HC Deb 07 August 1844 vol 76 cc1868-9
Mr. T. Duncombe

presented a petition from the delegated miners of the counties of Durham and Northumberland, complaining that hundreds of persons had been introduced into those counties for the purpose of displacing the labour of the men who had struck work, and that it had been done under the authority of the Poor Law Commissioners. He would take that opportunity of asking the right hon. Baronet a question upon this subject. He had been informed that Sir John Walsham, an Assistant Poor Law Commissioner, had been instrumental in sending into these counties hundreds of persons from Ireland and Wales, for the purpose of interfering in the dispute, unfortunately so long protracted, between the miners of those counties and their employers. He wished to know whether this report were true, and if so, whether the right hon. Baronet thought that the provisions of the New Poor Law gave any power for such an interference with the rights of labourers?

Sir J. Graham

said, that since yesterday, when the hon. Gentleman gave him notice of his question, he had not had an opportunity of applying to the Poor Law Commissioners on the subject, but he was quite prepared to state that in his opinion the provisions of the New Poor Law gave no such power as that adverted to. Sir John Walsham's duties, as an Assistant Poor Law Commissioner, were wholly confined to the counties of Norfolk and Suffolk. He had formerly been in the northern district, and he was possessed of property in Herefordshire and South Wales, so that he might have been instrumental in procuring labour for some of the proprietors in Durham, but he had not so acted in his capacity of Assistant Poor Law Commissioner. He deeply deplored the long protracted struggle which had existed between the workmen and their employers in these counties, and the importation of fresh labourers must be productive of much misery, but it was a course which the masters were driven to adopt and which must have been foreseen. He deeply deplored the importation of fresh labour into counties where it was already abundant, but there were no means available for preventing it.

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