HC Deb 30 April 1846 vol 85 cc1323-5

moved— For a Select Committee to inquire into the condition of the Labourers employed in the construction of Railways and other public works, and into the remedies which may be calculated to lessen the peculiar evils, if any, of that condition. He called the attention of the House to a statement that had appeared in some of the morning papers relative to a system that was or had been in operation on an Irish railway—he alluded to the Dublin and Mullingar line. It was alleged that the labourers were on that line only paid once a month, and not in money, but in pieces of paper, something in the shape of promissory notes. The hon. Member read a copy of one of those documents, which was to the following effect:—"Mullingar—Pay the bearer one shilling, which we will pay on demand at our office here. (Signed)—." He would not mention the name attached to the document; it was sufficient to notice the existence of such a system, to show the necessity for inquiry into the condition of the railway labourers. He would not detain the House by making a speech, as he hoped there would be no objection offered to his Motion.


, in seconding the Motion of his hon. Friend, said, that the immorality that was known to exist to so great an extent amongst that class of people was, in his opinion, a sufficient reason for requiring that some inquiry should be made.


would save the Speaker the trouble of putting the question, by at once stating that it was not his intention to oppose the inquiry. He was obliged to the hon. Member for bringing the matter under the consideration of the House, although he did not anticipate that anything very important would result from the inquiries of a Committee. He considered that railway companies did not sufficiently avail themselves of the powers with which they were vested, in keeping an efficient police force along their respective lines; and he thought that they should be compelled to do so. He must say, that in many districts it was absolutely necessary that the payments should be made to the labourers in kind, and not in money. He mentioned more particularly Westmoreland, in many parts of which, where railway labourers were employed, they were eight or ten miles from any town, and therefore in such cases it would be impossible, if they were not paid in that way, that the workmen could obtain even the common necessaries of life. He knew, however, that the system was open to great abuse; he altogether condemned the principle of paying the people in paper notes, and he hoped that something might be done to put an end to it. He also admitted that the subject was one of great importance, which it was worth inquiring into before a Committee; and whatever suggestions they should make on the subject, it would be his duty to attend to.


condemned the "truck system;" but, at the same time said, there were many advantages conferred upon labourers by large companies supplying them with the necessaries they required. He recollected visiting the very extensive works that were established at Lanark. There all the workpeople were supplied with every necessary at 15 per cent cheaper than they could have purchased them elsewhere. He had no objection to the proposed inquiry, because he thought that it would lead to the conviction that the less they interfered between the employers and the employed, it would be so much the better for both.