HC Deb 01 March 1847 vol 90 cc609-11

begged to refer very shortly to a subject on which he had formerly addressed the House. He thought it right to state, that since the debate on the Bill of the noble Lord, he had made considerable inquiry into the subject of the formation of railways; and by way of example he would refer to the island of Anglesea, to show the amount of benefit which railway works created. The potato crop had failed entirely in that island, which, as everybody knew, was a very poor island. The Holyhead Railway employed in 1846 about 5,000 labourers, and of that number there were 2,500 Welchmen, 700 Irishmen, and 300 Englishmen, merely as gangers. The island of Anglesea had never been in so prosperous a condition as it was in 1846, and it had been produced entirely, he believed, by the expenditure of 100,000l. by the railway company. The same remark would apply to the construction of other lines. If they looked at the railway from Maryborough through Thurles to Mallow, they would find that the expenditure of capital by that line had given employment to labourers within ten miles on each side of the railway. On the Dundalk line, and on the Carlow Railway, the same thing was to be seen. On the latter line there was not one Englishman employed, except, perhaps, an overseer. Now, the Secretary for Ireland had stated that the prosperity of Ireland for the following year in a great measure depended on the labour of the next six weeks in manuring the ground, in sowing, and other agricultural labour; but he did not say what would become of the labourers after those six weeks were over. He was prepared to state that the baronies of Ireland were willing to make presentments to the extent of 500,000l. to give employment to railway labourers; and it was desirable, therefore, that Government should declare what were their intentions. There was to be a poor law, which would affect the decrepit and the infirm; but what provision was to be made for the rest of the population? He was sorry that the Government had not pressed forward the Holyhead Harbour Bill, which would have given employment to at least 5,000 Irishmen. What was now wanted was, to employ the able-bodied labourers of Ireland during the time that there was no employment for them in the usual labour of the fields; but, excepting the Drainage Act, nothing seemed to be doing for this purpose. Now, if 30,000 persons could be taken from the highways, and employed on railways, it would be very beneficial to the country. He considered that Her Majesty's Government had not taken the proper steps in reference to this question. They ought not to have trusted to mere anonymous authority; and he, for one, would have been ready to afford them all the information which he possessed.