.

The hon. Member was excused.

On the name of Sir Josiah John Guest being put.

Mr. Alderman Copeland

vindicated the Rhymney Iron Company from the attacks which had been made on it, and expressed a hope that that would be the first Company subjected to inquiry before the committee. The hon. Gentleman then proceeded to attack the Dowlais Company as being mixed up with the truck system, but at the same time he must say that there might be circumstances under which it would be of the greatest advantage to establish a truck shop. He had lately in Staffordshire been asked by his own workmen to open a shop.

Sir J. J. Guest

would challenge every inquiry into the conduct of the Dowlais Company. He had never paid his workmen in anything except sterling coin.

Mr. V. Stuart

said, that the hon. Member for Knaresborough having on a former evening stated that "a firm at Portlaw, in the county of Waterford, carried on the infamous truck system in full opera- tion," the firm of Malcomson Brothers, the only factory there, had furnished him with the following reply to the hon. Member's assertion;— From five to six hundred (nearly one-half) of the operatives live in their own or other houses, not built by us; and instead of being compelled, it has always been considered a favour by them to he admitted to occupy ours. The establishment of the factory about seventeen years since, having increased the population of the village from 400 to about 4,000, we were necessarily compelled to provide accommodation by building. The rents of our houses are indicated in a note at foot, and although we keep them in repair, they are let at fully 30 per cent, less than is paid for similar houses to other owners. Their relative cheapness is evidenced by the fact, that whilst under the Poor-law valuation of last year, every other house let to tenants in the village was valued under the rent paid, not one of ours was. We do not, however, take any credit to ourselves in thus cheapening the rents of the neighbourhood, under conviction that our own interest is identified with the operatives therein. With reference to the rents being stopped out of the wages, it was formerly done, and the tenants would still prefer it, but several years since, we established a rule that rents should not be stopped out of wages, but be paid on fixed rent days to a person appointed to receive them. When the factory was established, considerable inconvenience was experienced in there being no place within eight miles where the work-people could get supplied with groceries and articles of apparel, and to meet this the shop alluded to was opened, and is still kept on, but at no time has there been any influence used to induce the work-people to purchase at it. It is not, as stated, attached to the premises, but is situate in the village at some distance, and derives considerable support from the gentry, farmers, and other residents of the neighbourhood. From the risk and inconvenience of bringing a supply of silver from our banker's, over twenty miles distant, and to enable us to pay wages regularly once a week, we some years since, under advice of counsel, established a circulation of shillings and half-crown tokens, which pass in lieu of, and are as highly valued as, silver in the neighbourhood; gentlemen and farmers using them on all occasions. When an individual's wages amounts to 12., we pay in a bank note, unless tokens are requested, which is generally the case. They are taken in again by a person in the village, who is at all times ready to pay Bank of Ireland notes or silver in exchange; the latter, however, is seldom asked for, except by persons living at a distance. As already stated, these tokens are equally negotiable through the village and neighbourhood. If the assertion were correct, it would follow that the sales of the shop were equal in amount to the wages paid. In the last six commercial years, ending the 31st July, we have paid over 100,000l. in wages; during this time the shop receipts have been 20,925l., of which at least one-third would have been from farmers and others, strangers to the establishment, leaving for the workpeople's share say 14,000l., which is not one-seventh of the sum paid. The total profits of the shop for this period will appear by our books to have been 865l. 12s.11 d., a fraction over 4} per cent., which we should not consider equivalent to the trouble it entails, if we did not view our interest identified with that of those we employ in promoting their accommodation. MALCOMSON BROTHERS. Mayfield Factory, Portlaw, 5th month 2d,1842. The following additional names were then added to the committee:—Earl of Hillsborough, Mr. T. Duncombe, Mr. Beckett, Mr. C. Villiers, Sir J. Hanmer, Mr. M. Sutton, and Mr. Cobden.

House adjourned.